It's not uncommon for riders to run into difficulties teaching their horses to back. Backing is the opposite of what horses naturally want to do. Horses like to go forward. Backing also requires the horse to submit to pressure from the bit, which can be hard for a horse that already shows resistance against the reins. Here's how to get your horse to back willingly and responsively:
1. Don't try to pull your horse back. It's easy to want to pull back harder when a horse remains resistant when asking him to back. Pulling harder on the reins will only make matters worse. When you apply more pressure to the horse's mouth in this situation, you will often cause him to fight even more. Pick up lightly and use your legs in front of the girth to encourage your horse to move his feet. Your reins stop the horse from going forward, and your legs create movement. As soon as your horse makes a move in the right direction, release all pressure. Then try again and build on what you've got. Likewise, don't pull back harder to get the horse to back faster. In short, it has the opposite effect. For speed, try clucking and then using your legs again as mentioned before.
2. Practice proper release. When the horse puts in effort, reward him by giving him a break. The best reward for a horse at times is just leaving him alone. When you ask for too much, your horse will grow tired and quit trying. Always quit before this happens. Your horse will figure out the easiest way to get away from the pressure is to respond promptly with decent backwards movement.
3. Wait for softness. In the beginning, you are only looking for the horse to make a move the way you want, which is backward. But as he gets better, wait until he has taken a few decent backwards steps and soften his face to the bit. Horses can back, still throw their head and lean against the reins. To correct this, hold light, even pressure on the reins until the horse not only backs up, but also comes off the pressure from the bit. Even if it is only for a split second, release the reins as reward. In time, you can increase the length of time you expect the horse to maintain the softness.
Practice these tips and your horse will be backing better in no time.
Disclaimer: Of Horse! and sponsors do not endorse nor validate the accuracy of a blog post. Each article is the opinion of the blogger.