There's no better sign of respect than a horse softly and quickly backing up for you on the ground. He's hustling his feet outside of your personal space, and respectfully facing you while doing it. In addition, backing on the ground lays the foundation for great backing under saddle. Without a soft backup on the ground, it's very challenging to get a soft one while riding.
As always, thanks again for digging deeper into the philosophy behind this exercise, you're already a step ahead of those who just watch the video. If you haven't seen it yet, be sure to check out my free full length training tutorial here.
One of the key backing up methods I teach is backing close up from lead rope pressure. This is a great way to build softness in the halter and eventually snaffle bit because you're asking your horse to give to pressure starting with the head and continuing through the body. It's a great way to get his hind engaged and back rounded starting on the ground, which translates to under saddle training.
Aside from the softness and respect benefits of this exercise, it's also extremely practical. This skill comes in handy all the time when I'm handing my horses on the ground.
Tools needed: A high quality clinician halter + lead set. This is extremely important because it provides the right feel and weight to effectively communicate your cues to your horse. I love these because they're the highest quality sets I've ever used (and I've tried almost all of them), they're extremely affordable, and they come in so many awesome colors. Check them out here
So how do we teach this awesome groundwork exercise to our horses? Your cues are to 1: disengage his hind, and 2: apply subtle pressure to the lead.
Remember that once you get 1 or 2 good steps, release the pressure and reward him for his effort. It doesn't have to be pretty, it just has to be correct. We're looking for an energetic and soft response.
To keep your horse from anticipating before you give him a cue, it's important to desensitize between every time you ask. Once you release the pressure, pet his face. Before you repeat the exercise, be sure to rub the stick or rope on his hind until he stops moving his feet and relaxes. Many horses will try to disengage before you've asked, so just calmly follow them until they stop.
Your end goal is to get consistently energetic steps backwards with minimal lead pressure. If you've reached that point, you can start asking for your horse to bend his head down and vertically give as he backs (although many horses will automatically start doing this).
Remember to watch and study Andrea's video tutorial here.
So in a nutshell, I love this exercise. It teaches respect, safety, and softness, which is why I included it in my "Essential Groundwork Training Series". Thanks for reading through this, I hope this information was helpful and understandable to you :) I am so excited to help you and your horse establish an unbreakable bond built on trust and respect, you're already on the right track!
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