How to Disengage Your Horse's Hindquarters

Philosophy

Disengaging the hind is an extremely undervalued groundwork exercise that all horses should know. By disengaging the hind, you are essentially shutting down your horse's motor and putting him off balance. A disengaged horse can't buck, bolt, or kick, so this exercise is perfect for preventing a wreck. In addition, it teaches respect since a disengaged horse has to face you with 2 eyes. 

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

There's a reason this exercise is one of the first things I teach my horses - it is extremely practical and useful. Not only does it keep me safe, but it also comes in handy when I need to do basic handling such as sending my horse through gates. And as with all of my groundwork exercises, it builds a foundation that I'll need for future skills and exercises such as lunging, sending, and disengaging under saddle. 

I get a ton of questions about spooky and hot horses, mainly how to handle them and get their focus back. When I'm on the ground, the first thing I do with these horses is to shut them down by disengaging their hind. 

Remember when I taught you that a horse facing you is a sign of respect? Your horse is doing exactly that in this exercise. Since you're asking his hind to disengage away from you, his front has to come towards you. This is an exercise built off of the round penning lesson, since we got our horses to disengage before hooking their eye and asking them to follow us. You're also moving his feet, which is another big sign of respect. 

Here's something extra - Notice how my horse's head is slightly bent around in this exercise. This teaches the beginnings of softness, and we'll build on it when we teach lateral flexion (so excited for that tutorial!).

Teach

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: bend his head around, 2: crouch down and look at his hind, 3: tap the air with your stick or swing with your lead rope's weighted end, and 4: lightly tap his hindquarters.

Remember that once you get 1 good step, 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 his hind inside foot (the one closest to you) to cross in front of his hind outside foot, while keeping his front inside foot pivoting. It's important that you pay attention to all of this, or else it's not a true disengage. 

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, rub the stick or rope on his hind until he stops moving his feet and relaxes. Many horses will try to keep pivoting after you've released the pressure, so just calmly follow them until they stop.

Your end goal is to get consistently perfect 360's, which is a pretty good indicator your horse has mastered the exercise. Every horse will take different amounts of time to learn this, so don't rush it. I've had some horses take 20 minutes and some a week to perfect this. The best thing you can do with a slower horse is to establish a starting point and not get greedy with how many steps you ask for. 

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 the beginnings of 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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