It is really important to get our horses comfortable and moving in all directions. Getting a horse comfortable in the back-up helps the other directions. What I want to help you with in this Challenge is not just the back up – it is getting your horse to move from one direction to another direction without brace or anxiety.
Coming forward and backing up freely is very important to get a good lead. A back-up is often overlooked, but getting a horse to be responsive and comfortable with going forwards and backwards like a yo-yo really helps setting our horses up for more advanced movements later on.
It is important that your horse is thinking backwards when you do the back-up – this helps them to carry themselves backwards and pick their feet up better. It is common for people to “carry their horses” when they start this – if you are having to keep pressure on and your horse is heavy and leaning on the halter then you are most likely carrying them still.
If their feet are dragging and they are heavy in the forehand, they are still not comfortable.
Watch the sand tracks and the rhythm of their feet – aim for 2 clear diagonal steps simultaneously (like a trot but in a walk); there shouldn’t be sand scrapes between the feet. (Aim for less sand scrapes not perfection – it will take a while to get this!)
Many horses find the back up difficult and so get a little anxious doing it. It is important that you just keep going with it and address this. Slowing it down can help.
Some horses will work best doing a little bit of back up quite often until they start to get confident and have more try. Do a few steps then move them forward, repeat.
With others, you may have to get them walking backwards for a longer distance until they have a mental re-set (they start to think backwards) and they start to flow.
Further work (optional): Continue to improve until your horse can back straight. Do this under saddle.