Training your Horse to Engage the Rear for a Better Stop
by Wendy Karolczyk
There is nothing more uncomfortable than having your horse stop on his front end. If your horse is stopping on his front end (or not stopping at all), he’s not engaging his rear. Follow these easy steps to train your horse to collect and engage his rear-end for a better stop.
From a walk, sit deep in your saddle and ask your horse to stop using your reins and the voice command “whoa”. Immediately after stopping, ask your horse to take several steps backward. Ask for a moderately aggressive back and use your legs to bump and release for a better response (remember, your legs are the gas pedal going forward or backward).
When you ask your horse to back, it is more easier for him to collect and engage the rear. By teaching your horse to back after a stop, he will quickly learn to collect and use his rear in anticipation of backing a few steps.
If your horse locks up and refuses to back, use two hands on the reins (direct rein style), bring one hand back toward your middle thigh and bump the bit on one side, switch sides and bump again. Develop a rhythm going back and forth until your horse start bending at the poll and softens his face. When a horse bends at poll and softens the face, his back will slightly rounded which will allow him to collect and engage the rear.
Repeat this several times, each time your horse stops, immediately ask them to back…each time increasing the speed slightly in reverse.
Desired Result: You should feel your horse start to engage his rear and even take a step backward without being asked. Additionally, before moving on to the next step, your horse should stop with the voice command, “whoa”!
Repeat the above steps from a trot. Even though your horse is stopping on the voice command “whoa” at a walk, reinforce the techniques above for the stop and back. After you have your horse stopping on voice command and engaging his rear-end at a trot, move on to a lope!
Desired Result: You should be pleasantly surprised how fast your horse will learn this! Remember to reinforce during regular training sessions as needed.
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I have trained and shown horses in western pleasure, reining, cutting, barrel racing, western riding, jumping and working hunter. My father, a lifelong trainer and breeder, was my mentor and greatest supporter. Our family has raised great champions through the years and sharing my knowledge is now a passion!
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