Friday, December 7, 2012

Backwards for Forward

One of the biggest training methods Clinton Anderson promotes is the idea of being able to get your horses to move, forwards, backwards and side to side. Although we do not follow his method completely, we do use a lot with Roscoe especially.
Being a young stud, Roscoe has his moments of being a royal pain. We are more stringent with him because we are trying to let him stay intact and maybe breed next year. So even though all our horses walk themselves into the barn and to their stalls, he has to be led. A couple months ago I decided to make the distance to his stall more challenging by having him back the whole way. Clinton has horses back or side pass nearly everywhere and I figured what the heck. Roscoe picked it up really quick and does back down the aisle, though we still have to work on getting more speed. When we reaches his stall, he yields his hind end, I wiggle the lead line and he backs right into his stall. It has turned out to be a great way to get him to listen and pay attention while he has also learned to keep his distance from me until invited closer. This will be a huge help showing him in a line class.
After seeing how well Roscoe has done, I started applying it to Rosemary. In typical drama queen fashion, she overreacted first then began to do the work. She really did not like the part where she had to back into her stall, but once she got over that she has no problems. Rosemary is to the point where I just move my arm side to side in front of me and she will back. With both Roscoe and Rosemary, I have noticed they are learning to trust my directions and gaining a better understanding of their own bodies.
Now for the forward part of my title. It has been amazing to see the difference in Rosemary's trot work under saddle since I started backing her around the barn. The backing engages the hind end in a way similar to how we want the horse to engage at the trot. I have always been taught that a correct back is when a horse moves diagonal pairs of legs. Where else does that happen? Yup at the trot. Rosemary has more suspension and steps through better in the trot now. I used backing under saddle before as a technique but now I can see backing on the ground helps too.
With all the differences I have seen in my guys, I began to look at Comrade. Maybe it is the Science major in me to want to test on different horses and levels, but it has been fun. I started small with Comrade by making him back into his stall. He too questioned this at first, but I just set him up and asked. Now he knows what to do. The other day I upped the difficulty and made him back from the barn to the arena. In the picture you can see the narrow path down a little hill from the barn that leads to the arena (on the left). Comrade was a star for his first time. Then I got a really nice surprise in the arena.
Roscoe butt first time to the arena as a baby.

Comrade was full of it and lucky me it was the ride I put on the bareback pad. As he warmed up and finally got into a working frame of mind, his trot morphed into this wonderfully engaged movement. He had awesome push to point of making me check my seat. At first I enjoyed the feel, but wondered if it would last. Comrade has had great movement before during naughty times but lost it once he settled. This time he maintained. I really had to focus on keeping my shoulders back and down while keeping my hands level. One of my worst habits is burying my hands by the neck.
If he got strong, I just asked for a shoulder in or made a corner to reorganize. And as a side note, can I once again recommend the Spursuader spurs. Comrade has been so much more supple since I have used them and has not once gotten cranky. If possible the lateral work made the trot even better. He opened his stride, closed his stride, leg yielded all while maintaining his rhythm and connection.
So going backwards gave us forward. Not a bad result for a little bit of work. I fore see Comrade backing to the arena more often. Roscoe has moved to the side pass and is doing OK. Going left to right he is great, but he does not always cross well going right to left.
Tomorrow we have hay coming, possibly Lily riding and another meeting of the mares. Fingers crossed :)


  1. hope the meeting goes well :) love the idea that you had and great to see that it worked :)

  2. I really like Clinton Andersons methods. In my opinion he is the only natural horsemanship trainer that actually makes sense and consistently gets results from the horses he works with.

    Sounds like your horses are pretty skilled backers now.

  3. I have also done quite a bit of Clinton Anderson's training with my horses. Not so much the backing up part, but it is a useful tool.