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tips and training HOW TO BACK A HORSE OR PONY #1 GAIN TRUST Its always vital, when backing a horse, that first you gain their trust. This can be gained in numerous ways starting with halter breaking. Later moving on to such things as brushing, feeding, picking out feet, paving the way to be able to add rugs on and eventually tack. #2 LEADING This is where additional help is essential. It’s a horse’s natural instinct to resist back if you pull them. Therefore, you may need someone to be on hand to encourage your horse or pony to move forward from behind. Please ensure that your assistant doesn’t get to close to the horse. Here, at Red house stables, it is our busiest time of year for backing young horses. I wanted to share with you my method to help give the youngsters the best start to their ridden career. The backing process can take between 6-12 weeks dependant on the horse’s temperament and his previous experience. It is advised to have assistance while backing a horse. I am fortunate enough to have International Dressage rider, Darcas Lever on hand to help. It’s essential that whoever you have to help you, you trust implicitly. I would always recommend seeking help from a professional when backing your horse or pony, but for those of you that are interested in the process, here is my brief step by step guide. #3 BRIDLE Now would be a good time to introduce the bridle. I always use a kind snaffle bit. Usually a double jointed, fixed ring or a happy mouth snaffle. *TIP: If the horse is wary around the face it can be helpful to add the bridle on top of the halter. *TIP: I like to use a bridle which has cheek clips on instead of billet hooks as these can piece together easier over the horses face if you are having difficulties. Once the bridle is on, I will then give the horse mints to help them mouth. Another alternative to this is to add honey onto the bit. #4 LUNGING I start horses lunging as If I am teaching them to lead, but in a circle. I would still have my assistant to help encourage the horse from behind. As we are walking a circle I would slowly start to move further away from the horse to the centre of the circle. *TIP: good idea to make a lunge pen to prevent the horse from pulling out of the circle. *TIP: lunge in a bridle so that you have more control see Lunge Tips on how to attach the lunge line**. #5 ROLLER Its always best to make sure the horse is comfortable throwing a numnah on and off the horses back before placing a roller on top. I like to use a thick pad as this can relieve pressure from the roller and make the horse feel more comfortable. Once the roller is on, tighten the girth slowly to prevent the horse from feeling startled. When the roller is on loosely, walk the horse in a circle in the stable before tightening up again. *TIP: always be prepared for your horse to put his back up at this point. Once the roller in on securely I would then lead the horse out and lunge as normal. 36 February 2018 Equestrian Life
#6 LONG REIN Once the horse is comfortable and going forward on the lunge in the roller, the next stage is to teach the horses to steer and stop by long reining. To Long rein you attach a long rein to each side of the bit and through the roller. Always start by long reining from the side before going behind. When long reining from the side, the outside long rein comes around the back of horse just above the hocks. This Is then used to encourage the horse to move forward and to later change direction. When the long reining is more established you can move your body to long rein from behind, and steer as you would when riding. To help turning you apply pressure on one lunge line whilst the other lunge line is there to support the side of the horse. This is to encourage the horse to move and understand your aid. TIP: If your horse is struggling to turn, a fulmer snaffle bit can help with this. TIP: Always long rein in an enclosed area, and from a safe enough distance from behind in case the horse was to kick out. **LUNGE TIPS Clipping to the inside bit ring #7 SADDLE I would introduce the saddle in the same way as I would with the roller. Lunge as normal and long rein the same as directed above but fasten the stirrups down so they don’t flap and startle the horse, then feed the lunge line through the stirrups. Once the horse is lunging and long reining comfortably unfasten the stirrups and repeat. Clipping the lunge rein to the outside bit ring and passing it over the poll and through the inside bit ring. #8 GETTING ON Hopefully at this point the horse has gained your trust. Before getting on, your horse needs to be comfortable with you at the side of them. I would now ask your assistant to hold the horse from the head whilst you stand next to the saddle as if you were to mount. I would start to then jump up and down next to the horse. Add a mounting block and go up and down until your horse is comfortable with your presence there. Once your horse is happy and settled you can start to lean over. At this point a third person can be beneficial to help you with a leg up if necessary. Lean over numerous times until, again, your horse is settled and comfortable. once this is established, your assistant can walk your horse a few strides forward. At this point, I would dismount and repeat. When your horse is settled and comfortable with you leaning over, I would increase the height of your body. I will put my left foot in the stirrup and SLOWLY lift my body, with my assistant still holding the horse at the head. When you feel ready, swing your right leg over, taking care that you don’t kick the horse. #9 RIDING AWAY Once sat astride, have your assistant lead you around to eventually progress to the lunge. Once the horse is accepting of your aids and listening to you I would then ride away without the lunge. The bit connector is a great way to attach your lunge rein or lead rope to the bit. The bit stays level in the horse’s mouth. There is no need to detach your lunge rein when changing direction. This is my preferred method. MUST DO: • Always wear gloves, hat and a body protector. • Take your time. Only progress to the next stage when your horse is ready. • Use your voice to reassure the horse and to help with your aids throughout the whole backing process. www.equestrianlifemagazine.co.uk 37