Buck Brannaman Demonstrates How To Teach Your Horse To Back, Dressage Expert Explains Why It’s Important

by Buck Brannaman

Betty Staley, Dressage Expert: 

“There is a school of thought in dressage that backing the horse is detrimental to the horse’s forward mindset. Personally, I don’t agree with that. There’s people that don’t back a horse until he’s about, I don’t know, second, third, fourth levels, somewhere up in there, which is getting pretty far long in the horse’s career.

Backing Is Natural To The Horse

“Horses back up naturally with no problems. They don’t confuse backing up with going forward in any way, shape or form. So, I assume that when a horse can do something naturally, we can use it, we can train it without confusing them as long as we’re not confused about it. If a rider is confused about how to back up and go forward, then they might have problems, but the horses don’t have any problem doing it. So I start very young. My horse is backed from a very early age.

 Horses Must Learn to Yield to Pressure

“Backing is a useful tool on the ground. Horses that don’t back up can get hurt, can get terribly hurt. And teaching a horse to yield to pressure is a lifesaver for the horse because where we keep them, even though my horses live in a pasture, we keep them in confinement when we put them in a horse trailer, when we put them in a stall, when we tie them up. And if they know how to yield to pressure, they’re much more likely to survive our world. They live in our world. We don’t live in theirs. And so, we have put all these things around them that are harmful to them. It can cause them their lives essentially. It is our obligation to teach them how to live in confinement in a safe way.

  Backing On Command Improves Safety

“And so, the horse that can back up, if he inadvertently get himself in a corner or is in a trailer he can back out of trouble. He won’t panic and put his front feet in the manger. He’ll know how to back up when he feels the pressure of the manger in front of his chest, he’ll know to back up. But, I know too many horses that someone has never bothered to teach them to back up and they will end up putting both front feet in the manger and hurting themselves just horribly. So, backing up is a good tool to have.

Buck Brannaman (speaking to the horse & the audience):

“I make a postural change, when I get a little breakthrough… Stay faced up there…When I do this, I’m saying, ‘Yield to me.’  There you go. Keep looking at me though. You could yield to me here. There. Hey, don’t look off. That’s kind of shutting you out. We can’t have that. Keep looking at me. Keep looking at me. I need these feet. The pressure is right in front of her so she needs to find her way back. Not there. I can block the sides. There. I’ll pat her, but she needs to find out that my space is pretty valuable to me, that I’m not going to compromise that. This would be the first method that I’d use to back on.

      Block The Sides

“Some of you see me take hold of that halter and lead rope up close. You wouldn’t do it on one like this, because she might hurt you. But as soon as I get her feet coming loose I could. There’s only one way that’s open for you right now, it’s back. I block the sides. There, and that’s the timing. If you’re late in blocking the sides, and you let her get half way around you, you are never going to get her back anyway, just going to get her upset. But you block the sides. The backing up can take care of itself, There, a little more, There. She sees the release, there, right in the feet. Stay straight, there. She says, well, that’s a lot easier than all that fussing. Now can she go on back. I might need this later on. There, that’s pretty good.

Excerpted from, 7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman Vol 1
Cedar Creek Producations, LLC © 2012 All Rights Reserved
This excerpt presented by permission of Trafalgar Square Books