Every horse should back willingly on cue.

I recently had someone comment on how horses in the show pen are not backing up when asked by the rider while presenting to the judge. They all showed resistance, opened mouths and did not back straight.  It was mentioned that even the horses in Bosals threw their heads up. There was no softening of the poll.

Every horse should back willingly on cue. It demonstrates a certain amount of obedience and submission to the rider’s aids. A lot of the time, riders don’t put enough training time into backing their horses up focussing on it’s correctness, rider’s tend to back their horses up at the end of the lesson a few strides and call it a day.

Backing with purpose is a very important manoeuver which can sometimes be the difference between winning the class or being put down the line a bit further. Judges will use the backup to help them decide their final placings in the class, their notepad may for example have two competitors running neck and neck for first place, it will then be decided by the backup on who will take home 1st place. Again, the judge is looking for a responsive horse that is going to show willingness to the riders subtle cues.

One reason that can come in to play when it’s your turn to present your backup to the judge only to find all of your hard work and dedication has just blown out the window – waiting in the lineup for your turn, if it’s been a big day or a large class and there are a few in the lineup, your horse may have started to take his five minutes unofficial break and start to relax, when your turn has come and you feel under pressure to suddenly show your backing skills, the nerves may have taken over, your reactions speed up and it’s all systems go! This then causes a bad reaction in your horse and hence the resistance that you will get from your horse, don’t forget he is taking what he feels is his well deserved break to be suddenly pulled into gear.

Be prepared and plan ahead, don’t use this time in the lineup to talk to your fellow competitors taking your focus off the job at hand.

The closer you get to “show day” the more finesse should be put into it.

The Take Home…
  • Teach your horse to be subtle and responsive to your cues;
  • practice backing your horse daily with purpose, including it into all of your stops, don’t just unconsciously back a few strides and move on to something else;
  • “finesse” your backup by getting your cues to look a subtle as possible;
  • Be prepared, think ahead, stay focussed on the task at hand, don’t rush when it is finally your time to shine!

It’s a similar predicament to the jog/trot down through the center of the pen focussing on your straight lines and loose rein. You would be amazed on how difficult this can be if you don’t incorporate it into your daily training especially when you know that you may be asked to jog or trot down through the middle of the pen before the class starts. It’s another finesse you need to check on daily to be confident that you will be able to perform it on the day. I doubt you would ever be asked to perform this at your local show however, no harm in broadening your experience!

Success! You're on the list.

Success! You're on the list.

Published by


I am a retired professional horse trainer, active Certified rider coach, I coach riders and their horses throughout Australia and New Zealand, I am the author of the book From Go To Whoa - Training Your Own Horse, I am also a Certified Nutritionist and a professional Keto Coach. I am a keen fisher woman and I love the gym where I weight train 4 days a week. I travel Australia full time now with my husband and our Jack Russell Doug, booking and holding clinics and lessons throughout the country for many remote horse riders as well as not so remote. I love coaching riders and their horses along with helping people with nutrition and the ketogenic diet.

One thought on “Every horse should back willingly on cue.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s