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My Horse Insists
He Wants To Back

As soon as I am on my morgan gelding he insists that he wants to back up. I've tried loosening the reins, saying 'whoa' (although I don't want to overuse this very special word for obvious reasons) and turning his head to make him go into a circle so I can move him forward with the foot aids. During our rides, too, he has started to back up as soon as we stop. I swear I am not reining this horse in to make him do it! What else could I be doing wrong?

There is another possibility. Perhaps you are doing nothing wrong. Perhaps something is physically wrong with your horse.

I work with a lot of problem horses and I find that a stunning amount of horse handling / behavioral problems have a physical cause. Do *ALL* handling / behavioral problems have a physical cause. No, of course not. I merely say the greater percentage of behavioral problems have a physical cause.

Horses are the most compliant animals on earth. If they are not, the first thing to eliminate is a physical issue. The second thing to eliminate is a training issue.

I am even more suspicious when I hear words like "During our rides, too, he has *started* to back up as soon as we stop." You have a horse that performs an undesirable action at a set time...when he is *stopped* and is *carrying* added weight.

A forward moving horse is driving off his hind quarters. His hind quarters for the most part are working angularly to his normal standing position. He is pushing up AND forward at the same time as he moves ahead. When he stops, the force of gravity is straight down through his skeletal structure. If any part of his at rest support is painful he attempts to remove the pressure by lifting his hind feet for relief. When he does that AND lowers his rear end, you have a center of gravity shift that causes him to back up.

If he has a long, unusually forward slanting hip, this is even more likely what the problem is.

If you have access to an equine chiropractor you might want to have the horse examined.

We have a habit of immediately assuming *we* are doing something wrong or the horse has craftily schemed out a way to short-circuit our intentions the moment the horse does not react the way we expect. We seldom consider the horse may not be feeling well. We have those who will force the ill horse to do things that have little basis in common sense or logic to "cure" a situation. The horse at some point works through the pain or the problem takes care of itself. The next time the curer then says "Ohh, horse backs up? Drive him forward!"

This line of reasoning may be "natural" human reaction but it is not logical.

We usually say that horses do the easy thing first. It's easier for them to cooperate. They are by nature, cooperative animals, for the most part. They have no human reasoning or emotions. When they stop doing something they willingly did before or they start doing something inconsistent and illogical, examine them physically first.

Today I was walking by a horse being tacked in a wash rack and the second I saw its eye I stopped and said to the girl saddling him, "That horse has vertebrae out in its neck." In a heartbeat the owner and barn manager were right there wanting to know how I could tell that just by walking by. I said, "See how his head is pulled back, his eyes are wide and he moves jerkily from the withers forward?"

The barn manager nodded and said, "I thought he was just unfocused."

"Or acting like you would act if you had a stiff neck?" I asked. I then showed the owner the displaced vertebrae, two on one side, three on the other. I suggested they call my chiropractor and to her credit the barn manager nodded and said, "I'll do it in the morning."

Training or behavioral problem?? Look for a physical cause first. You might want to check out my Troubleshooting Physical Issues In Horses DVD

In the long run, it will save you time, frustration & money.

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