Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rollbacks for Roses

As the title implies this thread is going to discuss rollbacks per request of Rosesr4evr. I will actually be discussing it over a few threads so it can be easier to understand. This weekend when my assistant trainer/photographer is home we will do some instructional photos and put a link to the gallery in the sidebar. I do realize that I am a little slow on getting threads out, but I hope to change that.

So here we go.

I am sure there are a lot of you that in your past have seen the reiners at a horse show do a pattern. The patterns may always be different depending on the judge as to which pattern he wants to use, but the elements are the same. The patterns always include rundowns, sliding stops, spins, figure 8s, lead changes, backing and rollbacks. Not necessarily in that order.

How well that horse preforms these individual feats really depends on one fundamental thing, and that is balance. He hind end has to be engaged and the shoulders have to be light and soft.

Knowing that we have to have a horse that is soft and supple, that is where I like to start. One thing that I feel is very important, is that when I am softening a horses face, shoulders both vertically and laterally, I never like to pull on them at all. I never pull them into a stop, rather I use my seat. When I ask the horse to give me his face, I just gently tug on him and ask for little bits at a time. If I ask the horse to turn into a circle I gently tug on him and lightly bump him with my calf just to get him started and then I like to let him finish on his own. The more that I pull on him, the more likely he will become rubber necked. By using little gentle tugs you accomplish a lot more in a very short time.

It is my personal preference not to bit horses up using side reins, nor do I long line my horses very often. Though there are instances in which I have long lined them if I felt the need to.

As to how this all applies to my method for teaching my horses to do roll backs, It is really quite simple.

Once I have my horse stopping on his hind end and standing quietly, and they have become nice and soft in the face and shoulders, I will start to work them on the rail and use the fence to teach them how to rock back onto their hind end and do a rollback. I like my horses to wrap themselves around my leg if they need to.

First I start on the rail at a strong trot, I do a few laps and let my horse start to rate some at the trot. When I feel that he is ready, I will ask for the stop by sitting down and rolling back on my pockets. As I sit down I exhale and say whoa softly. Remember, my horses is comfortable and relaxed and working so I do not want to startle him by yelling whoa at him. I also want to make sure that I do not lean back in the stop because leaning back will cause him to stop on the front end. I always stay perpendicular to the ground so the horse is able to move freely underneath me.

Now that the horse is stopped on the rail, I ask him to stand for a minute as I do not want him to anticipate the turn. While he his standing next to the rail I will ask him to to tip his nose towards the rail, by giving him a little tug, then I apply a little outside leg (the leg closest to the rail) so that when I ask him to turn towards the rail, he can not drop his shoulder. I will now ask him to turn towards the rail by tugging on the outside rein releasing my outside leg, and bumping with the inside leg (the leg that is closest to the center of the ring) until he starts to turn towards the rail and go the other way. Once he starts the turn I let him finish it on his own. I will do this a few times going both directions and then I go on to something else for a while. Before I finish for the day, however, I will ask for a few more turns on and towards the rail. Sometimes, I will ask him to stand after each turn, sometimes I will ask him to move off immediately. Remember, we do not want the horse to anticipate what is going to happen next.

At this point, I do not apply any neck rein, just direct rein. I want the horse to learn to stay upright and not drop his shoulders in the turns. I also want him to learn to rock back on his hind end so he is able to push off and go the other direction.

What is also important to remember, is that I want my shoulders to stay square with my horses shoulders. If I turn my shoulders in the direction that we are turning, that will cause me to inadvertently move my leg back causing to horse to turn on the forehand.


Jenn said...

Ok, I think I get this. I have two questions, though. First, for those of us who may be new to the terminology, what is the definition of "rate," as you use it here. Second, is this an appropriate for a horse started under saddle in the last year, assuming they have basic steering and stop? Thanks for some great information. We may try this at the arena this weekend.

JohnieRotten said...

Hi Jenn

We use the term rate to mean a consistant speed in this instance. You may hear someone say that they want the horse to rate off of a cow and all that means is that they want the horse to match the speedof the cow. We will also ask the horse to rate off of the rider when the rider is posting etc.

As far as to when I teach a horse to do this. I usually teach them to do this within the first couple of weeks that I start them under saddle. It is a good way to teach them forward impulsion. We start softening them fromthe first day that we get on them.

Feel free to email me when you start working on this if you have any questions. You can alsopost your questions as well. Thank you. JR

rosesr4evr said...

Yay!!! Rollbacks. JR, I know that you explain things very well for people to understand. I can get most of what you're describing in my mind's eye. I think it would be grrreat if you could post some pics or videos of exactly what you're doing step-by-step. It can be really difficult to know if what you're doing is correct if you don't have visual. I know, I know...us women, we're never happy. But I really would like to get the most out of this particular tutorial.

Oh and thank you for doing this post!!! I love it!!

reinerpaul said...


I have been reading your blog for a while now and I am always lookingforward to your new training posts. I have been showing reiners for almost 45 years and find your methods refreshing. I showed only at the amateur level and have worked with a lot of big names over the years. Only a few of those did not bit up their horses, rather they would do all of the work from the horses backs like you have mentioned.

I like the fact that you let the horse finish the circles and turns on their own. That is the only way that the horse will develope any sense of confidence going forward or into a turn.

Thank you for the valuable insight and knowledge that you share with us. By the way I like the website and I like that colt Mondo.



rosesr4evr said...

Thank you JR!!! Yay!! Rollbacks!

I like the way you have broken it down into steps that will be easy to follow. It would really help to have visuals of each step. Maybe CNJ could photograph or video each sequence? I know...Women! We're never satisfied LOL. I just think it would help soo much to actually see what each step looks like and how the horse and rider should be positioned. It's hard to tell if you're doing it right, if you've not ever done it before.

Rosie gets kinda "sticky" in our turn arounds and she tends to rush at the lope. One of my goals is to get her to lope circles quietly and on a somewhat loose rein. I guess you could say we need to work on our "rate" LOL! She also tends to stop with her front end instead of her hindquarters, I guess I need to work on me for that.

Thanks again, JR, for a great topic!! Keep 'em coming. Who knows? If I can utilize some of this and do a good job in applying it, I might just show Rosie as a reiner! HA HA HA!! Wouldn't that be a trip?

JohnieRotten said...

Thank u for joining reinerpaul.

Roses. We are doing the photos this weekend. We will put a link to that gallery on the blog.

kestrel said...

Great explanation JR!

rosesr4evr said...

Yay!! Pics!!!

Thank you JR. And tell your lovely wife, she's the best!!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Aw, blushes. I get it Roses. I totally get it. Because when I was reading it and trying to visualize it and make sure it made sense... It didn't at first. I had the legs and rein cues and everything confused. Care to guess how many times it took me to figure it out and flip the light switch on?

My riding as far as reining horses goes, let's not go there. Please, let's just not go there. I know my limitations.

Paul- Welcome aboard! It's always great to hear from others when the methods being explained make sense to them and the benifits are positively realized in a ride or two.

Jenn said...

JR -

Thanks for the clarification. We will try this on Sunday. Whoopy was started this summer, but rating at a trot is something we need to work on, so that first, rollback second, or third, depending on how he and I are feeling. He's a baby and I'm a coming off an over-hot OTQH to a baby-marshmellow, first time trainer. It's an adventure. Thanks for the information.

Anonymous said...


This is a great topic.

I love your blog.

Can you do a post on when you should discipline your horse and why and how. We have a guy in our barn that thinks he knows everything and never leaves his horse alone Che went to a Parelli clinic and now he thinks he is a horse Gawd! He put out a business card calling himself a natural horseman and a natural horse trainer. Yet his horses walk all over him. We showed him your blog and he showed some interest in what you have to say. Maybe, just maybe he will listen.

rosesr4evr said...

Hey JR? Did you already go over on how to soften and supple your horse in preparation for getting to rollbacks and working them off the rail? I wasn't sure if it had already been discussed.

Rose knows her cues, gives to leg pressure very well, we're working on our left lead(you knew that. My problem with her is that she's a very prancy individual and she tends to get really fast and choppy in the canter/lope. We have to rate a lot. It's been getting better though with our circle work as she's starting to relax and stay at the same speed longer and longer. We're even getting enough relaxation to get hour head and neck relax and dropping down.

One of these days (warmer days) I'm going to shoot some video and send it to you and maybe you would be nice enough to look at it and let me know what we need to work on? LOL! It's just that they say a picture is worth a thousand words and I figure video would be better than picture anyday. I sure as hell can't come to AZ. And I don't think it would be feasible to fly all of you over here LOL!