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Overlooked Trail Obstacles: Backing – with Tim Kimura, Terry Cross and John Briggs

If you’ve been avoiding practicing this required maneuver in favor of the more “fun” obstacles, you’re not alone.

The back is an important controlled obstacle, says AQHA Professional Horseman Tim Kimura, the legendary “Man of Trail” and course designer, but it is often not practiced enough.

The required maneuver, part of the “Overlooked Obstacles” series, allows horses to demonstrate good footwork in both directions – forward and backward, and the rule says that exhibitors must back through and around at least three markers or back through an L-, V- or U-shaped, straight or similar-shaped course. Details on the class and its maneuvers can be found in the AQHA Handbook, Rule SHW461-468.

There are several different variations of the backing obstacle. These obstacles can be elevated no more than 24 inches (60 centimeters) in some divisions. Exhibitors cannot be asked to back over a stationary object like a pole or bar.

  • L-Back Through – the most traditional back through, with the poles forming a 90-degree corner, usually approximately 3 feet apart.
  • Blind Corner Back Through – poles form a 90-degree corner, except the outside poles are separated so that a gap is formed, requiring the horse to maneuver the corner without the visual barrier of the poles.
  • Outside L-Back Through – The traditional L-Back Through that requires the horse to approach and exit from outside the obstacle.
  • U-Back Through – Four poles are shaped to form a U, and the horse must back through one side, execute a 180-degree backing turn, and then back through the other side.
  • V-Back Through – Poles are shaped to form a V, and the horse must make the sharp.
  • Chute-to-Chute – Four poles outline a broken backing line, requiring the horse to begin backing through a chute, swinging the hips and body over to maneuver through the changeover and then continue backing through the rest of the chute.

Training the Back

Introducing a horse to trail starts with getting body control, says AQHA Professional Horseman Terry Cross of Weatherford, Texas. It’s important to be able to move body parts and put them in different places, like being able to shift only the front end or back end around.

“I think the horse backs better when he’s round over his back and through his shoulders,” Terry says. “I usually spend a lot of time doing slow stuff, and allow them to take their time doing it. Never punish them or scare them in that element so they get to wanting to hurry up and get through it. I think the biggest key is not getting in a hurry to where you’re feeling like you’re pressuring that horse.”

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the article from AQHA.