Equitation science instructor, Julie Stapleton, explains how to lighten your horse’s mouth by training him to rein-back.
Using equitation science to train your horse to rein back can help to lighten his mouth, improve his response to rein pressure, and subsequently improve his downward transitions.
Safety comes first: always practise ridden and in-hand work in gloves and an up-to-standard riding hat. Start by standing to the side of your horse. Hold the buckle of the reins across your palm and pick up the slack, holding him close to the bit.
Lightly tap his chest with your whip for a couple of seconds. Watch his feet closely. The second he steps back, even with just one foot, immediately stop tapping and praise him.
If he doesn’t step back, or responds in another way, increase the tempo of the taps until he responds correctly. Once he’s done this correctly three times in a row, the exercise is learnt, and you can ask for more step.
You can now try it mounted. Apply a light pressure on the rein without using any other aid, and watch his shoulders, releasing the contact and praising the second he steps back. Get a friend who is familiar with your training to use chest taps if there is no response, or if he is heavy on the reins. Repeat to make sure he has learnt it.