KBR Horse Training Information

Exercising Body AND Mind

"Disengagements and Rollbacks"

We constantly get requests from people wanting help with a horse that won't stop. The more they pull on the reins, especially with a snaffle bit, the more the horse pulls back. It's simple physics. The horse outweighs the rider and if he wants to pull the rider around, he will. You can either teach the horse to stop by just making it too painful for him to continue (which we don't really consider teaching), or you as a rider can change how you handle the horse, teach him to use his body correctly, and in doing so teach him to get in balance and stop on a simple, light cue.

Depending on the horse and how well you execute the cues, he may immediately pick up on what you want and stop on a light rein or he may need a lot of repetition and conditioning (especially if he is a "forwardaholic" horse.) What you want to do is get the horse balanced so that he can stop, teach him some aids so that he understands what it is that you want, and ride him in a position of comfort so that he will want to stay comfortable and light in your hands.

Disengagements and rollbacks (also called roll-aways) are two lateral movements which are important for your horse to know. Disengagements can prevent a runaway or bucking situation and the roll-back is a necessary means of turning in narrow confines. Disengagement (often incorreectly described as "circling") stops mindless forward motion and rollbacks teach the horse to get under himself so he can make a good, square stop.


In the disengagement, the horse turns on the forehand. What this means is that the horse pivots on his front feet and makes the turn by stepping around with his hind feet. In order to do this, the horse must step across the outside hind leg with the inside hind leg. If the horse has his legs crossed in this manner, he can't go runaway or buck. Patty Thomas demonstrates the disengagement with "CJ", a BLM "mustang" who was captured as an adult in the wild.

Patty first sets up the disengagement by placing CJ into a simple bend. She reaches down the rein and pulls it back to her leg (throwing sufficient slack in the opposite rein) and CJ bends his nose to her boot.

Please note how she is resting her hand on her leg. It is important to maintain contact with the leg when drawing back with the rein so that it stays steady as the horse moves.

Next Patty reaches back to the rear cinch area with her inside leg and applies pressure. CJ responds by stepping away from the leg pressure. Since his head is bent, his body is forming a slight lateral arch and he naturally will step across, his inside (left) leg crossing in front of the opposite (right) leg.

The left view shows CJ continuing to circle, maintaining position with his front feet and continuing to cross over in behind.

The right view shows what the crossover looks like from the opposite side (the far hind leg crossing in front of the near hind leg).

Continue to Part Two; Rollbacks

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