Skip to main content

Pat Parelli often states “The better your horse goes backwards and sideways the better he will do everything else.”

Through my efforts to strengthen both my foundation and specialization, the truth in this statement has been transformational. Whether you want to have a horse who acts like a partner and responds to your seat, or build the skills for flying lead changes and beyond, the task of yielding backwards, as well as sideways, is paramount.

In this video I’ll show and teach you Pat’s 9-step back up. This task not only teaches us to have hands that close slowly and open quickly, but when practiced with intention, it teaches the horse to use his body in a more productive and athletic way.

In the begining, make sure to reward the slightest try and build your horse’s confidence and understanding of what you are asking. Once the horse is consistently responding to your seat (you aren’t having the use a ton of rein) you can up the ante and start being more particular about the moment of release. Linda often shows pictures of horses with their backs hollowed (bad banana) versus a hose who has an engaged back and hind leg (good banana). Release when you feel like the horse “bows” underneath you and is taking on a “good banana” shape.

Remember, we need to do in our bodies what we want the horse to do in his. This means engaging your stomach, and bringing the weight from the front of your seat, backwards. I often think of pulling my bellybutton back to my spine. This image allows me to trigger the correct muscles in myself, offering the horse an easier and better chance of finding success.

P.S. One thing I failed to mention in the video was where to focus! When you are doing the 9-step back up make sure to look up and out through their ears. The human head weighs an average of 11 lbs! When we look down at our horse this adds weight to the forehand of the horse. In order for the horse to backup engaged, using the proper dorsal muscles, he needs to be “light” on the front end.These little details make the biggest difference.

I hope this is encouraging, even I sometimes loose track of those little details from time to time:) I love making these videos because they challenge me and reinforce the areas I can sometimes become complacent in!

If you are enjoying this series, let me know and share it with your friends! If you have any questions or comments please contact me or make a comment, I’ll reply as quickly as I can.

One Comment

  • Andrew says:


     I was looking for a way to illustrate the 9-step back up to a junior competitor friend of mine in California Trail Trials who struggled with backing her horse on an obstacle that I judged.  After the event, I gave her a little lesson on backing, but I wanted to send a followup for her to better understand all the steps. Your video and article are excellent and I sent it on to the junior rider care of her Mom.

    I began studying Parelli back in 2000 and have been to Pagosa Springs several times. Our Parelli foundation contributed to my wife and I tying for the state championship in the Advanced 40-59 division of Trail Trials last September.

    Where do you make your home now?

    -Andrew Turnbull
    408-930-6063 (cell / text)
    Chair, Region 5 Trail Trials
    Region 5 Trail Trials Members live throughout the state of California – 75% of our members live outside the Region 5 boundaries – from Chico to Bakersfield and from Fresno to the Beaches of Santa Cruz – choosing our group for fellowship, enjoyment of our sport, and the pursuit of Trail Trials excellence!

Leave a Reply