April 19, 2011
Improve your spin or rollback in reining and working cow horse with correct body position.
By AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning with Christine Hamilton for The American Quarter Horse Journal
The real key to getting good spins and rollbacks is in the rider’s body position and the cues he gives.
A lot of times, a horse will jump out of a spin as if he thinks it’s a rollback, because of a missed cue.
And there are other times when a horse will turn around too far or over-rotate in the rollback, because he thinks the rider is asking for a spin.
Correct body position communicates the rider’s wishes to the horse and gets a correct response. This is what it should look like:
Spins and Turnarounds
A good spin or turnaround begins with your horse standing still, relaxed and on a loose rein. That’s what I call “neutral.”
To take a horse out of neutral and put him into a turn, it’s like shifting gears with him – you raise your hand up and make contact with the bit.
It doesn’t mean you have a tight hold on the horse. It’s just a light contact, like plugging the horse into the light socket. You let him know it’s time to wake up and be responsive to your next cue.
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Along with contact, you can also use your leg aid: Just rock your feet a little bit to round your horse up, round his back and frame him up a little to get ready for that turn. At that point, he’s awake and plugged in; he’s ready to go from neutral to turn.
Slowly touch the horse on the outside with the neck rein, moving your hand across to the inside. Use your outside leg a little bit to stimulate the horse to turn around.
You want the horse to slightly turn his head in the direction of the turn and follow his head with his shoulders in a “forward” motion.
When a horse does that properly, he will step back with his inside front foot, and he’ll step over with the outside foot in what we call a step or crossover. If it’s a turn to the right, he’ll step back with his right front (inside) foot and cross over with his left front (outside) foot.
Because we’ve used our outside leg as a stimulus for the horse to turn around, the outside hind foot of the horse becomes the “driver,” and the inside foot becomes the “pivot.”
If you’re turning to the right, the horse’s inside hind foot is up under your right foot somewhere. It’ll feel like there’s a fence post right behind your hip or right under your leg, and the horse will be turning around that post, the pivot foot. The pivot will move some because it’s always readjusting, but it doesn’t move constantly.
It’s more important that the front moves properly so the hind end will move properly. If you don’t start the spin correctly, you’re not going to get the step right, and your rhythm will be off.
Usually the stopping point comes from saying “whoa” to the horse when you’re finished spinning and releasing everything – getting back to center and taking your hand back to a neutral position.
The rollback was devised as a maneuver that simulated the same change of direction a horse would make if he ran down, turned a cow on the fence and changed direction with the cow. A good rollback should have some dynamics to it.
The rider runs down and does a sliding stop. At the finish of the stop, without a lot of hesitation, he picks the horse up and rolls back, into a lope.
That slight hesitation is like a count of one – you finish the stop and feel like you’ve stopped going forward, then you think “one,” pick the horse up and roll back.
When you ran down, you left a set of tracks going to the stop, and you want to leave a set of tracks sliding. When your horse rolls back, he should end up on the same track.
He should also end up on the same lead as the direction of your rollback. So, if you roll back to the right, he should come out on the right lead. Your horse’s front end should only touch the ground once in that 180-degree rollback.
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The slight hesitation before the rollback allows the horse to gather himself before rolling back. It allows him to go from that extreme, stopping, sliding position with all his weight on his hocks, back to a little more balanced position. To do the rollback, his weight has got to come forward so he can use his front end properly to push off and roll back. As the rider, you have to feel and time that balance shift in your horse before asking for the rollback.
When you pick the horse up, it should be a nice, smooth movement of your hand. Instead of across, as in the turnaround, it should be a back-and-up movement toward your inside shoulder. In a rollback to the right, you pick up toward your right shoulder.
Your hand is going to be slightly higher as you roll back than it would be when you ask for a spin. As you roll back, you’ve got the rein up against the horse’s neck, and you use your outside leg on his belly to make the outside of the horse follow through the turn.
When you finish the rollback, release forward with your hand and the horse will follow that release.
Check back next week when Al Dunning explains common problems in Correct Rollback Position, Part 2!