Drill Your Rollback

If you find yourself struggling to stay out of the penalty box when it comes time to perform a rollback, try going back to the basics at home and working the pieces individually before attempting to do them all at once.

Photos by Nichole Chirico

This drill is designed to help your horse rock back on his haunches before going into the turn, and keep him straight and on the correct lead during your lope departures.

Practicing your rollback at home before it comes time to go to a horse show is important. But remember to not over-school it. Just like with any reining maneuver, schooling a horse too much can create anticipation and lead to new bad habits in the show pen.

One

I position my horse next to the fence to help guide me through my turn, and I go to two hands to ensure she’s staying soft in the bridle and responsive to my cues. I ask her to back straight for a few steps before initiating the turn. If she’s anticipating turning right or left, I’ll trot her up to my start position and ask for the backup again. Once she’s focused on staying straight, I’ll add the rollback.

Two

After backing a few steps, I ask my horse to turn into the fence. I start by looking where I want to go and then follow through with my hand and leg. Because I’m riding two-handed, I’m able to guide my horse’s nose through the turn with my direct rein and have my indirect rein on her neck to reinforce the turn. When I’m halfway through my rollback, I go to my outside leg to push her out of the turn and into the correct lead. I then use the fence to help her stay straight.

Three

If my horse tries to come out of the rollback early, I’ll
immediately take her into a turn, and use both of my hands to soften her up and move her shoulders over. Once she softens, I’ll go back to my original line and go back to the start of my drill.

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Four

When my horse comes out of the turn on the wrong lead or starts to push into my leg, I’ll break her down to a trot or walk and go to my leg to push her off of it. At this point, I’m not worried about if I’m close to the fence; I just want to focus on moving her body over. Once she moves off it, I ask her back into the lope on the correct lead before returning to the starting point of my drill.

Five

Once I can perform a rollback in both directions with two hands, I test out her ability with one hand. I start next to the fence, ask my horse to back straight a couple of steps, and then look with my eyes to find the point I want to go to. I use my hand to initiate the turn, and then once I’m a little more than halfway through the turn, I follow up with my right leg to push her out of the turn and into the left lead. 

Six

The next step is putting all the pieces together. If I don’t combine the stop and rollback at home, she isn’t going to understand what I’m asking of her when it comes time to show. I want to ensure that when we do a sliding stop, my horse knows that she might need to perform a rollback in either direction. 

At this point, I no longer use the fence as a guide and instead ride in the middle of the arena. When I’m ready, I ask my horse to stop, back a few steps, and then I start to initiate the rollback. If my horse is responsive to my cues, I might just lope a few steps out before breaking to the walk and petting her.  

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Seven

Once I can put together the pieces and ask my horse to roll back after a stop, I need to distinguish the difference between me asking for a backup and a rollback. While my horse must know a rollback happens after a stop, I also need her to know the difference so that when I’m asking for a backup she doesn’t jump into a turn. 

When I want her to back and not do a rollback, I put weight in my stirrups, and I say the word ‘whoa’ repeatedly as we’re backing. I don’t want to muddy the waters for my horse, so I never initiate a rollback after saying whoa during the back.