Back-Around Drill: Part 2

In Part 2 of this series, Al Dunning ads a few modifications to the back-around drill.

In Part 1 of this series, AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning gave the basic drill he uses to teach his horses flexibility. He says this drill can be used to prepare a horse for any discipline. Now, he adds some extra ways to modify this drill.

Fence Help

I like to do this drill out in the open, in the middle of the arena. But if I’m having trouble with a horse, I’ll do it in the corner of the arena where I have two fences to push the horse toward to keep the circle as round as I possibly can.

As the horse comes off the fence and wants to go out of the circle, then I’ll drive back to a point that’s 4 to 6 feet out from the corner. He’ll learn that arc and not want to leave out of the corner.


My favorite option with this drill comes at the end. Instead of doing the half turnaround at the end to come back going forward on the circle, I’ll turn the horse around two or three times and end up back on the circle.

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Another variation on this drill is to make a figure-8 with your back-around.

You establish your perfect circle going forward. When you stop and maintain that arc in the horse’s body, don’t do a half turn to back around the circle. Instead, just back the horse into an additional, same-size circle right next to the one you just made, making a figure-8, maintaining the same arc in the horse’s body.

Riding Perfect Circles

Be consistent in your circle size. For this drill, make your circles 12 to 14 feet, and learn what that looks and feels like to ride.

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What usually happens when you’re working on this is that you get a bubble in your circle; one side is a little larger so it’s really an oval or egg. Using a focal point for your circle can help with that.

I’ve used just about anything: a cactus, rock or piece of manure that was in my arena. In clinics, I’ll put a barrel or a cone in the middle of the circle. Use that focal point to help you stay exactly 6 or 7 feet from all sides of that focal point for your perfectly round circle.

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