Correct Rollback Position, Part Two

Al Dunning explains the common problems in a reining spin or rollback and how to fix them.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

In this two-part series, AQHA Professional Horseman Al Dunning explains the correct body position for a reining spin or rollback. Want to review Part 1?

Common Problems
Pulling too hard. One common mistake riders make in spins is pulling back too hard on the reins. It can pull the horse back on his hocks so far that he has to release his hip and actually turn more with the hind end than he does the front.

Or the rider can pull the horse so hard to the side that, again, the horse has to release his hip. His front goes to the right and the hind goes to the left, so the horse is spinning in the middle of his body, like a top.

Over-reining. In a spin, putting more neck rein on the horse doesn’t necessarily mean more speed. What it often does is reverse the arc in a horse’s body, making the horse look to the outside of the turn rather than to the inside of the turn. It throws the horse’s weight onto his inside shoulder, which doesn’t allow him to clear that inside leg and cross over properly.

Wrong lead. If you’re rolling back to the right and you end up on the left lead, one of two things happened. Either the horse was resisting and leaning to the left while rolling back and came out on the left lead, or the rider over-rotated in the roll to the right and came out on the left lead trying to get back on the tracks.

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Off balance. Between the slide and rollback, if you don’t wait for that count of one – if you just stop and pull – your horse will freeze up or it will throw his balance off, and he’ll throw his head and come out of position.

Quick hands. If you want a quick rollback and you’re quick with your hand, the horse will lock up or freeze up as he goes to turn. A smooth hand makes the horse want to respond better.

If your hand is quick in a spin, the horse will jump, causing him to hop and cross under rather than cross over with his feet. A smooth hand in a spin will cause a horse to step more accurately, dropping the inside front foot back.

Performing these maneuvers properly is more about maintaining balance with the horse through your seat, not connecting your reining hand to the movement of the horse.

What to Do
No.1, you’ve got to work on and think about your own body position as a rider.

In a spin, you should sit fairly square in the saddle.

If you’re turning to the right, don’t lean back with your right foot up in the horse’s shoulder blocking the turn. You want your inside foot straight down and slightly off the horse’s side.

Your outside foot (or left foot in a right spin) is there between the front and back cinch, getting ready to urge the horse to go faster. That’s a conditioned response you teach the horse – you use your leg or spur or cluck or whatever to make the horse more motivated in the spin.

You should have a light rein to the right but not a hard rein so you don’t make the horse reverse the arc.

Roll It!

Watch reiners compete at the 2010 Youth World Cup!

And you should sit down, a little rounded and slightly forward in the saddle. When a horse turns around properly, he sucks back just a little bit. If you lean back, you’ll tend to pull the horse onto his hocks too much.

For the rollback, your back is rounded as you are in the stop. Finish the stop and, again, your body is going to come slightly forward because you don’t want the horse to back up. It’s a slight release of the rein, it’s a slight lean forward, and then it’s a pick up with the rein toward your inside shoulder.

You shouldn’t lean into the rollback. Allow the horse to make the turn first, and your body should follow.

No. 2, performing these maneuvers correctly comes from slow repetitions. You can practice a lot of reining maneuvers going slow and never get a horse sour. But if you always practice fast – you do a lot of hard runs and hard stops and fast backing and quick turning – you’ll soon make that horse resist and not want to respond properly. Instead, he’ll pin his ears, switch his tail, maybe reverse his arc, etc.

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Practice slowly – do a lot of this from the walk and the trot. That will keep a horse fresh.

Also, it helps if you give your horse a goal in doing these maneuvers, like when you work a cow: You can take a cow down the fence and stop next to it and roll back, and that cow is actually helping your horse learn to use its body properly and have a real reason for rolling back.

I know several reining horse trainers who use a mechanical cow to teach their horses to roll back. They go and stop with it, then let the cow go a little ahead of the horse, back the horse up and then roll back to get the cow.

It’s acquiring the skills you do with your horse in a more natural way.