Win­ning In­sights

Pol­ish a roll­back— without ru­in­ing it.

Horse & Rider - - Contents -

Once your horse is trained to do the roll­back (cov­ered in the June is­sue’s in­stall­ment of Win­ning In­sights), you need to keep that ma­neu­ver solid and pol­ished. But it’s not easy. School­ing roll­backs over and over leads to an­tic­i­pa­tion, which de­te­ri­o­rates the qual­ity of your horse’s ma­neu­ver. It can also cause your horse to drop his shoul- der into the turn, mak­ing him U-turn be­cause he’s un­able to el­e­vate his front end and get all the way around to go the other di­rec­tion.

For those rea­sons, I sug­gest school­ing roll­backs like you show them—pre­cise, but not too often. Here are my five step-by-step tips for suc­cess.


I stop flat-footed—that means a com­plete stop, with all four feet on the ground—be­fore I even think about the roll­back. I some­times back my horse a step to en­sure that he’s on his hindquar­ters. My horse must be bal­anced on his hind end so he’s pre­pared to be­gin the ma­neu­ver. If he’s heavy on his fore­hand, he can’t lift it and bring it around.


My body po­si­tion plays a ma­jor part in my roll­back. Here I’m be­gin­ning to look where I want to go—over my shoul­der, back in the other di­rec­tion. Stay­ing bal­anced on his hindquar­ters, my horse pre­pares for the next step even though my hand hasn’t moved. At this mo­ment, I wait for my horse to bring his shoul­ders through to the left. If I had to pull his shoul­ders through, I’d cre­ate a re­verse arc in his body with his head look­ing right as I drag him left.


This photo says it all. My horse is bal­anced on his rear end, his front end is el­e­vated, and his front legs are tucked un­der to sweep through the roll­back. I’m still look­ing where I’m go­ing, as I am in each of these photos. If I quit rid­ing here—drop my hand and look down— the move­ment dies in this frame. I must keep rid­ing all the way through the roll­back to the end point where I lope off.


My roll­back started at 12:00, and I want it to end pre­cisely at 6:00. That’s a true roll­back over my horse’s hocks. If I’d quit rid­ing at 9:00, where I am now, I’d ba­si­cally make a U-turn, which isn’t what the judges are look­ing for. But I can’t get im­pa­tient and push my horse to 6:00. A roll­back is all about po­si­tion, bal­ance, and pa­tience. That makes it smooth and quick—not rushed.


You can see that I’m lop­ing off in the tracks I made in my run­down to the roll­back. That means I’m end­ing the ma­neu­ver in ex­actly the cor­rect spot. This al­lows my horse to de­part the roll­back on the cor­rect lead, which makes the en­tire ma­neu­ver smoother. If I’d gone past 6:00 to 5:00, I’d have to push my horse to the right to get on a straight track. That means he’s po­si­tioned to pick up the right lead and I’ll have to change leads be­fore I get to the cor­ner. It’s not a penalty to exit a roll­back on the wrong lead, but it does take away from the over­all look. De­part­ing on the cor­rect lead sets you up to move on to your next stop and roll­back with noth­ing to fix.

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