FAQ Riding

What is going backwards in reining called?

horse backing up
Written by Horse Rookie

Look forward to backing up

With terms like rollback, turnaround, and sliding stops, it serves to reason that there would be a cool name for the part of a reining pattern when the horse backs up. (Spoiler alert: there isn’t.)

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) refers to the maneuver where the horse moves in reverse as the “back up.” Typically, horses must back up for at least 10 feet (3 meters).

Watch a reining horse execute the “back up” maneuver in this video:

How is the back up used in a pattern?

There are many different reining patterns, and they’re updated annually by the NRHA. That said, there are also some consistencies from year to year — and one of them has to do with this exact maneuver. 

The back up always occurs following a sliding stop.

Here’s an example from Pattern 8 of the 2020 NRHA patterns:

“Continue back around previous circle but do not close this circle. Run up the right side of the arena past the center marker and do a sliding stop at least twenty feet (six meters) from the wall or fence. Back up at least ten feet (three meters). Hesitate to demonstrate completion of the pattern.”

Click here to see all the NRHA 2020 Reining Patterns

What do judges want to see?

To score well, remember that reining judges are looking for: 

  • Submission: Your horse willingly backs without resistance. 
  • Straightness: Your horse backs straight, front feet in the tracks of his hind feet. 
  • Rhythm: Your horse marches backward in a steady rhythm.
  • Engagement: Your horse uses his hindquarters to push himself back.
  • Accuracy: Your horse backs at the appropriate point in the pattern for the correct distance.

Read celebrated reiner Stacy Westfall’s Letter to Her Rookie Self.

Bringing it Back

At the end of the day, the back up is an important (albeit often overlooked) reining maneuver. Doing it well can help set you apart from your competitors. Doing it poorly can cost you dearly when prize checks are cut. 

Thought it’s not as exciting as elements like the sliding stop, it’s well worth your time to practice, and perfect, your back up!

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About the author

Horse Rookie

I began riding horses at age six, and I'm just as infatuated (OK, more!) with the sport decades later. My AQHA gelding exemplifies the versatility of the breed -- reined cow horse, reining, roping, ranch riding, trail, dressage, and jumping. We're also dipping our toes (hooves) into Working Equitation!