Sunday, March 3, 2013

The rein back

Slow jogging Western Pleasure horses aren't the only models whose gaits commonly misidentified by novice performance showers.  On numerous occasions, I've seen the Breyer Ranch Horse and the Stone Performance horse listed as performing a rein back.  While it's at least somewhat conceivable that both these models are moving backwards, neither one of them is doing a proper rein back.
The rein back is a two beat movement, during which the horse picks up and sets down its legs in diagonal pairs as it moves directly backwards.  In photos, this often gives the horse the appearance of doing a backwards trot.
It doesn't matter how big...
or small the horse is...
or if its ridden Western...
or English.  This is the natural footfall sequence of all horses as they back up.
There are a couple almost-exceptions worth noting.  In certain instances, horses will briefly move backwards in an altered footfall sequence.  One of the main causes of this is resistance.  When a horse is reluctant to back up, it will often lift its head, hollow  its back and drag itself backward one foot at a time.  This can give the appearance of something other than a two beat diagonal movement.  However, if that horse were to drop his head and moved fluidly backwards, you would quickly see the two beat foot fall sequence re-established.
Similarly, tie down roping horses are often a bit out of sync as they abruptly come to a halt and immediately start working the rope.
However, after a few steps...
their legs naturally fall into that two beat diagonal sequence.
As always, the best way to figure out what your model is (or isn't) doing is to pay attention to the footfall sequence.  Although it's possible for horses to move backwards in other ways, there is only one way they can do a proper rein back.
Make sense?  If not, please post your questions in the comment section!


  1. Reflectingstars StablesMarch 3, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    Thanks for all the reference pictures. But I still have a question, is there any Breyer OF horses that are backing up? Thanks
    ~ReflectingStars Stables

    1. It's conceivable that the Quarter Horse Gelding is doing a rein back. His legs are in a two beat diagonal gait, but he doesn't appear to be jogging. Granted, he doesn't really look like he's going backwards either, but compare his body to that of the backing mini posted above... Pretty close!

    2. Reflectingstars StablesMarch 4, 2013 at 11:10 AM

      Ok Thanks! Also is the Rugged Painted Lark? I have seen him used like that a few times.
      ~ReflectinStars Stables

  2. So the question is, what gait are these two models doing? It's not a walk, but looks lateral. I really can't figure it out. What performace classes would they be suitable for?

  3. What gait are they performing? Canter?

  4. That is the question, isn't it? If these two aren't backing, what _are_ they doing? The funky chicken?

  5. As far as I'm concerned, the Stone Performance Horse is loping. It's not a great lope. There isn't much impulsion, and the hind legs are really wide. However, I strongly sense a three beat gait in that model.

    As for the Breyer Ranch Horse... Well, he's not really doing anything. It's important to realize that not all models are performing actual gaits.

    If you're not certain what gait a model is doing, don't choose that model to be your next performance horse. You will save yourself so much time and aggravation by sticking to models with good, clear biomechanics!

  6. This was extremely informative! I've seen hundreds and hundreds of horses back up, and I "knew" that their legs moved in diagonal pairs, but have never really thought about it. I didn't realized until you started writing this series that performance showers needed to be THAT picky about where the horses' legs are placed, but of course they do!