Disengaging the Hindquarters

Disengaging his hindquarter will help calm your horse down and get him to think.

By Pat Parelli

Q: When doing some of the Seven Games, the hindquarters must move over. Why is it important that the horse steps over with the hind legs?

A: When a horse steps one hind leg over the other as a yield away from the pressure of your hand or leg, it is called "disengaging" his hindquarter. If one hind leg does not cross the other, then your horse is not actually disengaging and yielding his hindquarter. He is probably moving forward or backward instead of laterally.

It's very important to teach your horse to have a soft and responsive disengagement for several reasons.
1. This simple movement becomes your unfailing "equine emergency brake." Getting this good in a non-threatening situation will help you handle an emergency where your horse is ready to run off.
2. When your horse is upset and acting like Henny Penny - scared and over excitable, disengaging his hindquarter will help calm him down and start to think.
3. This is an important part of teaching your horse that when you ask him to do something with light pressure from your hand or leg on his side, it doesn't always mean go forward or go faster. Sometimes it means to move over.
4. Hindquarter disengagement is a foundation move for developing a great Sideways Game and in turn developing simple lead changes, flying lead changes, half passes, side passes, spins, pirouettes and counter arcs.

This simple movement becomes your unfailing "equine emergency brake."


In the wild, a horse disengages his hindquarter when he "crosses the flight line" while being pursued by a predator. When a predator attacks, a horse instantly goes into his main form of self-defense, flight. After running flat out for about 440 yards (40 yards longer than a typical predator's sprinting capacity), a horse crosses the flight line by disengaging his hindquarter to briefly turn around. When he turns and crosses his hind legs, he goes from a flight (right brain) mode to a thinking (left brain) mode just for a few seconds to assess the situation and decide whether or not he needs to keep running.

When you ask your horse to cross his legs over each other, as you do throughout the Partnership program (part 1 of my Savvy System), you are causing him to use the left side of his brain and switch into a thinking mode. This is one of the keys to helping your horse become a trusted partner.

If you would like to know more about disengaging your horse's hindquarter and how to go about it, you will find all the details in the Partnership pack (part 1 of Pat Parelli's Savvy System). Call for a free brochure 1-800-642-3335 or visit www.parelli.com.