All good trainers understand the relationship between the back up and stop and how those two separate maneuvers can help everything else. But many amateurs do not. Partly this is because they don't have a thorough understanding of either.
My intention here is not to tell you how to train but to discuss what makes a good stop and a good backup and why they are so inter-related and how they can help you with your overall program.
So, let's start with the stop. The stop should be soft, with the horse bending in the poll, relaxed in the jaw and finishing the stop balanced and soft in the knees and slightly round. I don't let my horses jam into anything, especially a stop. I personally like to see a horse have a moment to respond to the cue to stop. Quick stops are very hard on a horse. Take a beautiful long slide - that is not a quick stop.
Sometimes in Trail however, we have to do a very quick stop from a lope in a very short distance or a confined area. Over time these can cause a horse to stiffen into the stop if you don't work with them carefully. It may sound odd but to keep this from happening, I always do quick stops "slowly" giving the horse a second to react and balance but if they don't listen right away, that's a different matter and I'll correct them.
Now, about the back-up, it too should be soft and fluid, balanced and a little round. See, here's the similarity. If you have nice stop, chances are your back-up will be nice and vice versa. I like a back-up that has a definite cadence - no dragging of hooves or slushy movement. As my horses learn, I gradually add speed. Be warned that if you add speed too quickly, the back-up will lose cadence and softness. The back-up definitely helps the stop but the stop will help the back-up, a concept many seem to miss.
All this is based on a horse that not only "gives" to the bridle but is relaxed while doing these maneuvers. When you lift your hand, your horse should drop down into the bridle and lift his shoulder - ideal for stops or back-ups.
After a stop or a back-up, when done properly and nicely, your horse should be ready for a good transition into whatever gait you choose next. Hope this helps! See you next week, JD