Posted on

Refine The Stop

Does your horse stop when you say “Whoa.” or does he push through the bridle and continue on? Maybe he stops when you give him a rein cue but you would like to refine your cues. If either of these situations sound familiar this lesson will help you teach the horse to stop on your seat and voice cues alone from any gait.

Why Having a Good Stop is So Important

A good stop is essential for your safety as well as your horses. If something were to spook him and he had a habit of ignoring your aids you would be heading towards a wreck. Refining stopping aids will make your cues nearly invisible at a show, putting you higher in the placings. Also, teaching the horse to stop off of your seat cue will improve your downward transitions.

Getting Ready

Before you begin teaching the horse this lesson, warm him up by doing some groundwork exercises. Next, outfit him in a plain snaffle as this bit will make it clear to your horse exactly what you want. Always remember that each horse is different and that it make take one longer than another to understand the lesson. Ideally you should teach this exercise over a period of three to five consecutive days. Some horses may take longer, just stick with it until he figures out what you want.

The Lesson

Begin at a walk, letting the horse go where ever he wants on a loose rein. When you are ready to stop, sit down in your saddle. By sit down I mean quit going with the walking motion, sink your weight down into the saddle and into your heels. Tell your horse “Whoa.” in a normal voice after you sit down if you want to add a voice cue. If he has not stopped after you have counted to three, bend him around with one rein. Slide your hand about a third of the way down the rein, bringing it out to the side until the horse bends his neck, then bring the rein up to his withers, and wait for him to bend his neck, cross his hind legs, and disengage. When you feel his legs cross keep holding the rein up by his withers until he stands still and flexes his head laterally. When he softens, release the rein and let him stand and relax. Continue to do this each time the horse ignores the cues from your seat. Remember to flex him in a different direction each time you disengage him. It is important to bend your horse equally in both directions. When the horse catches on and stops in response to your seat, click, feed, and let him rest for a minute. When the horse is stopping from your seat consistently at the walk try the same exercise at a trot and then canter.

Problem Solving

Ignores Your Seat– If the horse is only stopping when you use one rein and not off of your seat cue, make sure that you sit deep in the saddle and resist the motion of the horse while you count 1..2..3… before using one rein and disengaging him.  This is very important because if you don’t sit down and only pull him around every time you stop he will not understand the correlation between your seat cue and stopping.

Doesn’t Stop– If the horse doesn’t stop at all you need to review your previous lessons on how to do one rein stops. Each exercise builds on another; you must teach the horse how to do a one rein stop first before teaching him to stop off of your seat.

Isn’t Catching On– Some horses who have more energy will take longer to train to stop off of your seat then a horse who is naturally lazy. The lazy horse will take any opportunity to stop, while the hot horse wants to move his feet. Stick with it and stay consistent. Usually it takes about a solid week of practicing this lesson on a hot horse and about one to two days on a lazy type horse.

Won’t Cross the Hind Legs When Disengaging– For example, if you are disengaging the horse on the left side, the horse’s left hind leg should cross over his right hind leg. To do so, slide your hand down the left rein, bring it out to the side keeping your arm straight until his neck bends, then bring the rein up to the withers, hold the rein and wait. Some horses will bend their bodies and disengage from the rein cue only. If he is still not crossing his hind legs, slide your left leg behind the girth and press with your calf to ask him to cross over. Release the leg cue when he does so. Keep contact on the rein until the horse is standing still and flexes laterally, then release.

Heavy On the Rein– Go back to flexing the horse on the ground in the bridle then under saddle at the halt. Make sure that the horse gets soft and gives to the pressure after he has disengaged. Don’t release the rein if the horse is pulling on you. Only give when he moves his head in the correct direction even if it is only a little bit.

Horse Bucks, Bolts, Rears etc– Use the one rein stop to get the horse under control. Go back to working on groundwork exercises until the horse doesn’t have any “magnets” or places he rather be at like other horses, the barn, the gate etc.

Having Trouble Feeling the Horse’s Legs Cross– Practice yielding the hindquarters from a standstill and have a person on the ground tell you when his legs are crossing so you can get used to the feeling.

Horse Gets Stuck By the Gate or Other Horses-If this happens don’t worry too much about it. Make the horse uncomfortable in that place by yielding the hindquarters, riding circles, or speeding up his gait until he moves away from his magnet. When he does, release him and let him walk on a loose rein. You don’t want to ask for too much at first when training a horse. That’s why you don’t steer and only work on the stop.

Refine as You Go

As you continue to teach this lesson, begin asking for stops from faster gaits.  Once you can stop from a trot with only your seat, progress to stopping from the canter. Especially when cantering, be careful not to pull the horse’s head around quickly. Your horse can fall over if you do; that is how movie horse are laid down. Be sure to practice this lesson in different environments. Horses are very location specific, because of this the horse may behave well in the arena but if you take him on the trail or to a show he won’t listen as well. Soon you will be able to stop at all speeds using only your seat and voice cues.