How to Train Your Horse to Stop, Slow or Woah
Do your arms ache after riding your horse?
Does the horse always want to go faster than you want to go?
Do you dread cantering because you think you won't be able to "pull the horse up"?
Do you spend most of your ride "holding the horse back"?
If you answered yes to these questions... don't fear you are not alone.
This is one of the most common problems people encounter with their horse.
So why does this happen? and how do you train your horse so that it wants to go slower?
Well first of all horses are prey animals. Having a predator on their back often makes them want to run fast away from the predator.
More often though, what happens is people assume that horses will automatically stop when they feel pain in their mouth. This is what happens when you pull on two reins to stop the horse.
It puts pressure on all the sensitive membranes, gums, lips and toungue. The more and harder you pull the more it hurts the horse.
Take a look at any tack shop and you will see an endless array of bits that provide more "leverage" or are sharper and more severe to stop horses pulling.
However many times people find that the new harsher bit works for a while and then the horse goes back to rushing and pulling again. Why does this happen?
The main reason why it happens is because people don't understand how horses learn.
They also don't understand that you have to TRAIN THE HORSE TO STOP IN RESPONSE TO PRESSURE ON ITS MOUTH. Horses are not born knowing that they should stop when they feel pressure or pain in their mouth. In fact their instincts tell them to push into pressure and run faster when something hurts them in their mouth.
The other thing that causes horses to ignore the bit, is that people don't release the pressure when the horse does respond.
I also suggest you first teach the horse to flex their neck around to one side into "neutral".
So that you can stop them with one rein. I recommend doing lots of one rein halts.
When you can do lots of one rein halts... Then progress to doing two rein halts.
This is the process for teaching your horse to stop in response to light pressure on two reins:
Well the best place to start is on the ground.
- Put a bridle on the horse with a normal snaffle bit and two reins.
- Stand next to the horse on the ground
- Pick up a very light feel on both reins. So that you are asking them to step backwards.
- Gradually increase the pressure on the bit until the horse steps backwards.
- As soon as the horse steps back, RELEASE THE PRESSURE!
- Release the pressure while the horse is stepping backwards.
- Then gradually progress to doing more than one step backwards.
- RELEASE THE PRESSURE FOR EVERY STEP BACKWARDS.
- Always ask the horse using a very light pressure and build the pressure slowly releasing it at the instant the horse responds correctly. This must happen EVERY TIME.
Progress to getting the horse to walk along side you with their bridle on.
- Ask the horse to stop using a light backwards pressure on both reins.
- Gradually increase the pressure until the horse stops.
- As soon as the horse stops RELEASE THE PRESSURE! (Put your hand forward so that there is slack in the reins).
- Repeat until the horse stops from a light pressure on the reins.
- Then try walking next to the horse and go walk, halt, release, rein back, release.
- Repeat many times until the horse halts and goes backwards in respons to very light pressure cues on the reins.
- Then progress to leading your horse at a trot beside you.
- Run alongside the horse while it is trotting.
- Pick up a light backwards feel on the reins to ask the horse to stop.
- Gradually increase the pressure on the reins until the horse stops.
- As soon as the horse stops, RELEASE THE PRESSURE ON THE REINS.
- Then repeat that many times until the horse will stop from a trot with only a light pressure on the reins.
- Then do heaps of repetitions, trot, halt, RELEASE, rein back, release, trot....etc.
Now you are ready to teach your horse to stop while riding.
Provided your horse is already started under saddle you can then get on and repeat the process from the horses back.
- From a halt, pick up a light feel on both reins to ask the horse to step backwards.
- Gradually increase the pressure on both reins until the horse steps backwards.
- Release while the horse is stepping backwards.
- Then repeat many times until the horse steps backwards in response to a light pressure cue on the reins.
- Then ask for more and more steps backwards. Release for every step backwards.
Then progress to walking a few steps and ask the horse to stop.
- Walk on, (grow tall to go, then squeeze lightly with both legs).
- Walk a few steps then stop your body, drop your weight down into the saddle, and then pick up a light feel on both reins. Gradually increase the pressure on both reins until the horse stops.
- As soon as the horse stops RELEASE THE PRESSURE ON THE REINS. Put your hands right forwards so there is slack in the reins. The release needs to be big and obvious to the horse.
- Then repeat MANY times: walk, halt, RELEASE. Walk, halt, RELEASE...etc
Progress to Walk, Halt, RELEASE, Rein back, RELEASE.... repeat many times!
Progress to trotting. Trot, halt, release. Trot, halt, release .....repeat many times!
Then try trot, halt, release, rein back, release......repeat many times!
Progress to canter, halt, release, repeat....repeat...repeat
Progress to canter, halt, release, rein back, release repeat many times!
If you always ask the horse to stop with a light pressure and the release the pressure when the horse stops, the horse will soon stop from a very light pressure cue even at the canter.
Then progress to riding transitions:
e.g walk to trot, trot to walk, walk to halt, halt to rein back...mix it up a bit to keep the horse listening.
If at any time the horse wants to rush faster, immediately ask them to stop, then release the pressure.
If you are holding the horse back, then you are desensitizing the horse to the stop cue. You are much better to actually stop the horse release then ride on.
This will train the horse to wait until you ask them to change gaits.
They will relax, and you will be able to ride them on a loose rein... no more pulling!!!
Want to make this process even more effective?
Introduce your horse to clicker training. Then every time you ask the horse to stop, click and release when they stop and then give them a treat...
They'll be sliding to a stop in no time!
Did this help you? send your comments