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 Post subject: My Horse Won't Stop! What to Do?
PostPosted: Tue Oct 09, 2007 10:36 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 3:57 pm
Posts: 195
Location: Iowa
I answered this question for a girl who is having trouble getting her horse to stop. She said when her horse "picks up her pace" and she pulls back on the reins and says "whoa" her mare fights her and doesn't always stop. She wanted to know why her mare does this, and what she should do. Here's my answer:

There could be several reasons why she chooses to not stop for you at times. She may not have been trained properly, or may have developed a hard mouth, so that it takes an extra strong pull to get her to stop. She may not recognize your cues, or may be "surprised" by them so she doesn't stop right away.

Either way, you need to work with your mare until she becomes soft and listening for you to ask her to stop. I would work in an arena where she can't really go anywhere. Start out at the walk, and just use your body language to control her. Leave the reins alone as much as you can. When she is walking, use the seat of your pants and thigh muscles to kind of "sit deeper" and let her know you want to stop. With this "sitting deep", quietly say "whoa", and THEN tighten the reins. In this way, you are asking first (sitting, and saying whoa), and then telling. Now, if she does not stop at first, keep a steady pressure on the reins, pulling back low towards your hips, not up on the reins. If she tosses her head, continues walking, etc., the pull on the reins should not change. Only when she stops should you let up, and the release of the reins should be immediate--as soon as her feet still for a second, let up. If she begins to move again without being told, I would pull on one rein to bend her in a circle. This still rewards her for stopping (you released the reins) but keeps her from continuing to walk forward.

Then practice it again. Walk a fourth of the way around the arena, then sit deep, say "whoa", and tighten your reins. Keep them tight until she stops. Immediately release, pat her, tell her "good job", etc...don't give her treats, it changes what she's thinking about. She needs to think about your cues, not about the yummies in your pocket! When she is stopping really well for you at the walk, then advance to a trot. Trot her around the arena at least once, and pick different places to stop, avoiding the arena gate (she will be inclined to stop in front of the gate, so don't stop her there or let her stop there.) In the trot, when you are going to stop, first sit down, say "whoa", and then tighten the reins. She will learn to listen for you to sit, and will know she should stop if she doesn't want the pull on the bit. This is why we ask helps her obey the asking, and then we don't have to pull her mouth so much. When she does this well at a trot, then advance to a canter.

Now, the other thing I would talk to you about is you mentioned "when my horse starts picking up her pace" she going faster on her own, or did you ask her to? If she is going faster without being asked to, you need to pull her around into a circle. This keeps you from always pulling back on her mouth (makes her mouth get tough and insensitive), it also controls her movement (she can't go really fast if she is turning in a tight circle), and it helps her learn to bend laterally and give to the rein pressure. If she doesn't turn in a circle when you pull on one rein, you need to do this a LOT until she is more flexible.

If you are asking her to trot and she starts going faster, check her (half halt, which is a pull on the reins to slow her) and keep her in the trot. If this still doesn't work, if she is threatening to canter and you don't want her to, make her turn and make a circle, not too small, but small enough that she can't canter. What you are teaching her is that she has to obey what you are asking or else she will have to work (turn circles, which is harder than just cantering). Again, try to avoid pulling straight back on the reins unless she absolutely won't obey. Then do as you did at the walk: pull steadily towards your hips until she shows any indication of obeying (slowing down) and then release immediately to reward her. When you release, you are defining to her what the proper action was. For instance, if she doesn't know what you want her to do when you pull back, she may try different things: tossing her head, lashing her tail, going faster, etc...when she finally tries the right thing, which is slowing or stopping, and you release the reins, she gets instant relief from the bit and thinks "Oh, that's what I was supposed to do! Okay, next time my mouth starts hurting I'm going to slow down and maybe it will stop hurting!"

When you consistently practice these steps with her, she should get better. You don't want to confuse her. For instance, if you ask for a canter, and then immediately pull back when she does start to canter, that is being contradictory and inconsiderate of her. Only a highly trained horse will go into a canter and then stop on a dime, and you shouldn't expect a normal riding horse to do that. Let her canter for a circle or two of the arena. Then ask for a stop by sitting deep, saying "whoa", and tightening the reins. Again, keep the pressure until you get the result you want. If you don't actually want her to stop, just slow, I would just tighten the reins and not do the sitting deep and saying "whoa". Whoa always means "STOP", not slow down to a trot.

Good luck, hope this helps. Again, if you don't train her to obey you, she isn't going to get any better. You can't just fool around on a horse and expect it to learn. It takes practice and lots of training. So I hope these ideas will give you what you need to teach her to stop when you ask.


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