Wednesday, May 12, 2010

All I Got On Stops II

Back on Dee Dee’s question about stopping. This balanced ride stop I’m showing you guys will get your horse stopped, now, and he will be nicely balanced over his hocks with his butt tucked under him. The rider will push on the horse’s neck with her rein hand if she rides one handed and with her dominant hand if she rides with two.

This is a western stop. If you want your horse to stop square and evenly balanced over front and hind we’ll have to get a dressage person to guest blog, because I don’t know how to do that one.

The balanced ride stop is not going to give you a 20 foot slide either. But it will develop the base to get one and will give the rider the feel and timing needed to create a slide stop on the horse.

We were talking about knowing where each foot is while the horse is moving. By now you should be tuned in to the four beat gait of the walk, the two beat side to side and forward reach of the trot and the three beat of the canter. If you have gone to the four beat of the gallop you need to quit having so much fun.

I’ll start you off at the walk. Walk along the rail of your arena or in a flat spot on the trail or pasture. Count out loud. If you are mocked so be it, your critics will hush when they see your cool stop.

As the left hind foot leaves the ground I want you to call out “Now, Now, Now.”

When you are sure you have it right say “Now” at the beat and push on your horse’s neck right where the neck joins the wither.

With the next beat you pull back until he stops.

When he stops relax your reins and be still.

Yes, it’s really that simple.

The key is all four feet must no longer be in motion.

All of them.

No leaky feet.

I prefer the horse completely stands still and relaxes. BUT I am also aware there are jiggers and fretters and boogerbrains out there. If you have one of these then let him walk after you get all four feet stopped even if it’s for a split second.

Offer to let him stand still by relaxing your reins once all four feet stop moving. Not one, not two, not three, but all four.

If at all possible give him a cue to go forward before he thinks of moving. This will eventually get Boogerbrain to think your in charge of moving forward and he will begin wishing he could stop. But that’s another day.

Now call out your right hind leg as it leaves the ground.

Say “Now” and push on his neck as the right hind leaves the ground and on the next beat pull until he stops.

When Boogerbrain beats you to the stop (with all four feet), before you can pull on him, relax your reins, give him a big hug and be done for the day.

Remember this one. When he stops before you pull, then don’t pull. If he gives half a try then starts up again pull him down without warning. Then start the exercise again.

Next day take a few practice runs at the walk. Find your rhythm and just push on the neck instead of saying “Now.” Don’t say “Whoa” yet, that comes later.

Remember to pull on the next beat unless your horse stops before you can pull.

Now move up to the trot.

Watch your horse’s shoulders. Don’t lean! Just watch.

Because the trot is a two-beat gait you can push on your horse’s neck when the left shoulder goes forward and know he will be stopping on the next beat or when the left hind leg is coming forward.

When you can get a solid stop with all four feet no longer moving at the walk and the trot you can quit for the day.

You don’t have to count out loud anymore and you’re still not saying “Whoa.” Your horse is stopping at a touch on his neck. Pretty cool huh?

Day number three dawns and we’ll warm up at the walk and trot using our touch on the neck, without conversation.

Now move up to the lope. I would like to think you guys know your leads, but the beauty of this stop is you don’t have to. You will understand leads better by learning this stop though.For the timing on this stop you can go either of two ways. I guess you can do both, but keep the brain exploding thing in mind.

As you lope along you will feel your butt rise in the air and then slide down into the saddle, rise and slide, rise and slide.

We’re going back to calling out here. Call out slide, slide, slide, as you come down in the saddle.
Or, if you’re fond of the,"Now, now, now,” you can call out when Boogerbrain’s outside shoulder is forward.

Either way, you want to give your horse the stop cue as your butt slides back into the saddle or when the outside front leg is forward.

Give the cue and if he doesn’t stop by the next beat pull him down until his feet aren’t moving.

That’s it. Go play with it for awhile. This works for new riders, or riders who know what’s up. It works for sour, rotten horses, colts and broke horse.

It just works. Go play and we’ll talk about adding a “Whoa” and fancier stops next time.

Let me know how this works for you….


  1. Gosh I have to print your post to work it out ;-P I thought that a "!reining" stop (not sliding) involved lots of backing:
    "Stop, jerk, back, jerk some more, and kick hard in belly, repeat ad nauseum, until horse does not throw head up, and suck his back when backing..."
    I like your explaination best!

  2. Muriel- Be warned...this is not a reining stop. But I don't do a lot of jerking and yanking and kicking to get one.

  3. Your sense of humor is shining in this one, Mugs. =D I especially liked "if you have gone to the four beat of the gallop you need to quit having so much fun".

  4. Interesting! Now I just need a ride-able horse to try it out.

  5. Loved it!! And I think it might even work with my son and his pony! He is ten he should be able to count to four, Ha! Just a whole lot faster than he would count on our old mare. Have you ever tried this with a pony? Man they walk fast, those tiny little feet just fly. Loved the article, great humor, great to have you back!!!

  6. Long time reader, first time poster. I love your stories, but think I appreciate your training insight more than anything. I'm an english rider at heart, but good sense transcends disciplines, and the comments are usually just as good as your original posts!

    I have a question: you say press on the neck on one beat, then wait a beat to use your reins. Do you mean a full stride? As in, at the walk, the next time the left hind hits the ground? Or do you pull when the next hoof hits the ground, regardless of placement? At the trot, if you press when the left hind is on the ground, do you pull with the right hind, or wait until the left hits again. I can't wait to start this with my recently backed three year old - it sounds like a great way to install "emergency brakes" on a horse that's expected to be a beginner trail mount.

  7. Thanks for the breakdown. I just got my newly-started four year old home. I'm disappointed with what the trainer *didn't* accomplish: 30 days = 30 calendar days, but if he averaged 3 sessions a week, I'd be surprised. He spent the first two weeks on ground work, even tho I'd already spent last summer in a saddle, D-ring and long lines. I think MAYBE he was on her 10 times--at least I have a feel for her attitude. She hasn't been out of the round pen, and he only got her up to a jog three times! She hasn't got much of a stop, considering how "careful" he was being, and he didn't teach her to stand next to a mounting block, the one specific skill I asked for, 'cause I'm old!
    I know 30 days isn't much--she's the first horse I've raised that I haven't started myself, but she's a bit sassy, and I just didn't want to put that first few rides on her myself. I guess he accomplished that much...

    I have two questions, probably related:
    When you reach down to touch the neck, wouldn't this move your balance forward some? I already have trouble being off-balance a bit to the front.
    Secondly, do you release the touch on the neck before you ask for the stop with the reins? Or maintain that contact on the neck until motion is halted?
    Just want to be sure I've got the details right.

  8. Yes, I too have a question, it's basically the same as EvenSong. You say to press (at a walk) with the left hind, then to pull with the next beat, is there a goal to ask for the front or hind foot to cease movement first? Maybe I should ask, are we asking for the stop with the lift of a front or hind foot?

  9. Mugs, I have a question. BOth hubbies horse and my horse are on the "hotter" side. BOTH get "hot" once they have been loping and are hard to quiet and bring back to just a walk.

    Mine is REALLY bad for "jigging". If I ask for a lead departure, and then bring him to a stop, he doesnt want to just walk off quiet and relaxed, he wants to jig jig jig.. WORSE if I pick up on the reins as well.

    What i have tried: Stop and back up over and over and over. Didnt work. Small circles when he jigs and then let him out when he quits, usually works for a few strides, but jigging will start again.

    He is SLOWLY getting better but he seems to be clausterphobic? Pick up on reins and wham, starts jigging. The main problem with both of them is the getting hot after loping.

    Background: BOTH have reining training by the same trainer. One is 6 yrs one is 4 yrs old. Gelding is 100% cutting bred top bottom, mare is cutting top, race bred bottom. (if that makes a difference)

  10. Good stuff. My horses are trained to cue on the word "whoa" instead of the push on the neck, but it's the same training concept-- do cue, wait a beat, enforce cue. I do also never "walk out" of a stop. When I stop a horse I always back up at least a step or turn them one way or the other before proceeding forward. I think it helps keep the stop secure as a "cease forward motion NOW and wait for my direction before moving your feet" concept.

    Badges-- I'm not being a smart ass, and Mugs probably has better ideas, but I think if your horse is jiggy after you lope, you're not loping enough or long enough. No matter how they're bred, they need to be thankful for the time they get to walk. Lope them until you take the air out of them, stop and stand for a minute and then walk until they air up. More jigging means more loping. You can ride longer than they can lope. Use it to your advantage. You're after the mental concept for them of conserving their energy because they never know when they're going to need it, not just wearing them down until they're exhausted. If you try that, they'll just get fitter. Walking is a gift. Make them appreciate it. And, don't just lope in a big circle, lope circles of all sizes, serpentines, stop, roll back and lope off the other way. Make them work and they'll appreciate their break time.

  11. I forgot to add, for clarity, the difference between physically exhausting them and getting to their brains. Physically exhausting them would be just loping until all the fresh is out and they decide walking is an okay deal. They'll just get fitter and want to go longer if you do that. Getting to them mentally requires going beyond when they decide the fresh is out and they're done. Go until they really want to quit, then go a couple minutes more. You're in charge and you decide how much they work. Go beyond their comfort zone. If you can do that, it should only take a couple of days until walking is their favorite gait. If you just go until they decide they want to quit, the problem will just get worse, but you'll have very fit horses!

  12. mommyrides-this works with anything. Kids get it much faster than adults.
    Don't make your son worry too much about timing, just push and pull.

    stasha-thanks for writing! Pull with the next foot fall.

    evensong-just push and release, then pull.You need the space between cues.
    Sit on your pockets like a cowboy, then touch. You won't fall forward.

    Lara - no exploding brains! Just push at one footfall and pull at the next. The horse will begin to balance over his hocks to stop...

    Badges- jigging is a whole 'nother deal. Let me finish with stops and then we will dejig OK? Don't let me forget.

  13. Thanks for the homework! Perfect timing for me, the semester is ending and I am fresh out of homework with only one more final left.

  14. K, in response to your suggestion. my horse had FOURTEEN months of reining training.. He has been loped TONS. (he never had WALK work, just trot and lope basically) I work my horses. Hubbies mare had over two years of reining training and some showing - we bought them because they are NOT reiners, they are both hot horses and just dont "work" for reining. They are wonderful wonderful penning horses. That being said, i could lope my gelding until he is exghuasted, but I guarantee you, he will start jigging if i pick up on those reins. lol.

    Took him for his first trail ride UPHILL. He jigged about 50% of the time (no leg, no rein), I just pull, release to try and get him to quit.

    I've also tried just doing a million transitions.. Lope, ask him to walk, he will walk two steps and then start jigging, ONCE he walks a few steps calmly, i will lope again... I do see improvement with all the the things I am trying, but I think we have a ways to go!

  15. oh, one more thing.. You know how some dogs will "fetch" forever, and seem to not quit until they die? thats like these two horses, I think they would go till they dropped.

  16. Cant wait to try it tonight. Im pretty sure I got it but for good peasure Im going to print it out too :) Ill definetly let you know how it goes

  17. Thank you Mugs. This is the perfect time to get the next installment. I have a whole horse weekend away coming up. We are so good at dribble to a stop. We will get so good at Stop NOW with no fighting.

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  19. Badges-- does he think loping is a reward? If not, maybe you're going about it backwards loping after he finally walks. *shrugs* I'm sure Mugs can get you fixed up. Hope I didn't offend by sticking my nose in.

  20. no offense taken K.. and you may very well be right!

  21. Ugh. My coworkers must think I'm insane, or at the very least least borderline autistic.

    I just caught two of them staring at me as I rocked in my desk chair, whispering "Now, Now, Now" to catch the beat on my imaginary horse, arms extended with my invisible reins as I read this post.

    Thanks for the FANTASTIC breakdown, Mugs. I just need to remember to read you in the privacy of my own home.

  22. Okay, Mugs...all this talk about stops, bolting...well, you just have to read my blog about my little adventure with my mare last weekend! I think she snuck in and read what you've been focusing on...


  23. Hey, I love the stop you described. I learned something very similar even though dressage is my discipline of choice. After a very short time, all you have to do is start to slide down the reins to a stop or just rock back your pelvis and the horse stops. This stop also puts the horse nicely in balance for the next transition. The beginning of the "stop" can become the half halt while in motion.
    I like your style, Mugs.

  24. You just solved my biggest dilemma!!! I am trying to teach my boyfriend to ride well enough to plod along the trail with me, but he and my 4yr old gelding are not quite understanding each other when it comes to whoa. He's never been a "stop on a dime and I'm glad to be stopped" kind of horse, but still with me he stops off my seat without ever pulling back. So I hate to tell my boyfriend to pull on him if he doesn't stop off seat and voice. (Beginner seat being confusing, and beginner hands tending to be unknowingly harsh).

    If I could teach the two of them to stop with at touch, I could have hope for convincing him that a lifetime of riding isn't a life sentence! (The bf & the horse!!)

    I also can see it working as an emergency button! This is why I read your blog! I NEVER would have thought of that! My boyfriend may never develop a seat that is sensitive and influential enough to slow the footfall or stop a gait, but he can sure as hell touch a horses neck!

  25. Mugs--- is it the timing of the request that causes them to stop with their weight balanced on their hindquarters? Or is that a lesson that's coming later on?

  26. Becky - Yes. But don't obsess over timing. If you keep counting your footfalls it will come. In the mean time your horse will still stop.
    It will simply get better as your timing (and his) improves.