Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All I’ve Got on Stops

Now that we covered the basic Monte Foreman Stop let’s fancy things up a bit.

The first stop I showed you involves footfall patterns and a hand on the neck as a cue to stop.
This is where I first learned about the effect of timing. I studied Mort’s footfall patterns so thoroughly I hear “Now, now, now” in the back of my brain the entire time I ride.

So using my body to stop my horse was pretty easy for me once I learned to melt into my horse and relax my legs.

“Melt into my horse and relax my legs ”is the stickler here.

I used to ride with my feet shoved down into my stirrups. Hard enough I was damaging my knees. This made my upper body tight so I would lean forward and back trying to stay balanced. As my shoulders swung back my legs would counterbalance by swinging forward and vice versa. The worst part of this was it meant I rode entirely with my hands and out of balance.

I developed this habit because of the Monte Foreman method. It teaches the rider to stay light in the seat and balanced over the horse’s shoulders.

We were taught to actually rise out of the saddle during a stop to free the horse's shoulders so he could slide.

This not only got me in my rigid funny way of riding, but it got our horses to stop upright, like they were sitting down, instead of the forward reaching, front legs pedaling 30 foot slides we see now.

I’m not blaming the riding method for my errors. Remember I trained myself off of a very few lessons, so I’m sure my translation of things got muddled.

But, when I learned to get down in my seat, relax my legs and get in true balance my stops got waaaay better.

Much like riding bareback, my seat comes from keeping my butt in the center of the saddle. My legs and arms are now tools for guiding and propulsion, not for keeping me on the horse.

I’m doing some of my old balance lessons on Loki these days. She almost turned out from under me on a cow the other night. I’m getting rusty. Loki seemed amused.

So back to the stop. When I teach a horse to stop nowadays it’s a little different.

When I’m starting a colt at first I wait for him to stop on his own. When he stops I exhale so my weight sinks in the saddle then take my legs off of him. I don’t stick my legs way out, I just make sure there’s an inch or so of air between him and me. Then I get off, loosen my cinch and we’re done.

After the first few rides I’ll wait till he’s walking around, then exhale and take my legs off. He’ll just about always stop because he knows I’ll get off if he does.

If he doesn’t respond to my cue I’ll go back to waiting for him to stop first then try again after a few more rides.

Once he understands what I want I’ll stop from the trot and then the lope.

I always end the ride when he stops. So I don’t stop until I’m done riding.

Then I quit getting off, but let him rest on a loose rein. If he fidgets I send him forward and we work some more than try again.

This is usually two weeks in and I haven’t pulled back on him yet. But he’s stopping pretty darn good off my seat.

When I finally pull it’s a beat after he’s stopped. Then I work my reins (left to right instead of straight back) until he rocks back a little. Eventually this turns into a step back.

Once I start this I ask my horse to step back every time he stops. From a lope, a trot or a walk, he needs to rock back.

At this time I usually have a pretty cute two to five foot stop going on.

If I am teaching a broke horse to stop I basically do the same thing, but I’ll exhale, take off my legs and then pull him down with my hands.

Other than that everything’s the same, including getting off as soon as he stops. So be ready for some short rides for awhile.

I progress from the walk when my broke horse stops before I have a chance to pull.

The next day I’ll trot and quit for the day when he stops before I can pull him.

Then on to the canter.

After That I will give him a minimum of a 20 second rest every time he stops, but we go ahead and have a normal work out.

That’s it for today. Remember, we aren’t pulling and we still haven’t said whoa.

I ran across a pretty cool photo of me doing a Monte Foreman stop on Okie in back in the 70's. I was wearing a little halter top ala Charlies Angels and everything.

Of course now I can't find it. If I do I'll post it.


  1. Hey Mugs, I know you have a lot going on but at some point I think it would be great to put these posts in chronological training order. Maybe in two ways even, one for greenies or colt starting and one for already broke but finishing/re-training projects. That would be tremendously helpful I think. You have covered so much great material and you always make sure to talk about how to apply it to which category of horse, but it's hard to make a logical progression out of it at this time, and I realize that's due to the evolving nature of this blog.

    I don't have any training projects right now, but when I do I plan to look back into your posts, and that's what made me think how great it would be if you could sort by progression.

  2. Pretty quick break! I sense a huge strength is the ability to train every day, for a not real long period of time, with a lesson plan in mind. Patience. Time. My biggest life lacks! Spiritual growth opportunities, sigh.

  3. Hey Mugs: I would agree with both DarcC and nagonmom. Having a plan in mind, and building from a solid foundation sounds like the ideal. If not, learning the sequence when working with an already "broke" horse would sure be helpful. I know like you needed one more thing to think about doing!! I like the idea of training short periods of time, and then being finished when the horse does it right. Or does what you are looking for, it's definitely something for me to think about with my wild guy.
    Another topic, for the future might be how to help kids become quality horse people. Like your kidlet perhaps?? :0)

  4. Can't wait to see the Charlie's Angels shot. Tube tops rocked the 70s... grin.

  5. Somewhere I saw black and white video footage of the "Monte Foreman stop" as you describe it, with the cowboys standing up and forward in the saddle to stop. Very interesting! I wish I could remember where I saw that, I'm thinking it must have been on some show on RFD-TV...

  6. Hmm. My trainer had me relaxing and dropping my weight first, backing up with a verbal "whoa" second, and pulling on the reins third if mare doesn't listen. 'Course, she can stop beautifully off the seat when she wants to- when I'm loping her, I have to be very mindful to keep "riding" because the second my seat gets heavy, she will plant all four and stop on a dime... LOL. Out on the trail...? Yeah, not so much.

  7. So you talk about melting into the saddle for the stop. How do you distinguish that from having your seat really closely connected to the horse the whole time?

    I just noticed when I rode some properly trained western horses that at the moment I was able to really relax and go with the movement they seemed to stop and I figured ( when I was back in the UK and couldn't get back and try it out with them again ) that maybe my relaxation was turning into more or less exactly their stop cue...

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