Wednesday, June 9, 2010

All I Got On Stops

I think it’s time to finish emptying my brain on stops.

No matter how you choose to teach your horse to stop, the Balanced Ride way, by saying whoa and pulling, the key to getting a horse to slide is he has to understand being still.

From the first day I’m on a horse, whether it’s a retrain, tune-up or starting a colt, he is rewarded by standing still.

Standing still is never a command, it’s a gift from me to my horse.

When I first ride a colt I get down when he is still by his own choice.

I keep that up for the first few weeks.

When I ride an anxious, moving horse I let him move.

We lope circles, trot diagonals, go through transitions, I’m not mean or angry I just let him move under my control, then I offer to let him be still.

When I ride my broke horses I have to be honest, I’ll get mad and get after them some for fidgeting. But not much. My yellow mare does it just to screw with me, so I can’t pay too much attention.

When I offer a horse a chance to be still I really offer it. I relax my body and loosen my reins.
Since I ride western I really throw out some rein, but you English guys can still give them their head.

If the horse is restless we move out.

I don’t pull on the reins to fix him, the reins have nothing to do with being still. I just kick him forward and regain contact with his face as we move out.

Every time my horse is still I relax. He very quickly figures this one out. This is what I call hunting a stop.

It has nothing to do with me forcing him forward every step. It just means he appreciates the gift and takes it when offered.

Once my horse understands my gift from my body language I add the word Whoa.

I say Whoa as in Woah. Not Ho. I stretch it out like I’d like the stop to be. Whooooooah. I try to say it the same way ever time.

This is the big present. Because if my horse stops as soon as I say Whoa I do absolutely nothing.

No pull, no leg, no spur, nothing. We just hang out for awhile.

I don’t care if he sniffs my boot or the ground. He can shake, snort, look around. It’s a mental and physical rest. He can rebalance himself or cock a hip. But he can’t move around. No pawing.

The second I feel the need for my reins the second he goes back to work.

They pick up on this concept very quickly. Usually.

Oh dear, there’s a Mort story related to this….

So now we have a horse who stands still. Usually my horses are sliding 5 or 6 feet by now, that’s their gift to me.

If the horse doesn’t have at least a few feet of slide by now he probably won’t be a huge stopper.

But I don’t give up because I’ve been wrong too many times. I just don’t worry about it.

Because now I’m going to work on my slide stop. My youngsters used to be late 3-year-olds when I started my long slides, now they’re late 4-year-olds.

I use the arena wall to start. I make sure I have good dirt. My horse has all four legs protected. My horse has ½ inch sliders which come just past the heel bulb.

I ask for a brisk lope along the wall. I get ¾ down the rail and say Whoa.

As soon as my horse stops and rebalances I ask for a roll-back towards the wall and we lope off the other direction.

My horse has been taught to roll back at this time, just not at speed.

I use my hands and legs through the roll back. I’m not being tricky, just getting him through the turn.

I keep this up at a good pace. Not a run, just moving along where we’re both comfortable.

The only time I’m in his mouth is through the turn. I release as soon as we’re headed the other way.

So my horse begins to anticipate my hands.

When I say Whoa he starts to stop quicker in anticipation of me getting in his mouth.

Pretty soon his slide gets longer and deeper.

Once he stops at least 2 feet longer than usual I catch him before he turns and let him rest.

I sit on him for about the time it takes to smoke a cigarette (no, I don’t smoke).

If he really parks it I get down, loosen my cinch and put him up.

I keep this up over several days until I am getting a good, forward slide on my stop.

Then I move off the rail by several feet and work on straightness without help the help of the wall.

Then I work on straightness and stops in the middle of the arena.

I always reward a good stop with a long rest on a lose rein.

This helps my horses not worry about the stop itself.

If I’m not happy we loop around and try again.

There are technical aspects that start coming into play here. This is where I will pull back, or pull one rein, or kick my horse forward or ….now is where a trainer watching you is really handy. Time to hit the clinics!


Fyyahchild said...

I've been working hard on stops with my WP mare using this information. Of course I don't need her to slide but I do need her to park it and stay put.

Saturday I was having a fairly frustrating lesson on lateral work with long reins/no contact. Then we worked on stops which has also been a challenge for me because I lean forward and want to use my reins too much when I get nervous. My second stop in she nailed it like a pro. I settled back, dropped my heels, lightly pressed into her with my spurs, raised my hand maybe a half inch, did NOT pull on the reins, and said whoa. I felt her butt tuck so far under her it was a thing of beauty. We sat for a minute basking in it and then ended on that note. Loved it.

mommyrides said...

Hey Mugs: Just a quick question...when you train your horses with verbal cues in addition to physical ones do you ever have a problem with them responding to someone else's whoa? Like if you are training in ring and another rider gives a big whoa for their horse is there any chance your horse would respond??
Thanks for the stop training, I've been working with my son and his pony Merry Legs and I think they are starting to see the light. Well, somedays, you know ponies :o)

Vaquerogirl said...

I use the word 'Wo-ah' too. Learned that from Bobby Ingersoll about a million years ago.
He also said " You got to 'hep' your horses, by saying the word Wo-ah', then applying the cues(whatever they may be). I squeeze both legs and sit deep, then lift he reins. My horse stops real well, not deep, but then I don't want him to, he's a competitive trail horse.
I also want them to stand still- sidepassing is a good way to enforce the stand still cue, but it is a little more high level than a circle. One time with an appy mare I had, I felt like a damn typewriter. We must have sidepassed from right to left and back again about a hundred times!Got so I said 'DING" when I got to the long wall fence and started the other way!

mugwump said...

mommyrides - yes I do. But I simply send the horse forward again, with no verbiage from me. He eventually (usually quickly) figures out I'm the one who says Whoa.
I have to admit, most of the horses I've trained will Whoa if I tell them too, no matter how long their owner has had them back. It's fun to screw with them (the owners).

mugwump said...

Vaquero-I think ding! would be a good cue for Stand Still!

Scamp said...

I think my gray horse must have been trained by someone like you, Mugs - I've never had a horse so happy to stop. :) I joke that his favorite gait is "Whoa". Now that he's gotten a bit less tubby and a bit more in shape, he's got a go, too... but that "whoa" just makes him as happy as a clam.

Holly said...

Hey, I was just wondering where the beginnings of a sliding stop were. Thank you for the roll back note, that will be handy for my boy. Got anything on ear sensitivity? I tried sending my stud colt to a trainer back in Feb. and he came back all kinds of messed up, physically and mentally. I've got everything else sorted out (bucking at the saddle, fear biting, inability to lunge; all of which weren't there before the trainer).
He has always been sensitive about his poll area, now he is just freaking out (I think the trainer eared him down). My current plan is to let it go and give him time and scratches up the neck and relax. And, when I say freaking out I mean that anything around his ears (brow band, lead rope) takes his complete focus until it is off. You got anything?

Becky said...

Mugs--- maybe I missed reading this elsewhere, but what do you do when your horse starts pawing? Send it forward again?

Shanster said...

Hey Mugs - I have an interesting issue about the horse with energy and sending them forward concept!

I took a gelding to a cowboy guy to ride, recommended by my trainer cuz her barn was full up.. he told me sometimes my horse was like a pop bottle with too much fizz and he needed to go, go, go.

I'm not saying this is wrong in any way. It worked for him cuz he has experience up the wazoo and it seems like this is a method many use... to get on and get them moving out.

I got the horse home and when he started dancing around I tried to let him go, go, go... things went South quickly and I ended up on the ground.

I ride the horse at my trainer's - she gets on him and he begins to act up. She kept him at walk until he gave and sumbitted to her. And he was jigging around, trying to suck back, grabbing the left rein... she would give him a big ol' kick to send him forward (at a walk but vs. sucking back) kept him giving thru some leg yields, shoulder in, changes of direction... once he began to give she let him motor out at trot and canter.

Said if he is being a resistant butt and you speed things up, things will go wrong and escalate that much faster...

Ultimately I think I'm the one at fault for not thinking things thru completely when I got the horse home and thinking sending him onward to blow steam would be the easy fix when he wanted to be a butthead...

I should know better that they need to be on the aids. Once that is happening then yeah, he can go onward and blow some steam...

It was a really interesting lightbulb moment for me. Probably "obvious" for everyone else with resistant youngsters... when to bring them down and get them listening and when to boot them forward to blow off steam...

mugwump said...

Holly - I'm not 100% because I'm not there.
But my instinct would be to halter him or bridle him with no bit (secure the bridle w/twine) and leave it on until he deals.
Let him realize it's not the object, just the person, which was NOT you.
So you can turn him loose, but keep an eye on him, and just let him feel better.
The only concern I have is injury or an abscess of some kind in his inner ear.
He may need a vet.
As far as when the stop starts, sometimes the first time I ask with my body, after the first lope. Sometimes little by little over months. It depends on the horse.

Becky - I turned it into teaching her to count. Drives the horse nuts, because it's NOT WHAT SHE MEANT!!!!!So she refused to count and I said, "OK." Now I have a Mort story and a Big K story. Sheese.

Shanster- Both trainers are right. Both trainers are sending the horse forward. One at a lope, one going to work. I think you've read about both approaches here too.
You're 100% correct. This stuff takes lots of thinking on your part. You have to think what will work for you and your horse.
Trainers can only share what they know.
It's your job as a horseman to sort out what works for you.

Anonymous said...

"It's your job as a horseman to sort out what works for you."

Another one for our cross-stitch sampler collection!

--stilllearning (

Shanster said...

Exactly! It's why being a "horseman" takes SO much time, experience and thought. Riding many horses helps you to figure out what's in your "toolbox" of knowledge/exerpience that will work...

gtyyup said...

I'm struggling with Colt's stops...actually it's me...but anyhow, I came to re-read your stop posts and saw the line in this one about "stopping for as long as it takes to smoke a cigarette." LOL...Smoky Pritchett said the exact same thing at the clinic!

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