Lately, I’ve been working on good stops with Hot Rod and Kona. I think the stop can be overlooked by most riders, unless your discipline focuses on it, such as reining. Personally, I believe a good stop is vital for any finished horse’s repertoire. So what goes into a good stop? How can you create one with your horse if you don’t have a whoa to begin with? I’m going to list some of my favorite tips to set the foundation for a good stop. I’m NOT a horse trainer, this is just what has seemed to work for me and my horse.
1. When first practicing, try the stop starting at the walk. Use your seat and body position to ask for a whoa, and then if needed use the reins as a reinforcement. This will teach your horse to listen to your body and make your cues much more invisible. After working at the walking, go up to the trot and then lastly the lope.
2. Ask your horse to back immediately after a stop. You’ve seen reiners and cutters do it, and for good reason. A good stop comes from the horse using his hindquarters, and backing immediately will strengthen those loin and hindquarter muscles. It also conditions the horse to rock back on his haunches during the stop. I do this with Hot Rod and Kona, but I’ve found that it’s really important NOT to do it EVERY time. They get complacent and start to anticipate the back. Sometimes it can even make them nervous. So, work it into your riding program, but vary the amount you do it.
3. If a good stop comes from the hindquarters, then we have to address collection. Sheesh. I’m so tired of talking about collection, but lets be honest, collection is the key to a good broke horse. A hollowed out horse with his nose up in the air is not going to stop well. The mechanics of it just don’t jive. So before even expecting a decent stop from your horse, he must first be supple and collected at the poll, and moving from the back to the front. I like to work on my stops at the end of my rides when my horses are nice and warmed up. Also, a good stop after a long hard ride is the perfect stopping point to reward your horse and remind them how important the stop was to you. Your horse doesn’t have to drag his butt in the dirt, but a solid immediate whoa using his hind end is the goal.
4. It’s all in your body position. When you are moving forward your body is in an active riding position, so it only makes sense that when you want your horse to stop you are going to let your body go slack and relax in the saddle-as if you’re not riding anymore. A great picture of this are reiners. If you watch closely, their backs are rounded, they sit on the pockets of their jeans, and keep their legs open for the horse to stop. Over time, this will condition your horse to listen to your body, and also make a distinct difference between actively vs. non actively riding. Here are a couple great examples of body position during a stop with Zane Muller and Bud. Thanks for letting me borrow your expert photos, Kaiann Goodin! Zane essentially “quit riding” which cued his horse for the stop. His body is slack and round, just like Bud’s body is, allowing his horse to engage his hindquarters.
Obviously not every riding discipline requires a hard stop with your horse’s bum dragging the ground, but these techniques would help most riders in all disciplines develop a better stop that suits them. Maybe one day Hot Rod will slide a few…inches:) Happy riding!