A couple of days ago I broke down the 'stops' lesson into:
Spot - left front foot
Direction - still or pivot
Motivator - visual, voice, rein pressure
Reward - release of pressure, praise, scratch
1) This lesson is taught from the ground. Have a bridle on your horse and the reins over the neck.
2) Start on the left-hand side and hold the left rein with your left hand. Ask the horse to walk with you, in about a 10-15m circle and hold the rein at the angle it will be when you are riding - this will mean you need to hold your hand high if your horse is tall!
3) Practice Give to the Bit as you are walking around so that the horse is in the Engagement Zone and in a nice soft frame.
4) Remember you have 3 cues to stop - the first is a visual cue, you stop; the second is a verbal cue, you say 'whoa' and the final cue is picking up pressure on the bit but you only need to do this if the horse missed the first two. Give the horse a chance to react by spacing the cues a few seconds apart.
4) Watch the left front foot and don't worry about what the other feet are doing. Your horse will disengage its hindquarter, moving the hindquarters to the right but trying to stop all of the feet moving is not where the lesson starts, just the left front foot.
5) As soon as the left front stops moving forward release all pressure you have and praise the horse. You may find that it pivots around as the hindquarters move but release when it is no longer stepping forward. This is where we are showing the horse what we want - no forward step with that left front. Moving the hindquarters is a lot of work for the horse so he will stop doing that once he realises where the release comes from, the front foot.
6) As you continue to practice this, you'll notice that your horse moves its hindquarters less and less. Remember to reduce your cues as you go along too and always give the horse a chance to react to the minimal pressure cue, the verbal or visual one, before picking up pressure. Then, when you do need pressure, work on using less and less as you go along. When you have set up a good pattern like this your horse will anticipate what you want and try to react before it feels the pressure - this is the way to speed up your training and make it more fun for the horse!
7) Once your horse has learned to stop without disengaging its hindquarters and you have done this simple lesson on both sides, you are ready to take the same lesson to the saddle.
Let me know how you got on with the lesson by leaving a comment below, I can't wait to hear!
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