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Training a Horse to Stop

Training a Horse to Stop - On the Ground & Under Saddle

The first and most important part of teaching your horse to stop, is getting him used to hearing the voice command "whoa". You don't have to use "whoa" to mean stop, any other word will do, but "whoa' is usually the word used word to mean stop in the horse world.

You can teach your horse to respond to this word by working him in the round pen or on the lunge line. Every time you get ready to stop him, say the word. When he stops, praise him. Eventually, the horse will come to associate the word "whoa" with stopping.

The next step is to practice this with a halter and lead rope. Walk the horse forward, and then say "whoa". If he doesn't stop, pull on the lead rope until he does. When he stops, praise him and ask him to back up a few steps. Having him take a few steps back will help enforce the idea of stopping in his mind. Pretty soon, when you say whoa, the horse will automatically stop, and back up a few steps. When he does this you are ready to move on to the next step.

You have now completed all the steps to teaching your horse to stop on the ground and are ready to start the process of teaching him to stop under saddle. The first stage, is to introduce him to the bridle. First, put it one him and give him plenty of time to get used to it. The bridle will feel strange and awkward to the horse at first, and it is best to spend the first day just letting him get the feel of it. Once he seems comfortable with it, however, it is time to teach him to give to the bit. It is very important to teach a horse to give to the bit before teaching him to stop so he doesn't get the turning signals confused with the stopping and backing signals. When you first ask the horse to give to the bit, his first reaction will most likely be to throw his head or to back up, just hold steady pressure (not increasing pressure) until he chooses to relieve it be bending his neck in the direction you are pulling. At the slightest sign of giving, release the pressure immediately. This is how you reward him for his progress. Practice this until the horse is easily giving to the bit in both directions.

Finally, it is time to teach him the signal for stop, using the bridle. Start by walking the horse forward, say whoa and pull back on the reins slightly, when he stops, praise him and immediately release the pressure. Then pull with both reins again, asking him to back up, when he does, praise him and release the pressure. Remember, the horses' main reward is the release of the pressure. If you don't release the pressure when he responds to it, he will very quickly stop responding.

When you feel that the horse is responding well to the bridle on the ground, then you are ready to start riding. From his back, practice all the same exercises that you did on the ground on his back. Remember, every time you stop the horse, back him up a few steps. With time, patience, and a lot of practice, your horse will soon have a solid and dependable stop.

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