Whether you ride competitively or stick to the trails, it’s important to have a horse that halts promptly. A horse that continues to pull against your hand or wiggles impatiently can cost you a ribbon in the show pen. Furthermore, it demonstrates that you really don’t have complete control over your horse. Here are a few suggestions to help your horse halt properly.
- Make sure your aids aren’t clashing. Though your hands and voice may be telling your horse to stop, your legs could still be telling him to go. Riders who are nervous or who
have developed a faulty position in the saddle are often guilty of pulling back on the reins while unknowingly gripping their horse’s sides with their heels.
- Horses that respond to the command to halt, and then proceed to lean against the rider’s hand and shuffle forward, are usually unbalanced. Their weight has fallen onto their front end, and they then use that to their advantage to evade the halt. If this sounds like your horse, try halting and then immediately backing your horse a few steps before halting again. Backing up redistributes your horse’s weight onto his hindquarters, making him less able to lean on your hands. Another option is to halt and then bend your horse around your leg in a circle. Vary your direction from left to right. Again, circling after a halt not only rebalances your horse’s weight, but it also makes him more supple and more likely to pay attention. He’s not sure what will come next after the halt.
- Impatient horses may halt, but they refuse to stand still. For these horses, integrate halts into your flatwork and trail riding. Make them part of your routine rather than a rare occurrence. Begin by asking your horse to halt and then stand still for just two seconds. Once he’s reliable at that length of time, increase the time to four seconds. Figure out what works for your horse as a reward. For some horses, giving them a pat or scratching their neck works well. Others learn to stand still for a peppermint, handed down from the saddle. With consistency and time, your horse can learn to halt and stand quietly.
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