Horsemanship How-to: Improve Your Horse’s Halts

How to train your horse to halt properly on cue.


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.

Western show horse at a halt

  • 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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Cindy Hale’s life with horses has been filled with variety. As a child she rode western and learned to barrel race. Then she worked as a groom for a show barn, and was taught to harness and drive Welsh ponies. But once she’d taken her first lessons aboard American Saddlebreds she was hooked on English riding. Hunters and hunt seat equitation came next, and she spent decades competing in those divisions on the West Coast. Always seeking to improve her horsemanship, she rode in clinics conducted by world-class riders like George Morris, Kathy Kusner and Anne Kursinski. During that time, her family began raising Thoroughbred and warmblood sport horses, and Cindy experienced the thrills and challenges of training and showing the homebred greenies. Now retired from active competition, she’s a popular judge at local and county-rated open and hunter/jumper shows. She rides recreationally both English and western. Her Paint gelding, Wally, lives at home with her and her non-horsey husband, Ron.


  1. wow! this REALLY helps alot! my guy NEVVER wants to stand still ……EVER! i feel bad for constantly pulling back on the reains trying to fet him to stop pulling and trying to move forward.


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