Whoa on a Dime

Members of the Horses Discussion Forums share their suggestions for teaching a horse to stop on cue.
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Members of the Horses Discussion Forums share their suggestions for teaching a horse to stop on cue.

Riding Questions

?Practical Horseman. All Rights Reserved.

?Practical Horseman. All Rights Reserved.

"Well, I must admit I'm impressed by many of the horses out there. The owners tell them to whoa and they stop almost immediately. My mare is a little more stubborn, she has to go through ALL her gaits. I tell her to stop by letting my heels drop, and sinking my seat into the saddle more, and then pulling on the reins, sometimes reinforcing it with verbal cues. However, my horse has a wonderfully sensitive mouth so I don't want to have yank on her mouth to get her to stop. I can get her to follow my body movements to do simple patterns like barrels without the use of reins except for stopping. So, my question is, how did everyone get their horse to whoa so quickly?" -- Amber

"My method will take a while to teach your horse, or she may catch on quickly if she hates backing up. What you do is, when you are riding her and ask her to stop (always give a verbal command for stop also) if she doesn't stop [immediately], wait until she does stop. When she does say "bad stop, back up" and back her up quickly a few steps. Make sure the backing up is relatively unpleasant (not meaning make her hate you or abuse the horse, just do it quickly and make her think you are all business) for her, not jerking on the reins but putting a lot of pressure in the mouth. Release after a few steps. Work her forward again and ask her to stop, and repeat the backing process again if she doesn't stop [immediately]. Soon she will realize that backing up isn't fun.

Once she does stop relatively quickly (not on a dime, but not going through all of the gaits either) pat her and tell her how good she is and stand her there for a few seconds. She will catch on. The good thing about this is even though you are backing up as a negative, they don't associate it as a negative when you want her to do it. They only associate it as a negative when they don't stop. I have used this method on a couple of horses just to make sure it works without any 'side effects' and it has worked very well for me. " -- Jessica

"Our trainer tells us the better the horse backs up, the better he will stop! I don't use exactly the same attitude as Jessica, but the procedure is pretty similar. I work on back-ups quite a bit and use a 9-step procedure that involves consistently increasing pressure. When the horse learns to back up with light pressure, practice cueing the backup from the trot and then the lope. Of course, the horse must stop before backing up! Soon you will be able to get the horse to stop by just shifting your weight and picking up the reins and maybe just a little squeeze on the reins. Add the verbal cues after your body cues are solid and you've got it! One thing that Jessica mentioned that is important is when the horse does stop in an appropriate manner, let him rest for several minutes and praise. " -- No Bite