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Clinton Anderson: Using the One-Rein Stop for Lope Control

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Learn Clinton Anderson's one-rein stop at the lope to head off your horse's naughty behavior. From the editors of Horse & Rider.
Photos by Cappy Jackson

Here we'll look at a horse that wants to go too fast or otherwise act up when you ask for the lope. It's one of the biggest fear points for riders, who tend to make the problem worse by instinctively pulling back on both reins. This just makes their horses stronger.

I'll give you a strategy that will enable you to control your horse in the moment, plus reform his behavior over time, so that he learns to listen to you rather than "do his own thing" every time you move him into a lope.

There are several factors that can cause your horse to get strong or disobedient at a lope. He may just be feeling fresh, which means you didn't work him on the ground long enough before mounting up (you want to work that fresh out and get him using the thinking side of his brain). Unfamiliar surroundings may have him excited,which again would call for plenty of groundwork to render him relaxed and dialed in to you (refer to "Curing 'New Placeitis'" in the May '07 issue of Horse & Rider).

Or he may just be feeling disrespectful, in which case you need to redirect his energy and remind him you are in control of his feet. You do this not by pulling back on both reins (which just sets you up for a tug-of-war you can't possibly win), but by drawing him around with one rein, which gives you leverage and control.

This isn't a problem you can fix in one ride; you'll need consistent work over time to recondition your horse's responses. If at any time you feel unsafe in the saddle, you can dismount and continue the lesson from the ground.

(And, if you try these techniques and still feel overwhelmed by your horse's behavior, you're outmatched and should seek professional help.)

To get the most from this lesson:

  • Before you begin, work your horse from the ground to get him relaxed and using the thinking side of his brain. (I show you how in my Longeing For Respect). The more groundwork you do during the period you're reconditioning your horse's lope, the more quickly he'll progress.
  • Your horse must already know how to flex his neck to the side; if he doesn't, review my flexing lessons in the June and July '06 issues.
  • Alternate reins for the one-rein stop and circling, so you're turning about equally in both directions.
  • Conduct this lesson every time your horse gets strong or difficult at the lope to keep small problems from turning into larger ones.

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