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Allowing Your Horse To Stop
    One of the “reasons” people use for not teaching their horses to work as light and responsive is the old one of “I’m too busy working to take time to train my horse.” This is an example of what I mean when I say “The only reason between a good reason and a poor excuse is which end you’re on, telling or listening to it.”  It will take a professional trainer more than a week to put on the same amount of time on a horse than you do in a single day of work on a ranch or in a feedlot. The other “reason” people tend to use is that it “takes too much time.“ In essence it actually doesn’t. All you have to do is pay attention to what you are doing and ride your horses correctly.

     Next to lateral movement, the most important thing in handling cattle in a way which reduces stress in the cattle is to allow your horse to stop in a relaxed, natural and balanced stop. Notice I did not word this as “Teach, force or make” but allowing your horse to stop. When working cattle, especially when working them with the least possible amount of stress, it is best to let the horse to work on it’s own as much as possible. This is a matter of simple logic. In the time it takes us to tell the horse what to do, we are often late with the move. The overall result in learning to work cattle in a reduced stress manner is that you are, at the same time, teaching your horse. Once your horse learns, it really doesn’t take that much time for it to start working on it’s own, keeping it’s head down, body balanced, and looking at the cow.
    In watching working cow horse competitions, the horse chases the cow down the fence, and when in position, slide stops and rolls back into the cow then chases it back down the fence. The horse’s head is usually up in the air with the rider pulling the horse to a stop and around. In cutting competitions, the cow actually is working the horse, with the turn back riders deciding when to turn the cow. While these horses appear to be stopping on their own, they are not. They are only practicing the stop that has been drilled into them by the rider pulling on them to teach them to stop with the cow. This is why you see so many horses lose their cow at cuttings. They are basically chasing the cow, then stopping a little late and sliding past the cow. This, combined with the fact they have to “hold the line” and stay parallel to the cow to score high is the reason why cattle get around horses (or jump the fence) when they come to the side of the arena. This is nearly eliminated by allowing your horse to stop rather than teaching or forcing it to stop.
    People who ride “western,” especially those of us who work cattle horseback for a living have gotten into the of “throwing” horse’s their heads and riding with a loose rein even when we are starting colts. When we want to stop or slow down we are taught to pull or jerk on the reins.  On the other hand, Dressage riders use a light mouth contact, but use their body for speed control, slowing their horses by simply adjusting their weight a little deeper in the saddle and exhaling (which slightly increases your weight in the saddle).  Actually it is fairly simple to teach our horses to respond in this way, and is the first step in letting a horse stop on its own. Not only can make faster progress on a green colt than you can a broke horse, most colts will pick slowing down in this manner, and even be stopping on their own in the first thirty rides.
    Our own thinking tends to block us as we tend to think that this kind of training is too “advanced” for us or our horses. The only “advanced” to these methods, is that we have to open our minds to them. We may even have to concentrate on what we are doing until we begin riding this way instinctively. But for our horses, it is all basic, and they will learn it extremely fast.
     As in teaching lateral movement, keep a light mouth contact of a few ounces. The easier we make it for the horse to feel what we want, the easier it will be for them to figure it out and the lighter they will be. If you start doing these things on the first ride, you will have your horses stopping in their own within a month, and keeping their eyes on the cow while they are doing it.
    At a walk, ask your horse to stop in the following manner:
1) Say whoa (the verbal command gets the horse’s attention and gets it to paying attention to what comes next). 










2) Give the horse a couple of strides (allowing time to react between verbal command and first physical cue). 







3) Relax your body into the saddle and lower your hands reducing the amount of mouth contact and briefly touch the horse‘s neck.











4) Give the horse another stride, pick up slightly with your hands and apply a few more ounces of pressure than you were originally using. This is to reinforce the prior cues.
If the horse doesn’t stop, repeat the procedure, being a little more authoritative in saying “whoa” and a little sharper in picking up on the reins.
 Once the horse stops, ask it to back one or two steps. This will get your horse to begin folding it’s hindquarters underneath it automatically when you stop. Most horses will begin stopping before you begin re-establishing mouth contact before the fifth stop.
    At the next stage (keeping in mind that this is still the first ride) you will begin asking the horse to slow to a walk from a trot (or from a lope to a trot).
1) Relax your body and  weight into the saddle while lowering your hands to reduce mouth contact.
2) Raise your hands slightly gently re-establishing the original mouth contact.


     Once again, most horses will respond to this method of slowing within four or five attempts. After slowing your horse a few times in this manner, ask it to stop in the same manner you did at a walk. Remember to let your horse relax a few seconds after stopping and backing.    At the lope, slow to a trot using the above methods two or three

 times, then ask for a stop. Chances are that the colt will bring it’s hindquarters underneath it and stop fast the first time you ask. By the time you do this four or five times, you will find the colt stopping hard as soon as your hand touches it’s neck. By being consistent, your horses will understand that  settling your weight and lowering the reins will become a cue to slow down. Doing the same, and touching your horse’s neck will become a cue to stop. In essence you are not just teaching your horse to stop, you are letting your horse to feel when you want it to stop, or slow down and allowing it to do so on it‘s own, in a relaxed manner. As you are doing this while you are working cattle, especially when you combine it with lateral movement, you will find your horses being able to keep looking at the cow when you stop. You will also discover that your horse will begin adjusting itself to the cow with no effort on your part.
    On older, broke horses, you need to start using a light mouth contact and asking it to slow and stop by the above methods, they will respond fairly rapidly. I prefer dropping them back to a snaffle or bosal and riding them like a colt for a month or two. You can continue riding in a curb bit and just ride on a shorter rein to achieve the mouth contact. However as you are not only  teaching your horse to stop on its own, but to use lateral movement as well, it is easier on both you and your horse to go ahead and drop back to a snaffle o
r bosal. This is because if you try to use an indirect rein at this point, the leverage from a curb bit will tend to inflict pain on your horse. In addition the leverage from the bit will tend to tip the horse’s nose away from the cow. By stopping your horses in this manner, you will get a relaxed and balanced stop on your horses like the one in the pictures to the right, or the video below.




        


Herd Behavior
Economics
Watching the Gate
Cost effectiveness of intensive grazing
Stopping your horse


Contact
Bud Williams Stockmanship
About Bob 2lazy4U Home        The Bovine Blog services