Note: These instructions assume you are riding a beginner-friendly horse or Western trained horse. Some advanced dressage and racehorses will not respond as expected.
Ask your horse to halt politely at the walk
- Sit down in your saddle (un-clench your buttock and thigh muscles if needed)
- Straighten up and sit back slightly (don’t lean forward).
- Engage your core muscles (your stomach).
- Try to slow the motion of your body (so that you aren’t matching the horse’s movement).
- Using both reins evenly, pull back until you have light contact to the horse’s mouth then hold your hands still in the air.
- The horse (if well trained), should feel each of these steps and realize you are asking to halt. If they are sensitive, they will halt from steps 1-3).
Optional Focus: Give your horse a heads-up by giving three quick ‘half-halts” (steps 1-5) before asking for a full halt.
The horse isn’t stopping – now what?
- If the above (gentle suggestions) don’t work, you can do the following.
- Pull on both reins evenly.
- Make a small (as small as you can) circle and keep circling until your horse relaxes. Use your inside leg to make the horse bend, which increases the difficulty for the horse.
- <Do NOT do this step if you are using a leverage bit, it will really harm your horse. Do NOT do this if your horse has any history of rearing, they could fall on you.> Pull back hard. (Make a point! You aren’t a pushover).
Help! I’m getting run away with!
- Perform a one-rein emergency stop: Pick a rein and pull that side all the way to your leg.
- Add leg or spur pressure on the same side to make your horse bend, which makes it harder to ignore the rein.
- If your horse is bolting, this will interfere with their movement and eventually put them into a circle.
- If your horse is bracing really hard and ignoring you (and still running), try switching reins.
Warning: This will spin the horse in a circle and has a small chance of making them fall down. Don’t do this unless you need to.
Tips: If you let your horse push through the pressure and keep moving, they will just do it more and more. If your horse is starting to ignore your aids, make a serious point, then try it politely again. Always try gentleness first.
Repeat: As needed.