Most of the time your horse (hopefully) stops on cue. You increase the contact on your reins and simultaneously ask your horse to slow by stopping his forward motion with resistance from your seat.
On rare occasions, you may need more stopping power. It could be that your horse has bolted or started bucking, or you could be out galloping with a group of friends and find you need just a bit more than normal to get your horse under control.
The one rein stop is a tool that you should (and your horse) should know for those “just in case” times. But it’s not something to try for the first time when you need it; it’s something you need to teach your horse in advance.
- Start training the one rein stop at the halt. Using one rein ask your horse to bring his head around to the side so that his muzzle is either touching, or close to touching, your leg. You should not have any contact on the other rein. (That’s why it’s called a “one rein” stop).
- Hold until your horse relaxes into this position. You should see his eye soften and he should not be fighting.
- Release and bring his head to the opposite side.
- Rinse and repeat until there is no resistance. You may need to do this dozens of times. Don’t overdo each individual session and remember that your horse will learn what you want him to do.
- Next, try this same procedure at the walk. Bring your horse’s head around to your knee and hold the position until he is completely still and has relaxed into the position.
- Remember to keep your core strong so that you stay in the center of your horse. Don’t lean into the bend because you will unbalance your horse.
- Once you’ve mastered the one-rein stop at the walk, step up the challenge and try it first at the trot and at the canter. Make sure you’ve completely mastered each gait before you move on and make sure you always get to a complete stop.
Why do you need to practice this? First, you need to know the technique before you need it and second, horses learn to relax into it the stop once they’ve been trained with it. If you have a horse that’s panicking, putting them in the one-rein stop can help them calm down.