Friday, July 11, 2008

One rein stopping. Sorta.

Step one in the retraining process is getting control of the hindquarters with a one rein stop.

At first I thought the one rein stop was simple. We started on the ground and it went perfectly (it's also described in this series of articles on shoulder control). But something didn't transfer from the ground to the saddle.

I realized I was doing it wrong. A one rein not about merely stopping, or going in a circle, both of which I'd been doing. What should happen in a one rein stop is your horse's front shoulder should stop and only his back end should move, swinging in an arc.

I have this happening in the ground, but not in the saddle. I was recently in an email exchange with a woman in the Austin area who recently retrained her horse, Cody (who is now for sale because this is what she does. Buys 'em, fixes 'em.).

It was in my email exchange with her that I realized I was doing it wrong. I ws explaining that I felt like while I was trying the one rein stop, but it felt wrong. All I was doing was going in circles. Here's her answer:

I am glad you are doing the one rein stop, I cannot tell you how many times it has “saved” me.

When Cody was walking and I pull his head over to my leg with the one rein he didn’t always stop, sometimes he would walk (spin) in a circle, around and around and around, but (as I got dizzy) I wouldn’t release any pressure until he stopped moving and stood calmly. He after he stood there I would release his head (in which he took it as a cue to go forward) and pull his head over to the other side and do the same thing. Horses are smart and for a while I would only pull his head over to one side, which then when I went to grab the one rein Cody would spin himself in a circle because he was anticipating what I was doing, so that is why I learned it is important to alternate sides. When Cody or any horse is going faster like at a canter I don’t pull there head over as hard or fast because I don’t want them to loose balance and flip over. I gradually pull them into a smaller and smaller circle until they stop. So yes, you need to just keep going until he stops, calmly and then release the pressure (holding his head). They will take a few steps until they learn you won’t release their head until they stop moving. When you turn his hind end should be swinging out and disengaging. If you don’t feel him slowing down, make the circle smaller that will force him to disengage.

Another thing you can do is if the horse is running and you want to slow down pull them until a circle until you get the speed you want like a trot and then let them out of the circle. If they break into a trot again pull them back into a circle. Repetition and consistency is key. He would learn what you want.

With the stop, I first sit back with my legs braced in front of me (I physically sigh, so I sit deeper), say whoa and wait one count and then lightly pull back on the reins. So, it is seat, word, and the reins are the correction. The horse should know when I sit back to stop moving. I let him walk a couple steps and do the same thing. Over and over again. When he gets it let him rest because the rest is his reward.

I tried it but found I was still missing something. Canyon was just circling and I knew I was missing something key because adding circles was still not working. I knew my cue was off somehow. So I was over at a fellow horse geek's house and he showed me a book I hadn't seen before, Ranch Horsemanship. It's a cowboy esque look at riding, no nonsense, "hey I got cattle to move, I don't have time for you to be honery" approach to riding.

There in the paragraph on "problems with the one rein stop" was the sentence that said I needed to hold the other rein as well, keeping his head checked just a little, to keep him from moving forward. Then he should swing his back end around.


So I'll be trying that tomorrow.


GNH said...

It sounds to me you are describing what is called flexing or "emergency stop". All riders should know how to do this so well that its automatic before going on the trail. But I don't think you have your horse as good as she can be if you have to circle her to get her out of a trot and you should not be pulling back o the reins to get a stop. Although I have to admit when I first took riding lessons they taught me to pull back on the reins to stop the horse. Under normal riding conditions, I use one rein to stop, my preference is the right rein. I let the slack out of the left rein and just lift the right rein straight up in the air while exhaling. Exhaling also gets a horse to drop his gait down. But you have to start using this on the ground. I will be posting three videos on my blog that show flexing, using exhaling to stop the horse on the ground, and then doing it while riding.

Breathe said...

absolutely, I've heard the one rein stop is the emergency brake on a horse. I do the same thing, use it as my basic stop with the exhale (after seeing it on your website, actually).

It goes pretty well unless I'm trying to unplug behavior - like he's speeding up to a trot without my involvement. Then it turns into a circle. So I'm going to work with a bit more exhaling and hindquarter turn based on the online video on GNH. I'll link to it in my next post. Thanks!!