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Slowing a horse down has risks!

Dear Franklin:

I purchased a 10 yr old quarter horse gelding about 3 months ago. He is a beautiful horse and reins very well. The problem I have is that he always wants to go faster and I always have to keep a tight rein. If I am trotting slow, he wants to trot faster. If I am loping slow, he wants to run fast. I use a curb bit with a leather chin strap. After riding about 1 hr, his chin is raw and almost bleeding. I tried a hackamore on him but it did not give me enough control. Perhaps if I had time to work him more, he would be tired and not so anxious to go faster. But I only have the time to ride him about 2-3 hours per week. Is there some easy way to slow him down?


Hi Wayne,

There is no short cut with horses. A 'short cut' generally means the human is trying to force something onto the horse. This does not work and is abuse. The best way to train a horse to stop is one that has risks and should be taken on by a very competent equestrian. It requires that you actually 'release control' and allow the horse to find his stop and then be rewarded for finding that stop. Sounds interesting, doesn't it? Here is the process:

Come into a large round pen (50-60 feet in diameter) or an arena with fence around it and gated ( a medium sized arena might prove best). Put a rope halter and lead rope (tied as reins or not, it doesn't matter) on your horse and begin to ride him. You need to let the horse go as fast as he wants, without trying to control his speed at all. You need to be able to sit out whatever the horse does and only influence his direction so he doesn't go somewhere dangerous that fast. It would probably be a good idea to warm the horse up in the round pen before you ride him so there is no bucking potential. Some horses will buck when first 'given their heads' totally. I absolutely guarantee your horse will want to stop eventually on his own. When you feel him finally looking to stop, just lift the rope and say "HO", or when he just finally stops on his own, give him a "good boy" and put him away. This is his big reward.

Do this process a few times and your horse will develop a nice easy stop. Then you can practice developing the lightest stop you can. Simply hunker down and back a little, close your legs (thighs to your knees closes the door to forward motion), lift the reins just the slightest bit (or not) and whisper "ho" (or not). Then you can begin to ride this horse without a bridle and just a neck rope. Consider the possibilities when we allow the horse to find things out for himself and actually allow him to learn by other than we trying to force the lesson on him, which is what 'control' does. Please do not attempt this is you do not feel qualified as a rider. Find someone who can and is willing to help. Once the initial 'stop' is found and rewarded, the horse will have learned it to a large degree and will respond to lightness in the stopping cue if the people riding the horse have a similar level of competence. With a mediocre rider who is pulling on the horse's mouth, the same thing will happen all over again and the lesson will have been wasted. Abuse/control only fosters fear and never confidence. Guidence and leadership develop trust, partnership, confidence and cooperation. The biggest problem to this whole process is if a human is willing and able to 'release control', let the horse find what the human wants it to do and then get rewarded. This is how we all learn the best (experientially).

I have said this is a very risky process and should not be undertaken by anybody other than a very experienced equestrian. There is a huge risk to a novice or intermediate rider. It is a very risky process, but is the one that really works the best and is the most efficient. Good luck and please keep me posted. BE CAREFUL!

Sincerely, Franklin

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