Become A Horse Mechanic, Fix Your Horse's "Brakes"!
The way I see it, horses have brakes kind of like your car does. So, if your horse's brakes aren't working, you could
take it to the mechanic, or, you could become your own "horse mechanic." The good news, a horse's brakes are a whole lot easier to work
on than your car's. To start with, I like to think of the horse as having two sets of brakes, similar to that of your car's. The
difference being that the horse's are left and right, and the car's are front and back. And just as your car mechanic can work on each
set separately, we can work on the horse's separately.
To work on teaching your horse to stop better, begin by putting a bridle on. As I have mentioned with other exercises, I prefer a full
cheek snaffle bit with some sort of continuous loop reins. Also, like many other exercises I do, we will start by teaching this from the
ground. You will need to make sure that your horse understands some sort of go forward cue from the ground, similar to that of longeing.
While holding the rein, ask your horse to move around you in a circle. Once the horse is moving continuously around you, take the slack
out of the rein in the direction of the hips. Be sure to keep your hand holding the rein away from the horse's shoulder as you put
pressure on the bit. By doing so, ths will help the horse to understand exactly what you are asking for. A little hint to remember when
doing this exercise, is to imagine touching the horse's hip bone with the hand holding the rein. You aren't actually trying to touch it,
but this will help you move your hand in the general direction that you will want. Put enough pressure on the rein until the horse stops
his inside front foot and steps over with both back feet. When you see the inside front foot stop moving, and the back feet begin to
move over, you will want to stop your feet, and allow the horse to finish the movement, or come to a complete stop. You should see the
back feet take a couple of big steps and stop with the horse standing pretty much in a straight line from head to tail. In other words,
once the horse stops, you should be able to walk down along side the horse without bumping into the horse. At this point, we want the
horse to back up to finish the exercise. To accomplish this, put pressure on the rein in much the same way as you would when asking the
horse to back from the saddle. When the horse starts to back, ask for only eight to ten steps and stop, then start from the beginning.
Repeat this exercise until the horse does it with very little pressure on the rein. For most horses, this will mean several hundred
repetitions. Don't worry, it won't take long before the horse gets good enough that you should be able to do one hundred repetitions in
about twenty to thirty minutes. So, in a matter of a few hours, you can have one side done. That's right, you will need to do this on
both sides, but you can most certainly break this up over several lessons or days. Remember, earlier I mentioned that the horse had two
sets of brakes, left and right.
To complete this exercise and put it all together, have the horse move in a straight line and ask him to stop in the same way you asked
him to back up. At first, the horse will swing his hips to the side from having done that movement repeatedly. Eventually the horse will
figure out that it can stop straight. Once the horse gets that, add in the backing up after each stop. Most of the time, when I have the
horse stop I like to finish with backing. This helps to re-enforce the stop by getting the horse to think backwards. As you see the
horse getting better, slow your hands down, giving the horse the chance to respond on less. Eventually, you will barely have to touch
the reins and the horse will stop. So, the next time your horse's brakes aren't working well, simply become your own horse mechanic.