Stopping without Reins

By Real Riderz

Umm…what?

Yeah, this is a revelation, but actually it isn’t.

So pull the reins to stop and kick the ribs to go? Right? Wrong. Well in a way I guess: let’s review our natural aids. Eyes, arms, legs, and seat. Four terms that are, quite frankly broad. I mean, look with your eyes and just sit with your seat yeah? Well, the only thing that was correct in that past sentence was looking with the eyes where you want to go.

Yes, the hands are still there to to have a feel with the horse’s mouth and they do help with the stopping, but if you watch the greatest GP dressage and even show jumping riders you will notice that there is actually a lot more involved in slowing down than just pulling. If you just pull, you stop the front of the horse and only a couple of moment later will the hind stop, which causes the horse to hollow out and the head to lift up. This causes a loss of power (remember, we want the power to come from the hind).

To get a good slowing down/stopping, one should use a combination of leg, seat, and finally hands. We want to keep the horse’s energy, but just compact it, so we make sure that we are going forward in the gait that we are currently in (let’s say walk, for the sake of this example). If your horse isn’t going forward, there will be an article on that soon just stay tuned. Once we are forward in the walk, we want to close and release the thighs one step at a time, and start helping with the hands ever so slightly depending on how much we want to slow down. The sequence goes something like this: forward with the legs, squeeze your thighs on and off while closing your fingers on and off until we get the desired result.

Alright well this is easy enough in theory, but what if your horse just doesn’t react at all. How do you combat the urge to pull? Think about the hind. Put your horse in a little bit of a shoulder in to take away some of the power from the hind. In more simple terms: drift the hind in either direction and do it every time your horse has the urge to speed up. While you do this, keep playing with your four aids in the above sequence to emphasize what they are for. If needed pull your horse into a wall or pulley rein, but more on that later.

It’s all a process, and if things don’t seem to be working riding wise, take things into account off the horse. Consult your vet, farrier, saddle/bridle fitter, and just generally be creative with the process. Your voice may prove useful, but is generally speaking not acceptable in the dressage world. Working on the lunge is also another way of honing transitions off the horse as is groundwork.

Have fun with it, stay observant, and happy riding!

Published by realriderz

Many riders coming together to make our horses' (and our own) voices heard

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