25 September 2016

How do you get the horse to STOP?

     Maybe I shouldn't complain. 

     There are many folks out there who have horses that just LOVE to stop. And stay stopped. Especially with very green riders, the horse will take one look and say, "She's got nothing on me, I will just stand here." Then it becomes a dance between rider and trainer: kick him! Keep him going!"

    Raven is just the opposite. He has an enviable work ethic. He LIKES to work. He wants to work. Sue is out of town and has our barnlord riding him daily, because I am often unable to come out to the barn on a daily basis. Keeping him fit and happy is what we want, and he is more than happy to oblige. He hates 'dope-on-a-rope' (lunging) but get on his back and he's okay let's get to work.

  That's the problem I am having. I am bareback, as usual, and usually don't even have the reins in my hands. He's become very happy with working in a low, relaxed frame with little if any contact,  and I don't need the reins to get him to go.

   I need him to STOP. And he doesn't.  

  How do I get him to STOP?  Say "Whoa?" He doesn't respond to 'whoa'..he's a dressage horse. I use my seat to turn him, to sidepass, serpentine, no problems. But getting him to come to a stop is proving beyond me. I do NOT want to use the reins. Reins are for steering, not halting. Believe it or not, there is not much in my numerous 'how to ride' books that say how to halt. Go, yes. Jump, yes. Canter, passage (no way in hell am I at that level but my books can tell me) but Halt? Maybe all the authors had horses that had plenty of whoa in them, because seldom is it addressed.

   I fiddle around with my seatbones and the times he does halt, it's a half hearted one. It's not a crisp clean halt, it's more a dribbling series of slower steps until he finally comes to a halt. In the meantime I'm wondering, did he stop for me or because I said something with my seat just for a nanosecond that communicated what I wanted? If so, which was it? Engaging my core? Exhaling, inhaling, squeezing with my calves, shoving my seat bones backwards? Sitting tall, leaning back, doing everything I can think of save yanking back on the reins?

  So I try to replicate what I did. It worked five seconds ago. This time he ignores it. Arrgh. 
I have often said he is a stern teacher and in this case he's almost stone deaf to my requests, and I cannot figure out how to ask. 

  Oh, I hear some folks: do a half halt. Well, there are as many definitions for how to do a half halt as there are horses and riders. I don't think anyone really knows how to define a half halt in terms my simple mind can comprehend, never mind telling me how to do it.  And how do I know I've actually done one?  What differentiates a half halt and a full halt? If his slowly coming to a stop is a 'half halt' then I guess I am doing one but I'll be damned if I know how I did it. Nor can I replicate it.  I've heard "stop the energy from behind". Um, if I knew what that felt like perhaps I would be more successful. As it is, I am still struggling with just hearing the horse. 

   Maybe I'll get a stop sign like on the school busses. 

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