Join Date: Sep 2009
Location: Tampa Bay area, FL
The reins should be your last avenue for a stop cue. You should first be stopping with your seat, then your legs, then your hands (reins). To do this, lean waaaay back in your seat and make it very heavy back there. By doing this, your legs should naturally come up to about his shoulders, at the same time saying 'WHOA' or 'HO'. The last thing you do is pull on the reins, and even then keep a steady contact, the amount of contact that you want your horse to listen to.
It may take some time, but eventually all you will have to do is shift your weight back in your seat, and your horse will come to a stop.
For bending: carrot stretches are the best! You don't have to actually use a carrot, I used some little treats, and I've also used a couple alfalfa cubes before. Not kidding, after one session, where I made Ice stretch twice to the left, twice to the right, and down once, he started giving me inside turns.
Make sure when you do these carrot stretches that you don't ask for more than your horse can give. Also don't repeat them too many times in a row or hold them for too long initially, as this can create muscle strains.
How I do it is I simply get Ices attention that I have a treat, and sort of arc it back to his ribs, I don't just go straight back. The first time we do this, he always has a few minutes where he wants to step away to try and get it, but I just follow him, repeating the same arc and putting the treat at about the same place on his ribs until he reaches for it. Once he figures out he can bend, he bends for the next treat, and so on.
You can also try under saddle, weaving in and out of cones, barrels, or poles if you have them handy. At first space the cones or whatever well apart so that you have time to turn, but as your horse progresses, you can move them close together to create tighter turns.
Also, for the command to turn (if I remember you ride english), you would create steady contact with the rein that you want him to turn into (right rein for right turns, left rein for left turns), and then create steady contact with your whole opposite leg...with Ice I have to actually lift my right leg off when applying the left, if I want to turn right so he really understands the cue. Just like that, he starts to move right! For a tighter turn, you would shorten the appropriate rein, but still use your leg.