How we teach a 'One Rein Stop'

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How we teach a 'One Rein Stop'

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    03-25-2011, 08:15 AM
Super Moderator
How we teach a 'One Rein Stop'

This is a copy of an article I wrote explaining exactly how we teach a horse to give its head to a rider. It is NOT a 'light' read and will need to be read several times in order of get it right. There are 40 ways to do it wrong and/or ineffectively.

I have had several people ask me to explain how we use the ‘one rein stop’. It was not invented by any of the current famous clinicians. It has been around for a long, long time but everyone that I knew that used it just called it ‘taking a horse’s head away from him’. The clinicians gave it the name ‘one rein stop’.

First, a lot of people think it is the same thing as making a horse ‘yield’ its hindquarters or that every time a horse’s head is taken away from him he should move his quarters in the opposite direction. This IS NOT how we use it. For the stop is just that – a stop. It means that when I have gotten a horse to understand it correctly, you take his head and he STOPS right there. He doesn’t go around and around in circles or move his quarters out. Only a horse that is resisting does that. So he keeps repeating the ‘stop’ lesson until he just ‘stops’.

Green horses are always taught to give their head in a full cheek snaffle with a noseband ‘mouth closer’. When we first teach the horse to ‘give his head’, we gradually ask him to bring his head around to our knee and to relax with it there. When he relaxes, I pet his face and release him; but I don’t want him to move off until I tell him to by ‘closing’ my legs on him. The important thing is that the horse STOPS and does not move his feet.

Older spoiled horses can be pretty tough, especially if they are really stiff and resistant. I have a 9 year old and a 12 year old that I purchased for the trail string that are both in the process of learning to properly give their heads right now. I am teaching them in a little short shanked curb with a three piece mouthpiece. I have found that I can use it like a snaffle bit and I don’t have to ‘out-pull’ them with my old arthritic hands. Occasionally, I run into an older horse that is so resistant and gets so mad that I find it counter-productive to argue with them so I will ‘check’ their heads to each side with a side rein that has an elastic link in it. I usually check their heads to the back girth on a roping saddle and put them in a round pen for a while. I always watch them so they can’t get into trouble. Even if they have one really stiff side, I will check them both directions.

When I am teaching a horse to give me his head, I will also teach him to yield his hindquarters. I want him to know how to do both but I don’t want him to interchange them. When I take his head to the right, if he stiffens and resists, I will nudge him in the ribs with my right leg. That will make him yield his hindquarters and in the process, it will help him ‘loosen up’ the resistance in his face and neck. If he goes around and around in little circles, I just let him. I don’t put either leg on him and just wait him out until he stops on his own. Then, I pet his face and give him relief (a loose rein) and let him stand for a few moments. If you are consistent and don’t give him relief until he stops moving his feet and stops resisting with his neck and mouth, it won’t take very long for him to do just that. If you tighten your leg on the same side, he should yield his quarters and if you bring the outside legs against him, he should make a tight circle.

When teaching the horse to give you his head, you start at the walk. You sit back (not lean back), slide your hand down the rein and then take that rein directly back toward your hip. Take the horse’s head as close as you can to your leg. He will go in circles at first but wait him out and give him relief ONLY after he comes to a complete stop. When he does this EVERY time you take his head either direction at the walk, then put him in a jog and do the same thing. You will find that he learns very quickly to stop and give you his head at the jog. Only then, do you want to take his head away at the lope. Just sit back, slide your hand down the rein and he will probably stop before you get very far with the rein. Just because he stops, don’t give him his head back until he brings it all the way to your leg.

I have found it very valuable to teach a horse to give his head and NOT yield his quarters when you are going to work cattle on him or teach advanced maneuvers like flying lead changes or even good lead departures. If you want to do advanced maneuvers, the last thing you want is for a horse to move his quarters out when you take his head either direction. They have to ‘HOLD THEIR GROUND’ with their hindquarters if they are ever going to learn to move their shoulders independently from their quarters. If a horse is ever going to learn proper lead departures with their hindquarters in and strike off with their inside hind foot, they cannot shift their quarters out when you bring their head to the inside. The correct ‘one rein stop’ really helps a horse learn to give his head without shifting any other part of his body out.

Have you ever worked a gate or watched someone else work a gate and they get their horse to move his hindquarters over to the fence or gate by picking up the opposite rein? That is how you get really ‘chewed out’ if you ride here. How about watching someone straighten out their horse’s ‘back-up’ by picking up a rein? They get a horse to move their hindquarters over to the left by taking his head slightly to the right. OOPS! Nuther big a** chewing here. Your horse will NEVER learn when you want him to move his a** out or when you want him to move his shoulder over if you pick up a rein and some of the time he is supposed to move his hip. Around here, he is NEVER supposed to move his hip out when you take his head. He learns to ‘hold his ground behind’. Then, when you want to start a horse on cattle, you can ‘tip’ his nose toward a cow so he can concentrate on it with both eyes and his hind end will stay exactly where it is supposed to stay.

When a horse has been properly taught to give you his head, much of his resistance leaves and he becomes MUCH more willing to do about everything else you want to teach him.

Using the ‘one rein stop’ to correct a problem horse

If a horse is spoiled and wants to put a hump in his back or gets really unruly, just take his head away from him and make him stand there. If he has been taught to give you his head, that is exactly what he will do. If he has been taught to give his head, no matter how scared, mad or spoiled he wants to act, he will give you his head. You have to teach him before hand. Don’t think you can teach him to give you his head when he is trying to buck you off. After he bucks you off, take him into a small corral and TEACH him to give you his head – both ways. I think you have to do it about 100 times each direction and in each gait before a spoiled horse really ‘gets it’ and knows that you want him to instantly stop moving his feet and stand perfectly still EVERY time you take his head away from him. We have taken ‘cold backed’ horses that had bucked when they were fresh and had them completely quit when they were taught to give their heads. Not every bronc will quit – some are just really good at it and love it, but most spoiled horses will give up the behavior when EVERY time they get their head taken away from them.

‘Chargy’ horses and really ‘hot’ horses will get quiet and slow down better with this method than any other we have ever used. I’ve used this on many horses that came off of the track, on spoiled barrel horses, run-aways and bolters and they have ALL gotten better with this schooling that any other that people before me tried.

A horse that instantly gives you his head is like riding a horse with an ‘off button’ installed in him. When you feel him brace and get ready to blow, it will de-fuse about any situation.

Horses that have ‘tough mouths’ and require a lot of ‘pulling’ to stop them, will lighten up greatly by teaching the ‘stop’. They just cannot brace and push against a rider using one rein to take their head away. Once they have found out that they get their head back when they stop, they stop so much more willingly.

Is there a down side?

I know there are people that think it makes a horse get ‘rubber necked’ and he won’t properly ‘follow his nose’ when he has been taught this move. This is absolutely NOT TRUE. Horses get rubber-necked when a rider pulls too hard and ‘over-bends’ the horse when he is trying to get the horse to turn. When you apply the ‘stop’, you sit back, slide your hand down the rein and take his head WITHOUT putting any outside leg on him. When you want him to turn and ‘follow his nose’, you take his head –ever so slightly in the direction you want him to go. You simultaneously bring your outside leg against him. IF he does not turn exactly where you are asking him to turn (or circle) you DO NOT pull harder or get any more bend than the slight amount it takes to ASK the horse to turn. You ‘reinforce’ the directive ‘to turn’ by applying more pressure to the outside with your leg or spur or crop or whatever it takes to MAKE him turn. You DO NOT PULL HARDER or make him bend more. That is where ‘rubber-necking’ comes from – not from teaching a horse that you can take his head away from him.
FruityFilly98, thenrie and A Gaber like this.
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    03-25-2011, 10:26 AM
I'll admit this confuses me. If the horse doesn't disengage, then there is nothing really to stop his forward motion. Horses can run well with their heads facing backwards, so bringing the head around just becomes another stop cue - and a rather dangerous one at that. Why not teach him the same thing (stop and relax) with the normal stop cues? If it is a behavior cue, then what value does it have over teaching the same thing is meant by tapping three times on his withers, or any other cue one wants?

What am I missing?
    03-25-2011, 10:54 AM
Thank you Cherie. I'm going to print this and read it slowly over the next few days. My abused/rescue horse is getting picked up today by a horse training facility for an evaluation. It may take me awhile to get him in the round pen and haltered. I'm so excited to learn new things :) Thanks!
    03-25-2011, 01:58 PM
Super Moderator
It works without disengaging his hind quarters because you teach him to 'stop and not move a foot' whenever you take his head away. If you teach him this maneuver when there is nothing amiss with his world or yours, he learns very quickly that when he stops, relaxes his body and gives an inch more than you are asking for (he gives himself relief from the pulling rein) that you will reward him with a loose rein and will give him his head back.

If this is what you teach him, he will stop and give you his head instantly whenever you ask for it. Most horses will stop when you run your hand down the rein and get set for the stop. Since horses do not multi-task well and can only concentrate on one thing at a time, when you take their head away, you also take away the fear or reaction that you are trying to stop. It instantly brings their focus back on you where it belongs.

Personally, the only time I disengage a horse's hind quarters is when one is trying to take his head down between his knees and wants to buck me off. Then, I do not want him to have any power or use of his hind end.

The rest of the time, I do not want a horse to get used to 'throwing' his hip out when I take his head to one side. It proves to be really counter-productive for stock horses, reining horses, cutting horses and any horse that you want to 'hold their ground behind' and move their shoulders. It can be a very difficult bad habit to fix when a horse constantly takes a step out behind to get out of doing the more difficult move of bringing his shoulders around for a rollback or spin.
    03-25-2011, 02:40 PM
Originally Posted by Cherie    
It works without disengaging his hind quarters because you teach him to 'stop and not move a foot' whenever you take his head away. If you teach him this maneuver when there is nothing amiss with his world or yours, he learns very quickly that when he stops, relaxes his body and gives an inch more than you are asking for (he gives himself relief from the pulling rein) that you will reward him with a loose rein and will give him his head back...
Then how does your one rein stop improve on pulling the reins back and saying, "Whoa"? In fact, how is the standard stop not an improvement over your one rein stop, since it keeps the horse looking in the direction he is going while stopping him?
    03-25-2011, 02:58 PM
Both reins pulled back for "whoa!" is claustrophobic feel for the horse, & so causes him to run "through" the bridle.
    03-25-2011, 03:22 PM
Super Moderator
Pulling back on both reins and saying "Whoa!" will stop a really 'broke' horse but is not instantly effective on a green or very reactive horse. Taking ones head away from him instantly works on any horse that has been taught this maneuver correctly. It is one of the first things I teach after a horse has learned to go forward good and has learned basic 'following its nose' training.

It also has the unique ability to get a horse's mind off of whatever upset it and get it back on you. It turns a reacting horse back into a thinking one. I think that is probably the most positive thing that it does.

You can use it as a reprimand or a way to 'scold' a horse and it does not upset the horse. Any other reprimand can have a result of upsetting a horse and making a situation worse.

Once I have taught it to a horse and then get that horse pretty well trained, I do not use it much -- but it is still there. I recently had a wild hog spook up out of the brush. Horses, including the one I was on, are just terrified of the feral wild pigs in the mountain and brush country near here. I snatched one rein around and the horse made 2 or 3 fast circles and would have bolted, but within 5 seconds, he stopped and just stood there with his nose at my knee. A few seconds more and he gave a big 'sigh' and it was all over. Then, I rode back a forth a few times and rode him over the exact spot the hog had been standing. He was over it, but I was sure happy the I could 'turn him off' without a wreck.
A Gaber likes this.
    03-25-2011, 03:32 PM
Originally Posted by Northern    
Both reins pulled back for "whoa!" is claustrophobic feel for the horse, & so causes him to run "through" the bridle.
And "Take the horse’s head as close as you can to your leg" is LESS constraining?

The only time I've tried a ORS for real was on a borrowed horse, and he kept galloping full speed towards the barbed wire fence on the far side of the pasture. Guess he hadn't been trained to do one...but if turning the head is a cue, then how is it a better cue than pulling firmly but not severely on the reins?

I understand how tightening a circle would force a horse to slow and eventually stop. I understand how a horse that is disengaging isn't going to explode forward. I do not understand how bringing the horse's head as close as you can to your leg is a good cue that he can stop and enjoy safety. At least, not why it is a better cue than normal stopping cues, if the horse has been taught "Stop = safety".
    03-25-2011, 03:36 PM
Super Moderator
All I can say is take the time to teach it correctly and just see how effective it is for emergency situations and for using to get a horse's focus 100% on you. I cannot argue with suppositions from someone that has never done it.
    03-25-2011, 03:42 PM
Originally Posted by Cherie    
Pulling back on both reins and saying "Whoa!" will stop a really 'broke' horse but is not instantly effective on a green or very reactive horse. Taking ones head away from him instantly works on any horse that has been taught this maneuver correctly...
If it has to be taught first, it is a cue for learned behavior. So is pulling back on both reins. How is pulling the horse's nose to your knee a better, more effective and equally safe cue as pulling on the reins, or a pulley stop if more emphasis is needed?

In my daughter-in-law's first western riding lesson, she was taught to stop the horse, and maintain pressure until the horse yielded his head and relaxed his body...then let him stand there for a bit as reward and "safety". How is pulling the head around - an unbalancing act - better?

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