Retraining a horse with a heavy head, neck rein and stop

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Retraining a horse with a heavy head, neck rein and stop

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  • Horse that is heavy when neck rein
  • Horse heavy head on rein

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  • 9 Post By BreakableRider
  • 1 Post By tinyliny

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    01-05-2014, 04:16 PM
Retraining a horse with a heavy head, neck rein and stop

Last September I bought a 5 year old quarter horse mare at a horse sale. I live on a cattle ranch and do most of my riding with herding and sorting cattle. The first time I rode her she did well, but she seemed head strong when we had to move cows and I had to rein her with two hands. I would like to take her back to the basics to be able to neck rein with one hand and to stop with light pressure. The man I bought her from was riding her with a Tom Thumb but due to some research I have done and the experience I have with riding her in one it doesn't seem to benefit her when using a light response or neck reining. I am thinking to soften her up and to teach her neck reining is to go back to the basics with a smooth d-ring snaffle, but she doesn't respond as well with a D ring snaffle, she runs through it. What are you thoughts to soften her up on the stop and with the neck reining?
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    01-05-2014, 10:42 PM
Good on you for going back to a snaffle, that is absolutely the correct thing to do in this situation. For now, I would lay off the neck reining, as you know she has a few holes in her training and those need to be addressed first, later on after they are filled I bet you'll find that her neck reining has improved because of it.

In order for a horses stop to be bad there needs to be resistance to the bit. To fix that, go back to getting her soft to one rein.

If she doesn't know how already, teach her how to flex. I start on the ground first and slide my hand down the rein, picking up very softly ( grab a couple hairs and apply some pressure, if you pulled those hairs out you are pulling too hard) and wait for two things, for her to stand still and for her to give to that pressure. She might lean on it at first or move around which is perfectly normal. You want to make sure you are just holding that pressure, if you need to brace your arm against your side so you are at a stopping point and don't continue pulling do that. Once she understands how to get off the pressure you want it correct, you don't want her just cocking her head way to the side and only bringing her nose toward you, you want softness through the whole head and neck, bringing her head around evenly.

You also want her soft through the body. How is she about moving her hip, ribs and shoulders around independently?

To get a good stop, I bend to a stop a lot. As in, I bend to a stop for a couple weeks, never picking up on two reins to stop. I don't use two reins until one is soft. When I bend to a stop I slide my hand down and bring my hand out slightly to the side. You are not yanking her around to your knee, pick up and wait for softness. Start this at a walk and as she comes to stop, slide your leg back and disengage her hindquarters. Once she understands how to do that softly without dropping her shoulder or running it out start getting her to respond to your seat. I practice it from a trot mainly, ride around, ask for that stop then bend down.

Once she's soft through her body and on one rein you can have both reins back again. Teach a good backup to introduce the correct response to two reins. Flex each direction first ( this should be super soft at this point, you should be able to just pick up a rein and get a response), then take the slack out of both reins and just hold, using the same pressure when teaching flexing. As soon as she gives vertically, you give. It doesn't matter if she puts her head up half a foot ten lowers it a centimeter, give then. You want to get her to understand that before moving on. From that point you can get pickier, lots of horses get the head down then move on to trying to put their nose in the dirt or hiding behind the bridle, at that point don't release until she breaks at the poll without over flexing. The third step to backing is getting an actual step. Once she gives nicely, keep holding and wait until you get a good step back. You want to feel her lift her shoulders and back a bit as she back up. Every time she does the right thing, release the pressure.

I spend about a week doing a lot of backing up before I ever ask for a stop. Not a lot of steps in a row really, just getting the steps I do ask for excellent. Just like everything up to that point, it's baby steps preparing the horse to be soft and to understand the next step.

Now you can actually stop. Start from a walk and just take the slack out, using the same pressure you have been to get a back, no more. Wait for the stop and the shift of weight. Then ask for a step back. Once the stop at the walk is good, move to the trot etc.

You're thinking, my god, why spend all that to just get one thing better i'm sure. However, everything i'm describing is going to get you that much of a better broke horse. However, that stop, is going to be great. You're getting your horse prepared to ride into the stop and stop correctly, not with the head up and back hollowed. You'l also find that when you move onto each step that the horse picks it up very quickly because it's prepared and there is no fight.

A good example of how all of that prep work is a mare I trained a couple months ago. I was getting quite a lot of flank for the way I was teaching her and I wanted to make a pretty big point. I asked this little mare to pick up a lope, towards her pasture, I sat down and closed my fingers on the reins to take the slack out. This was a green mare, who I had NEVER used two reins on before outside of backing up. She melted to such a nice little stop and was prepared to back up. I had kept hearing "she's been under saddle for over a month why haven't you stopped her normally yet." and my friends just were not getting it, my point was that when I DID finally ask her to stop, she would be prepared to do so, because at that point she was soft backing up and had an excellent stop off of my seat. Would I expect the same response out of every horse? Heck no but with how soft through the body and face she was at that point I knew I could skip a few steps to make that point.

At that point by all means, neck rein again. At that point she'll be soft enough in mind and body that I think it'll be a lot better and if you need to need to correct with your legs or pick up and direct rein that will be softer too.
    01-07-2014, 05:45 PM
Thank you for all your input. Thankfully, she does flex pretty well, backs up well on the ground, and moves her hind quarters well. Now are you saying that before you actually stop her that you slide your hand down one rein and flex her to have her stop, then just slide your legs back to her hips without letting off? I'm trying hard to imagine all the steps you have been describing. Everyone has a different way to go about things but I appreciate and value others' opinions. What I have been training her to do is everytime I take my legs off her that is another que to stop, then when I want to walk her off I put my legs back down, so legs off means stop and legs on means go. To back her up I just lift her reins and apply leg pressure. I am going to try some of your techniques with her. Thank you so much!
    01-07-2014, 11:20 PM
I'm glad to help

How often you need to use your leg is entirely dependent on the horse. Some horses will just spiral down nicely and disengage their hindquarters before they stop. Other horse will spiral down but will never really disengage their hindquarters before they stop. Some stiff horses won't spiral down much at all and just kind of plant themselves into a stop. Others will spiral down nice and soft at first but after you do a lot of bending to a stop they realize the stop is the end and will stop disengaging.

In order to stop her you'll bend her down using one rein. So you'll practice at a walk first, just walking wherever on a loose rein. Slide your hand down and a bit out the rein and make light contact with the horses mouth, she will start to spiral down, once she is ALMOST stopped as in taking those last couple slow steps, THAT is when you'll put your leg back and make sure she disengages. When she disengages, remove your leg and let her come to a stop. If you bend and immediately put your leg on it'll confuse her and she won't be inclined to stop. If you wait until she is stopped, then move her hip over it won't be nearly as soft. It's much easier to see than explain unfortunately.

Going back to the bare bones basics isn't going to wreck any training she has that's further along. Once she's soft on that one rein and isn't bracing anymore you can use your feet and legs to stop her and when she doesn't respond then bend her down.

Another thought just came to me, how exactly are you taking your legs off to cue her to stop? I ask because I often hear of a way people think they are cueing their horse to stop that is accidentally cueing them forward.

If you're going to try my way for a little while, don't back her up yet. You want that stop nice and soft first to make sure there isn't any resistance when you do back.
    01-08-2014, 10:27 AM
Thank you for the details, as soon as I ask her to stop I let off my heels. Not that my heels are putting a lot of pressure, it depends on the gate I'm in. I wonder if I am confusing her when I do that, but I have been consistently riding that way so I would figure she would catch on...
    01-08-2014, 12:43 PM
I was hoping for a bit more specific. When you take your legs off are you pressing your weight down into your stirrups? This can cause come tension through the leg which goes up to the seat if you're pushing your legs forward. This is because if you press too hard your actually tilting your pelvis forwards which cues with your seat to move forward. However if you're just relaxing your leg to take it off and then sinking your weight into your heels to take your leg off it can be effective.

However even using the second way, you need to make sure you're effective with your follow through. Even if you use it every single time the horse won't learn a nice stop if they brace against you every time you ask for a stop or if the horse is hot an not in a frame of mind to stop.
    01-10-2014, 05:37 PM
So when you stop, do you slide your legs back to your horse's hind quarters? If not what do you do with your legs when you stop? I feel like if I were to slide my legs back it could also cause the motion of moving the pelvis in a forward motion...
    01-10-2014, 06:54 PM
Green Broke
Excellent info Breakable. I enjoyed reading your post, but like Taylor I am also confused about what you're doing with you're leg in the final steps of the one rein stop.

Are you putting pressure behind the girth to ask the horse to move it's hindquarters over?

Say you're doing a one rein stop using your right rein and your horse is almost stopped, are you then using your right leg to add pressure behind the girth to move the hindquarters towards the left and 'breaking' the horses movement to a stop?
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    01-10-2014, 09:41 PM
Originally Posted by Lonestar22    
Excellent info Breakable. I enjoyed reading your post, but like Taylor I am also confused about what you're doing with you're leg in the final steps of the one rein stop.

Are you putting pressure behind the girth to ask the horse to move it's hindquarters over?

Say you're doing a one rein stop using your right rein and your horse is almost stopped, are you then using your right leg to add pressure behind the girth to move the hindquarters towards the left and 'breaking' the horses movement to a stop?
Posted via Mobile Device

I know you did not ask me, but here's how I"d answer that:

in the ORS I would not put the leg on at all, unless the horse is not understanding to step his hindquarters under and over. A bit of leg on , on the inside, is just to help the horse understand that along with bending his head around, stopping his front legs, I want him to step his inside hind over, outside hind over and stop.

just my 2 cents. Breakable can explain much better.
TaylorCricket likes this.
    01-13-2014, 12:59 PM
It's seems like one rein stops and lots of flexing is what can really help with softening the bit and the stop! I wish it was spring, this Wyoming winter with no indoor arena is killin me!

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