This article is from the September 2020 Horse Deals magazine.
Double Dan Horsemanship.
Photo: Josie Perrett
Part One - Groundwork
I have been asked to share our methods and philosophy on the one rein stop. This training article will be divided into two parts, as we teach the one rein stop from the ground before the horse even has its first ride, and then take that to the saddle.
The one rein stop is a very useful tool both for safety and softness.
I’ll start by discussing how the one rein stop works and why the one rein stop can be the most effective stop in an emergency.
The one rein stop will stop the horse’s front feet whereas the two rein stop will stop the back feet. This is why you’ll sometimes see a horse not come to a complete stop when the emergency one rein stop is applied – the horse’s back feet are his engine and they are still able to move around while the front feet are contained, eventually winding down into stillness. This also accounts for those horses you see that are rearing up and jumping around when the rider has asked for a two rein stop – the back feet are still, but the front feet are free to take their building anxiety in any direction, including upwards.
I believe that we need to teach and practice a one rein stop effectively in order to prepare our horses in the case of its requirement in an emergency. This is why I start from the ground first.
Teaching The One Rein Stop From The Ground
To begin, I start by teaching lateral flexion from the ground in the bridle. I do this by using a one long rein feeding through the roller, the going from the outside of the bit ring to the inside of the bit ring and back to the top ring of my roller.
The set up for step 1: the lunge rein through the roller, through the bit ring (from outside to inside) and then attached back to the roller.
I will take gentle and even pressure to the rein, holding both the top and bottom sections of the rein in my hand and asking the horse to give to the bit pressure, which should cause him to move his head and neck in a lateral direction. I hold the pressure until the horse is stationary with his head still bent to the pressure. Once the stop has been achieved I will allow the horse’s head to straighten by releasing the rein pressure and encouraging the head to move forward.
I will practise this first step over and over again until the horse is confident in the manoeuvre, and I am confident in his ability to perform it even when he’s feeling anxious or excited, before progressing to step two.
Asking the horse for lateral bend with both reins.
Still on the ground, I will gently ask the horse to move away, following the direction of the rein so that the rein will be on the inside of the circle. While the horse is walking I will take up a light pressure on the rein and ask the horse to move his head only to about 90 degrees (certainly no further in the early stages, as if the horse bends their head but moves the feet they may end up tangled in the reins).
The horse trots forward before light pressure is applied to the lunge rein.
I will allow the rope to go over the rump and back around the chest a couple of times before I will let go of the rein and just let the horse find the stop while waiting for the bend. I will unwrap the rope from around the horse and also release the bend by manually straightening the horse as per step 1.
This will be repeated until the horse begins to feel the pressure of the rein while in motion and subsequently understands to stop in flexion without getting tangled in the rein. Once this has been established I will ask the horse to step up into a trot while the rein is still on the inside, and will aim to stop the horse at 90 degrees. If the horse reverts back to spinning around the rein I will go back to the walk and try to rebuild the understanding we had achieved.
I will repeat this step on both sides until the horse is evenly balanced and confident before moving to the next stage.
If the horse turns around and the rope gets tangled around him, just to wait until horse stops in flexion before unraveling and straightening.
Once we have achieved step 2, I will now increase the intensity of the exercise, both in the pressure I apply to the rein and the degree of flexion.
I want to be able to push and drive my horse with forward impulsion before I take enough pressure in the rein to cause the horse’s nose to come around to his shoulder and stop in balance. I will do this step on both sides until the horse is confident and comfortable before progressing to the canter.
We need to practise under pressure in order to prepare the horse for the reality of using the one rein stop in an emergency. If your horse took off in a panic you want to be sure that this will be an effective strategy to stay safe, and know that you’ve done enough training to have the horse stop in flexion and relax quickly.
I will take a few days with multiple lessons to prepare my horse for the one rein stop from the ground before advancing under saddle. Take the time it takes throughout the process, and come back down a step if things aren’t working out. Remember, you are always aiming for a relaxed and confident horse.
Ideally, the horse will stop in balance without circling.
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