October 14, 2020 – Ask Monty Newsletter
Question: How do I stop my horse without pulling on his mouth?
How do I stop my fast horse without pulling hard on his mouth? I am a big fan of your work, and I have read your book. I am a hunter jumper, and ride English. My horse gets fast, and I don’t want to pull really hard on his mouth but that is the only thing that makes him stop. (Now, he doesn’t get dangerously fast, just fast enough for me to want to slow him down,) I have looked through the Q and A and my interpretation is that you said to back them up when they got fast, then proceed with a loose reign. My problem though is that I can’t stop him and back up without pulling hard on his mouth. How can I stop him and back up without causing him pain?
Thank you for sending through this question. It is gratifying to hear from a student who is studying my answers and resources to find the methods that are acceptable to horses. My years of studying equine behavior put me in a unique position to offer you ways to work with your horse safely and fairly, with their natural behaviors in place.
The particular answer you chose to inquire as to whether it applies to your horse who goes a bit faster than you ask, falls in the behavioral pattern that I would recommend. It seems your horse is not bolting so I will proceed along the lines that you want to allow your horse to listen to your hands without causing harsh pulling on his mouth. I am assuming that he is at a trot or a lope when his speed is of concern.
In a safe enclosure, with good footing, warm him up gently and wait for the unwanted speed to happen. My recommendation is to simply put him to work when he increases his speed without being asked to. With quiet hands, guide him in a tight circle, a few times around, and then straighten him on the fence again on a loose rein, keeping him working. If he chooses to speed again, put him back to work making circles. It is harder work to circle. When he sees the value in simply going down the fence guided by your gentle hands, he will soon figure out what is acceptable and what creates more work.
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