Here is an (edited) set of tips again from Larry Trocha's web site for training your horse for the stop. Most of what he is talking about I have seen done by most trainers. I would use these tips with caution as a beginner, unless you are working under or directly with a trainer. Half information, or misinterpreting information can lead to poor results in the end, and can often do more harm than good. Having said that, I hope that many of you are considering coming out to Sherri's clinic on May 23rd. There is no replacement for having an experienced and knowledgeable trainer work with you and your horse directly! I would love some written confirmation for those people who are interested in attending. I will have forms available this Thursday for interested participants to fill out.
23 Training Tips For Improving Your Stops
1. When it comes to stopping a horse on his hindquarters, timing is everything. When stopping from the lope, you must say "whoa" when the horse's hind feet are in the air and just starting forward. This lets the horse shoot his hind legs under his body. If you say whoa when the hind feet are already on the ground, you force the horse to stop on his front end. If you haven't mastered timing the stop at the lope, perfect your horse's stop at the trot. Timing isn't a factor when stopping from the trot. Get your horse stopping well at this gait before practicing stopping from the lope.
2. Teach your horse to back well. A good back up always helps the stop. Relax and pretend you don't care if the horse stops hard. When a rider gets to trying too much, he starts pulling on the reins too hard or scaring the horse.
3. For smooth, balanced stops on the hindquarters, it's important to get your horse supple. Don't even think you can get by with a horse that isn't light and supple, because you can't. Having the horse supple is what allows you to position his body for a good stop. Without having the horse supple, you won't be able to teach him the correct "form" for a good stop.
4. If your horse is heavy on the front end, say whoa and immediately roll him back. Rolling him back in the middle of the stop takes the horse's front end away from him. He's forced to stop on his hocks. This works well at the trot as well as the lope.
5. Lope your horse until he's tired, then ask him to stop. After the stop, sit there and let him rest for 5 minutes or so. This will make him look forward to stopping and actually enjoy it.
6. Teach your horse to travel straight. A horse that is loping straight will stop a lot better than one that zig-zags all over the place.
7. Teach your horse what it is to be "fenced" in the arena. Fencing will help teach a horse to run straight and stop hard.
8. Teach your horse to stop when you quit riding (passively sitting). If you aren't "actively" urging him forward, he should stop or at least slow down.
9. Some horses stop better if asked for the stop while they are collected up and flexed at the poll. Actually, a lot of horses won't do a good stop until they understand what it is to be collected
10. In the snaffle, ask for the stop lightly and if the horse doesn't respond, pull and see-saw the bit until he stops and backs a step. Say "whoa," set the bit lightly, release and set the bit again. If he still didn't respond good enough, repeat.
11. In the curb bit, ask for the stop lightly and if he doesn't respond, bump, bump the bit. Say whoa, set the bit lightly, release and set the bit again. If he didn't respond good enough, on the third set, bump the bit. I would bump the bit several times and bump hard enough to get your point across. On some horses I'd keep bumping until he backed up a couple of steps.
12. Ask the horse to stop while he's building speed, not when he is slowing down. If you ask for the stop while accelerating, his front end is elevating and his hind legs are driving way up under his body to push off. This is perfect to get a big stop on the hindquarters. If you ask for the stop while the horse is decelerating, he will dump on his front end. This rule applies when stopping at the trot as well as the lope.
13. When stopping, sit on the cheeks of your butt, round your lower back, relax your shoulders, keep your thighs loose and your knees open. A lot of folks tighten up when they ask for a stop. They will arch their back or clamp with their thighs. This almost always ruins the stop. As a matter of fact, a lot of folks are in the habit of riding on their thighs. This body position makes it almost impossible to get a good stop.
14. Use your rein hand at about the same height as your belt loops. When using two hands on the reins, make sure you are bending your arms and bringing your elbows back toward your hips with a "set and release" motion. Here again, if you don't use your hands correctly, you won't get your horse to stop correctly.
15. Experiment with different bits. If your horse is in the snaffle, try a smooth wire or twisted wire snaffle. You might want to go with a gag bit on him. Maybe it is time to step him up to an Argentine snaffle or a curb bit.
16. If your horse is in the curb bit, try adjusting the bit so it sits lower or higher in the horse's mouth. Try different mouthpieces. Using a variety of bits keeps a horse's mouth fresh. Also try tightening or loosening the curb chain and alternate between using a flat curb chain and a dog-chain curb.
17. Try using a shoulder cue to get a better stop. This one works like a charm but is hard to accurately describe on paper. In a nutshell, you train the horse to back immediately in response to moving your feet forward toward the horse's shoulders. Very little bit pressure is used. The result is a great stop with a "finger-tip" light rein.