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Slowing and Stopping

By: Joanne Walker BA (hons) - Updated: 31 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Slowing And Stopping

One of the most important things for any rider to master is how to slow down and how to stop carefully and safely. If you do not know how to stop properly, the horse could bolt or stop suddenly, throwing you off. Part of learning this is learning how to slow properly, while the rest is actually coming to a stop itself. It is important for the horse to know what is happening and when you start entering competitions, your technique will need to look good as well.


Part of becoming a good rider is having excellent communication with your horse. The two of you should share a tacit understanding. Over time, this communication will become second nature to you both but when you start riding you will need to build this relationship up from scratch. This includes letting the horse know what you need him to do and what you are going to do.

Slowing down is not only necessary to stop – it is also necessary for downward transitions. This is the name given to the procedure needed to go down a gait, so, from gallop to canter, from canter to trot and from trot to walk. It is not as simple for the horse as just reducing his speed as each gait uses different leg work and patterns as well, so he needs to be given time to change these movements as well as slow his speed. The way to slow a horse down correctly is to stiffen your back and squeeze the body with your legs, pull the reins towards your body and stiffen the hands. When the horse has slowed down sufficiently, you should relax to let him know to carry on as normal from that point.


Stopping, or halting as it is known, is done in a broadly similar way to slowing down. You need to pull the reins gently but firmly until the horse has come to a complete stop. It is important to learn to stop slowly, and to teach your horse to do so as a fast halt may result in you being thrown from the horse. If the horse does not stop when asked, do not continue to pull the reins. Relax your body and then start the whole thing again if he does not respond the first time.

More than anything else, you should learn how to slow and stop properly for safety reasons. Once you have mastered how to do it safely, you can start working on how it looks, especially if you plan to enter dressage and other competitions in the future. But right from the start of your partnership, you need to let the horse know who is boss when it comes to slowing and stopping – you. If you allow him to take control of this, he could start bolting or running off – and this will put you, him and other people in danger. But the more you teach him how to do something, the more he will respect you – and the partnership between the two of you will be all the stronger for it.

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