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7 steps to big stops: Condition to whoa

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - January 2nd, 2014 - More with Les

58th in a series
Last issue, Les showed us ‘the sequence stop’. Now we’ll launch into his seven-step ‘big stop’ program.

The procedure to Seven Steps to Big Stops is first of all to condition our horses to “whoa.” The word “whoa” is a special word, and we don’t use it at random. It means that “you stop, and you can’t go there anymore.” In a perfect world, you’d have had your horse as a yearling or a 2-year old, and as you worked him in the round pen or on the longe line you’d have taught him the word “whoa.” It is a strict word – it means you can’t go forward anymore. We usually say “whoa,” and then back him or turn him after, to reinforce that he’s done going in that direction. Very seldom will we walk off forward after he stops.

So we have the word “whoa.” Now we need to work on collection. We have to have the neck with no resistance. You’ve learned to do that. So next we need to ride our horses up from behind to the front. We speed the back motor up and slow the front motor down, and in the meantime the neck has to stay perfect. And from that we create the collected stop like we’ve worked on here.

Signal Stop
The next phase will come after we have gotten through the three gears, (that is, the three gaits with the collected stop) and it’s what I call the signal stop. The signals are 1) we assume a stopping position, 2) we say “whoa” and 3) we drop the reins instead of pulling. Ninety percent of the time the horse just says “duh” and trots on. And that’s okay!

So as we say “whoa” and use all these other signals, he’s not going to stop. But as I said before, I can’t make him stop, but I can make him wish he had. So I start working up the reins: one, two, three, four and five. So there are actually six or seven signals before there is an actual dead end to it. Pretty soon the horse is going to start stopping from a lighter and lighter pull, and before long he’ll start paying attention to the other cues – the weight, the “whoa” and the slack – because if we’re really consistent, he’ll figure out that if he stops when he feels those, he won’t get pulled on at all!

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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