Episode 142: How can I slow my horse down on a loose rein?

In this episode I’m answering a question about teaching a horse how to hunt slowing down with less or no rein contact. I’ll discuss teaching multiple cues, offering choices through the use of patterns and I’ll give you three different ‘tests’ you can take to evaluate your communication with your horse.


Stacy Westfall: Hi, I’m Stacy Westfall, and I’m here to teach you how to understand, enjoy, and successfully train your own horses. Today, I’m going to be answering a question about teaching a horse how to hunt slowing down with less rein contact or maybe even no rein contact. I’ll discuss teaching multiple cues, offering choices through the use of patterns, and I’ll give you three different tests you can take to evaluate your communication with your horse. Let’s listen to the question.

Caller: Hi, Stacy. First of all, thank you so much for all the amazing content that you bring us across all of your platforms. I know that we all really appreciate it. So I have a question for you today about speed control. I would really like to be able to slow down my horse’s gaits at the trot and the lope, and I want them to kind of hunt that slower gate because I know when we go to shows, the energy is going to be up a little as it is, and they’re going to tend to go faster. So I can get them to trot nice and relaxed and slow and lope nice and relaxed and slow if I have constant contact on their face and I feel like I’m constantly micromanaging them, which I don’t want to do. So I would like to get them to be able to trot and lope nicely and relaxed and slow on a loose rein. I’ve been trying to let them make the mistake of going faster and then just kind of checking them back and slowing them down but that doesn’t seem to be working very well. So I was wondering if you had any exercises or drills or advice that we could do to make that more efficient and get them hunting that slower gait. Anything you can tell me I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

Stacy Westfall: Thanks for leaving your question and as I was thinking about it I thought, I’m going to answer this by taking it to an extreme because I think it just makes the answer more clear. So as I listen to your question about being able to slow down without using so much rein, or feeling like you’re having to micromanage, what it makes me think about is teaching a horse to ride bridleless, because when I’m teaching my horses to ride bridleless, I need to be able to regulate their speed without the use of the reins. Now, I begin this with the use of the reins, but I want to go to the extreme of talking about it without the reins at all so that you can then kind of figure out how to fill in that middle ground. When I’m thinking about horse training, it’s interesting because in my mind it’s the messy middle. You’ll find a lot in articles about starting horses and then you find a lot about finishing horses. But then there’s all this middle ground that’s the messy middle that I’m talking about. And I actually love diving in and talking about it because so much of the training is in between those two extremes of the beginning when we’re getting them started under saddle and teaching them the basics of forward, you know, and steering left and right and stopping all the way to the finished end of bridleless. So what I want to do right now is I want to illustrate that extreme of the end so we can back back into how we can get the horse from where you’re at to closer to where you’d like to be.

Stacy Westfall: So when I think about the message that you left and you–you mentioned like letting them go faster and then checking them back and it doesn’t seem to be working, I want to open with a little bit of a discussion on the idea of positive anticipation or negative anticipation. So in my mind, when I think of positive anticipation, I picture a student at school and the teacher starts to ask their question and they’re super excited and they’re raising their hand. And they’re–they’re really, really, really wanting to answer the question because they know the answer. Now, that would be a positive anticipation. They’re excited about giving the answer because they are pretty confident they know what the answer is. Now, the negative anticipation is, in my mind, a little bit different. It’s a little bit more like I hope I don’t make a mistake. And in–in that way, it’s like in the horse example, they kind of can tell a test is coming, but they’re not quite sure that the test is here. They’re not quite sure what the answer is. And sometimes for the horse, it’s a little bit like playing the game of hot or colder, which I talk about all the time, except that when they get colder, they get some kind of a negative like like like if it’s–if they can’t see the pattern, that’s what I’m calling really negative. So if there’s a surprise to the–to the correction, that becomes an anxiety for the horse because they can’t figure out the pattern. So it’s very interesting to me that a lot of times it’s not necessarily about the aids that you use as much it is–it is about the way that they’re used, the pattern that they’re used, because basically we’re looking at the difference between teaching a horse to understand and respond or avoid something. So those are a different way to look at like positive anticipation is like, oh, I can see this pattern happening. I know that the last 50 times you did this, there was step one, step two, step three, step for step five, step six, step seven. And so when they see step one, step two, step three happen a lot of times that’s when they’ll jump to step seven because they’re like, hey, hey, I know the answer. And that’s what happens. It’s actually really funny because that happened inside the new lead change course that I just released. In one of the videos, Colleen, who’s demonstrating, she sets her horse up and she’s moving, moving and the horse volunteers a lead change. And I’m like, good job. And she’s like, I didn’t ask for it. I’m like, good job. Anyway, don’t correct her because she’s volunteering. She’s raising her hand. She’s super excited. She sees it coming. And so there’s this dance of getting that horse to see the pattern and then later on wait, because later on, Colleen’s going to need to get her horse to wait for the actual cue. But for sure, there’s a window in there where we’re just excited that they’re excited because that’s a positive cycle versus the horse thinking, oh, no, we’re coming to some spot in the arena. And the last ten times we’ve come through here, they’ve kicked me really hard. That would be a negative anticipation. It’s not–it’s not like a positive anticipation of seeing like in Colleen’s case, with the lead change the horse saw that when she moved this direction and set up this way, she was then going to open up this leg, asked her to go the other direction. And so that positive anticipation is–has a completely different feel when you’re watching the horses because that understanding it’s the difference between reacting versus responding. And you can–you can tell that a lot of times when you’re watching the horses. So my guess is that when you let the horses go faster and then check them back if the pattern of how you check them back isn’t super clear, they might be either not seeing the pattern at all. So they’re just like waiting for you to pull on them, for example, because they don’t see the pattern at all. So then it doesn’t feel like it’s happening. Or they’ll start to avoid it because they’re like, I’m not quite sure what the right answer is, but then I’m in trouble. And so you weren’t super crystal clear about what was going on there. So I’m going to answer how I would approach it and then just let you fill in the blanks. But a lot of times, if you have something like–like the way that you phrased it, letting them go faster and then checking them back, a lot of times if that’s not working, the horse isn’t seeing the pattern. They’re not actually seeing what they should be doing. It’s a little bit like they’re only seeing what they shouldn’t be doing. So let’s talk you through a bunch of the ways that I would go about this. So the first thing to understand is that you have multiple cues, systems going on. I’m going to repeat some of this. It might seem basic, but I think as I unpack it, you’ll see why I’m going this order.

Stacy Westfall: So there are multiple cues you could use to slow a horse down. For example, you could use the reins to slow the horse down. You could use your legs to slow the horse down. You could use your seat to slow the horse down. You could use your voice to slow the horse down. So we have completely different systems, reins, legs, seat, voice. And in my mind, I actually treat them like those are all separate individual things. The only one that gets a little bit closer together for me is like the legs and the seat. Sometimes I’ll just talk about leg cues because it’s hard to do a leg cue without changing your seat, although it is possible to do your seat cue without changing your legs. But just for the sake of this conversation, I’m going to stick to those four: reins, legs, seat, voice. So you’ve got multiple cues like that then each one of those cues–let’s talk about the reins for just a minute–each one of those systems, cue systems, actually has its own layers inside of it. So for the reins, for example, if you want to take a test and see how much your horse understands the reins, what we would want to do is we would want to know what would happen if you’re riding along, let’s just say that you’re trotting and you’re trotting and you put the horse on a loose rein. And so I’m picturing that the reins are–are draped, which means that there’s a slack in the rein, and it’s got that kind of an upside down rainbow that–that “U” shape going on between the horse’s mouth and your hand. And then if you begin to take the slack out slowly, but you did nothing else, so you didn’t remove your legs, you didn’t use a voice cue, you didn’t change your seat if you just started to take the slack out slowly and steadily like it was a giant bungee cord, just kind of being drawn tight. If that happens, that means that the horse can see the change coming. I want to know what your horse does. So the test is to put the horse on a loose rein at a trot and then slowly take that slack out until you make contact with the horse’s mouth and then stop the horse and ask the horse to back up three steps. Now, what’s interesting about this is that some horses, depending on their level of training, some will actually stop before the slack is fully out, even though that’s the only cue, because they’ve practiced and seen this pattern unfolding so many times that they realize that when the rider begins to take the slack out, that if they are–if they don’t stop, the rider is going to continue to take the slack out. And if they don’t stop, then the rider’s going to apply two ounces of pressure. And if they don’t stop, the rider is going to apply four ounces of pressure, something along that line. You see where I’m going with it. So there’s kind of a pattern unfolding just with that one aide, just with the rein pressure. Now, if you take this test, the biggest thing is to make sure you move your hand really slowly. When I was growing up, my mom used to tell me that I needed to pretend like there was a little birdie sitting on my hand and I didn’t want the birdie to fly away. It’s actually a pretty darn good way to visualize it because you don’t want to be quick when you take that slack out of the reins because if you’re quick, you don’t give the horse the chance to see the pattern of how the reins are going to be used. They don’t get to see that pattern unfolding and then be able to see how they could get ahead of it in a positive anticipation kind of way. So from the horse’s point of view, here’s what it would be like. You’re riding on a really loose rein, they’re–they’re trotting along and you begin to take the slack out. So let’s just use let’s say that you’re going to apply seven different like stages to this. So you pick up an inch and then you pick up another inch and then you pick up another inch and then you pick up another inch. You see where I’m going with this. So what happens is as you smoothly go inch by inch, as you come and take that slack out, the horse is getting multiple chances. They’re getting the chance to see oh, the rein’s a little bit shorter. Oh, the rein’s a little bit shorter. Oh, the rein’s a little bit shorter. They’re getting a chance to see this pattern unfolding. And that’s when after they see this pattern enough times, you will get horses that begin to respond on the third inch that’s taken out or on the second inch that’s taken out. You’ll get to the point where you’ll have horses that will respond when the rider just barely moves the hand. This is what gives the impression that this horse could be ridden bridleless, even though it’s truly happening off the rein aide in this example.

Stacy Westfall: Now, I’m going to tell you some other examples about the other aids, but this just starts to give you an idea that number one, you have multiple cue systems: reins, legs, seat, voice. And inside of those cue systems, the horses should be able to see a pattern when that cue is used. So the rein has different levels that it could be used at. And–and as the horse understands this, what you’ll be able to diagnose when you’re doing this test–so let’s say you’re trotting along, you begin taking the slack out, you’re going noticeably slow so that it’s like you’re taking that inch and another inch and another inch and another inch. As you’re doing that, when you get to the point where you make contact, some of the questions that are–that are happening in my mind, like when I’m thinking about watching horses take this test, what is the horse’s reaction as your hand is moving? Are they getting a little bit anxious as they feel that slack coming out? Are they getting a little bit nervous, rushy? Do you see a change in their gait? Does their rhythm stay the same? Do they do they begin ducking behind it, but not slowing down at all? Do they actually kind of root or pull or do they start steering left or right, even though your reins or even? When you slow your cue system down these are some of the things that you’ll learn about your horse’s experience, because even if you’re cueing, “correctly,” even if you are sliding your hand at the perfect speed and taking the slack out at the perfect amount, your horse has a history with you or someone else. And if they don’t have a history, let’s say it’s an unstarted horse being ridden for the first time. They still have questions. So either which way the horses are going to ask these different questions and then the more they understand the pattern, the more they see that pattern, the more likely they are to begin to help you out. Because when they can see these seven different steps of shortening the reins or whatever that number is, I’m just making up a number. But it’s not just like slack to correction. It’s–it’s not that quick when they–when they see that–that graduated pulling, when they see those different levels of–of it being used, that’s when they can see the pattern unfolding. And that’s when even though you might do 76 different times where you slide the slack out really slowly at some point, maybe that’s time number 77, 78, 79, I don’t know where it is for your horse, but what will happen is after they’ve tested out and realize that you’re being really consistent, then that’s when the magic happens, where they start seeing that you’ve been consistently going to whatever that end–end was, and then they’ll start to volunteer earlier. That’s a form of positive anticipation because they’re like, hey, I see this pattern. I know this pattern here. Let me try doing that a little bit earlier, just like when Colleen’s horse saw the lead change set up coming and was like, hey, this setup usually ends in a lead change. How about I try that? And it’s like, good job. Thank you for volunteering that.

Stacy Westfall: Now, this brings me to my next point, which is choices and patterns. Now, in the last example, with the reins, I was basically showing you the pattern that the reins can follow. So that’s removing slack, adding light pressure, adding slightly more pressure, releasing when the horse–listen to this–releasing when the horse either gives you that desired response. Let’s just say that stopping or it could be slowing down. Either–that horse either gives you the desired response and gets the reward or the horse does something closer to the desired response. So let’s say you’re trotting along and you’re bringing the slack out, and you–let’s say that there’s seven different stages to this–and you’re bringing the slack out and you notice that at stage four, your horse slows down. It’s a good idea to reward that. What that reward could be, that could be many things, but sometimes it’s a verbal thing. Good job. Sometimes it’s a, you know, a release of the–the polling pressure, although on a four and a seven, you might not even really be pulling that much. I like to think of it like my horse is going to be able to tell when I’m happy. And I think verbally saying good job can sometimes help with that. But basically, you want to have a positive response when they start to get warmer, like they’re getting closer to the right answer, like, yes, good job. And so this is how they start to be like, oh, OK, what was I doing there? I was slowing down. I was slowing down. OK, so what happens if you move really fast is they only get the end result of the pressure without that time to think. Now, what I want you to think about is not only do the individual aids have a pattern. So the rein of–the rein, pattern is the rein is removing the slack and then adding pressure. But different aids can be combined or stacked to create a pattern. So, for example, you could be trotting along, you could want your horse to slow down or stop. Let’s just say stop for this example. You’re riding along and let’s say that the rider decides they want to use a voice cue so they hum. And then they use their seat, so they–they shift their seat and then they gather up the reins, they start taking the slack out. Slack one, slack two, slack three, slack four. So what you can see here is that there are different aids being used in a pattern. First was the voice, then was the seat, then was the reins. So there are tons of combinations that exist when you look at it like this. The biggest thing here is that you have to repeat any of these patterns frequently enough that the horse can see the pattern. So a lot of times what I see is somebody, you know, reads an article, listens to a podcast, give something a try, and they do a pattern like let’s say that they hum and then they change their seat and then they move their reins and they do it like six times. And then they’re like, yep, that didn’t work for my horse. Well, it didn’t work for your horse because your horse needed it, you know, a lot more times to be able to see that pattern and for them to be able to get curious. Now, this jumps back to a previous podcast where I talked about horses learning how to learn. And it’s interesting because the more you use patterns to train your horse, the more that they understand that there are choices and patterns and rewards, and the way that you approach things is really methodical like this, they get really good at detecting the patterns. And so then it becomes really fun because the training gets faster and faster because the horse is seeking the pattern that you’re using. And that is what makes like for me, that’s what makes it super fun because I can start moving cues around really quickly because my horses are like, oh, it’s a game of warmer/colder. What’s she after today? So I just did a video inside of one of my group coaching calls and somebody asked a question and I was demonstrating by I put a rope around Willow’s leg, like down around her pastern and I was teaching how to lead the horse from the leg. And so I was picking up her leg and having her set it down to the front or having her set it down to the side or having her set it down to the back. And it was so funny to watch how quickly, even though she’s never done that before, she can transfer cues and concepts really fast because she assumes I’m trying to communicate with her and she assumes I’m going to be fair and steady and consistent so she doesn’t get panicked when the change comes. I wrap the rope around her leg and I pick up and I hold it. And it was so cute on that call because like I pick up and I hold it and she actually, like, puts her head down and she’s like sniffing the rope and sniffing her own ankle. And then she starts doing different things with her body, like slightly leaning back, slightly leaning forward. And when she’s slightly lean forward, I slightly soften the rope and then she’s like, oh, that’s the direction. So then she comes forward more. So it’s like once they figure out that you’re using patterns, then they can explore just a little bit inside of that and that’s what gives them the feeling of power that they’re a piece of the conversation. That’s how this whole super–so fun to feel like you’re having a conversation with the horse. That’s when that relationship really feels like it’s happening.

Stacy Westfall: So here’s a test for you. Does your horse think your legs only mean or mostly mean go forward? That’s what we’re testing for. So if you want to know your horse’s opinion of your legs and the how you use your leg aids, what you can do is you can stand still on your horse and with a reasonably loose rein, whatever that means to you, but you can still stay safe. What I want you to do is be standing there, slide your left leg back a couple of inches and press that left leg on and see if the horse will move the hip without moving the front end. Now, what happens typically at the beginning of this, if the horse doesn’t already know the answer, most horses are going to walk off when they feel any leg pressure. And that’s because early on they’re taught that legs being go forward, that’s what elementary school teaches horses. Legs mean go forward. And so at some point, if you want your horse to understand that it’s not only go forward when you use your legs, then what you need to do is you start teaching the horse that the legs have multiple things they could mean. So unless they’ve otherwise been told more horses are going to do, they’re going to walk off. Now, if the horse has kind of a 50/50 understanding of moving away from leg pressure versus just moving forward from leg pressure, then what you’ll get as you’ll move your leg back, you’ll–you’ll close it on the horse’s side and maybe the horse will move the hip a little bit and walk forward. So maybe it’s kind of a forward leg yielding side pass-y thing. Or maybe they just walk off, maybe they trot off, maybe they stand still and just move one step away from that leg. So it’s something as simple as this will begin to show you how much rein it’s taking for you to keep the horse from moving forward during that. So let’s just imagine this. I’m going to imagine that you’re asking this question about slowing your horses down. And I’m going to imagine that when you’re slowing the horse down, one of my questions would be when you use the rein aid to slow them down, do you remember to close your legs slightly into a little bit of a hug so that that horse is getting a little bit of leg added as you’re closing that rein, to slow them down? Because if you do that, then they won’t just think legs are always forward. They’ll be like, oh, the legs are also–the riders legs–are also involved in the slowing down. Interesting, right? Now, if you also take that horse and you teach them that they can stand still and do a turn on the forehand, then what happens is when you apply your leg, they’ll be like, interesting, I could move sideways or I could move forward. So as you add these layers, that’s what starts to cause the hunt, that hunting for that slowdown, then that would basically, for me, the beginning of that hunt of the slow down is actually the understanding that the legs aren’t always moving faster, faster. Now, this idea here that I’m about to tell you is like, I think super useful. So I think a very useful tool for teaching. To teach a horse that you want to teach to slow down is to teach them a cue using your legs that means back up. So I teach my horses a backup cue using my legs that so I can ride my horses forward and I can cue them with my legs and it means stop and back up. This is a huge piece of my bridleless training. And what this does is that my horses, as I keep going up through from elementary school into high school, into college, as they keep moving up, my horses learn that my legs can mean go forward. That’s what they learn in elementary school. Then they start meaning–understanding that my legs can also be used in combination when slowing down and in combination when going left and right. And then they start learning that the legs can mean actually back up. All by themselves they can mean back up. And then the horses start to understand that I can actually control the left and the right with the legs. Move your shoulders with my leg, move your hip with my leg. And as they understand all those different layers, that’s when their mind really gets engaged. Because when I close my leg, they don’t just automatically think, got to go. So this gives me a lot of freedom to move my body around and to shift and prepare for a lead change and prepare for a transition without my horse just going faster because a lot of times the horses that don’t understand your legs can be used for something else what they do is they–they sense any kind of movement and they just assume forward, unless you lightly have the brakes on, which back in elementary school the rider’s legs were the gas pedal and the rider’s hands were the brakes. What I’m saying is that as we move up through as we get into what I’m going to label, the messy middle, as we get up into that high school range, I start teaching that these legs, that my legs, the rider’s legs, can mean forward, they can mean back up, they can be left, right, hip, shoulders. And as I start to do that, the horses actually relax into the knowing that the legs aren’t always just faster, faster, forward. Interesting, right?

Stacy Westfall: Easiest test to test your horse’s thoughts on this is to just simply stand still, apply that leg, see if you can get that one step of the hip moving, and then, you know, if you really want to know, like, it’s like, yeah, you got one step, good. Can you get, you know, can you go a whole 360? Like, how solid is this? So that’s the dance. That’s what I would suggest, finding out your horse’s thoughts on your legs, because it makes sense that if they think every leg movement involves some amount of forward, it would make sense that as you reduce your rein, contact that your horse would be not necessarily thinking about slowing down. If they think the only slowdown cue involves the reins, you’re going to have trouble getting away from using the reins. So where I see most people really get a little confused with this concept is that when they have the goal of using less reins what they do accidentally, if they’re not real clear, is that they end up making less reins mean less clarity for the horse. Because think about it from the horse’s point of view. So the horse is, you know, trained in elementary school, the beginning of the riding that, you know, you’re going to steer and you’re going to stop from the reins and the legs and go forward. Now, when the rider starts being like, OK, I’ve been riding you for a while, I think you’re more advanced. I don’t want to have to use so much rein. So I start using less rein. The horse is just like, OK, ok, I guess it’s whatever I want. It’s a–it’s an optional choice. I can–I can do whatever I think here because if you don’t start moving those communication things–like let’s just say the reins–if you don’t start moving the communication you were using the reins for into different cues, then your horse feels a little bit lost. So for me, that’s primarily moving things into my legs and my seat. So I use less rein pressure, but I double the use of my legs and my seat. So that means for me that as I ride with that looser rein, that means I’m going to be more intentional about the use of my legs, more intentional about the use of my seat. And that might mean stacking the use of the reins with those. So maybe it means that I’m going to change my seat, change my leg, then use my rein, and then that horse will see that pattern of seat, leg, rein, and eventually, when the seat moves and the leg moves, the horse will give me the response before I even have to use the rein. Or sometimes that will mean that I go and I really get the horse to 100 percent understand my leg cues so that the horse understands Stacy’s legs are touching like this. And as they move to this and as they move to this so I can make my legs have many levels, just like the reins did of communication. And so the more my horse understands these aids and these systems and these patterns, the more dialed in they feel when I ride them. So the big thing to go back to is what I mentioned at the beginning when you start taking the slack out of your reins. What is your horse’s opinion of that? What is your horse’s thought on that? If your horse gets a little nervous as that slack comes out they’re giving you some kind of feedback about how they’re hoping to avoid what they’re taking as a correction. I actually want to be able to take the slack out of my reins or I want to be able to apply my leg and I want my horse to actually–I’m going to phrase it like this, which is a little bit too extreme, but I need to get you on the page–I want them to engage with it. I want them to be OK with that. I want them to be accepting of it. I want them–I want that feeling of this elastic contact because I don’t want them avoiding my hand when I apply the rein. I don’t want them avoiding my leg so that it feels like when I’m riding around if I don’t keep my legs braced away that my horse is going to overreact. I don’t want that. I want the horse to understand that when my aids close that when my rains close, they’re going to close with this–this elastic contact. When my legs close, they’re going to close with that kind of elastic feeling to where I’m going to guide them. So when they come into contact with them, it’s not a correction or a punishment. It will close, it will apply a pressure, and it will help bend and shape them. I love the thought that it’s like watching like a potter shaping clay on a potter’s wheel. It’s like–it’s like this shaping and molding. But it’s not this quick stabbing motion because that’s going to just destroy the clay. Like, I don’t want this feeling in my horse that they’re trying to get away from my aid. I want them to be excited about seeing the pattern that led to something, but I don’t want them avoiding my aids.

Stacy Westfall: So the final test for you, if you’re wanting to improve slowing your horses down at the trot and the lope is to actually answer this question: can you stop 100 percent of the time off a rein cue? That means you don’t change your legs, you don’t use your voice, you don’t change your seat. Can you just stop your horse simply off the rein cue? Then another test, can you stop your horse 100 percent off from a leg cue only? That means can you be trotting along and do you have a leg cue that you can use, that you can get your horse to stop 100 percent of the time off? Can you get your horse to stop 100 percent of the time off a seat cue only? No voice, no rein, just that seat cue? Can you stop the horse 100 percent of the time off a voice cue? Can you be riding along like a rag doll and can you say, whoa, and have your horse stop 100 percent off that voice cue? What this does if you teach your horse things like this, is that the more layers that you add of understanding, it makes your horse understand the patterns that it took to train that. If you can teach your horse to stop 100 percent off the voice, you had to see a pattern and recognize that pattern, because the voice cue can’t reinforce itself. Like the rein cue can kind of reinforce itself by adding pressure as you pull a little bit more. The voice cue can’t. So each one of these has something to offer so that you can learn more about how your horse is viewing this. But also see your horse can start to see the pattern that you’re using. That’s when you’ll be able to trot along and you’ll be able to slow your horse down because it won’t depend just on the rein, you can start to change your seat, you can start to change a leg, you can start to do these different things. And the horse won’t just be guessing the forward cues, which is probably what has been practicing more often than slowing or stopping off from these nontraditional cues, like a leg cue or a seat cue, or a voice cue. So as you get them smarter and they start to understand this, that’s when they start to get dialed in and all of those little nuance things that lead to the bridleless riding, that’s where they’re born. So when it feels like you’re constantly micromanaging them with your reins, what I want to suggest to you is that when you start to add these other layers, you’ll be able to use the reins less. But here’s an interesting thought. Will you consider it micromanagement when you’re slightly adjusting your seat, when you’re slightly adjusting your legs? I personally, when I’m riding my horses bridleless, that means that I am constantly in communication with my horse every step. Some people would take that as micromanagement. I think it feels like the horse is an extension of my body. So that means that I move my legs slightly almost all the time. But it’s so slight that it’s not that different than me moving my own body slightly when I’m moving myself around. So interesting. So those are some of the things that I want you to think about when you’re considering how to slow that horse’s trot and that lope. How many different ways do you have to ask that? And I do exaggerate it by taking it to the extreme of teaching it to teaching and–and tuning up that stop cue. So that then they’re anticipating that so that the that slowed down was a little bit stronger. That’s why I was kind of mixing and using the idea of stopping the horse or backing the horse up, because that’s what I do a lot of where I’m teaching that horse to like regulate its speed because it’s just a more clear example of the horse if I start taking the slack out and then that means that they’re going to transition all the way down to a stop and backing up, it makes them think a little bit more about those first. If that’s seven different levels, then they think a little bit more about having a response in those first three levels, not because I move fast, but because it goes to that more extreme of like all the way to the halt and then to a few steps back.

Stacy Westfall: As I wrap this up, this is a good time to just remind you that goals like this, teaching the horse to go slower at the trot or the lope and a relaxed but on a loose rein, using less rein. These are subjects that are a great fit for my monthly coaching course. It’s a course that you can join any time. And when you jump in there, I have a schedule of live weekly Zoom meetings that you will automatically be enrolled in. You can submit a video, I will review your video live, and I could give you advice on exactly what I would see you do with your reins, with your legs, and that’s how we can actually discuss this, and then you can go back and you can give that a try and you can make another video and you can come back to another Zoom call that fits your schedule and you can give feedback again. So for the price of what I used to charge for one single meeting, you’re getting weekly meetings and some weeks, multiple meetings in a week. So it’s something to consider. If you’ve got questions like this and you’re like, boy, I’d really like to have a video reviewed so I could understand exactly what I’m missing because I think I might be missing one little thing, because that’s what happens to a lot of riders. They eed these little tiny nuggets of like, right there. Do you see that one spot? That what you need to change? That’s what I love helping people do. Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you again in the next episode.

Announcer: If you enjoy listening to Stacy’s podcast, please visit stacywestfall.com For articles, videos, and tips to help you and your horse succeed.

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