How Safe is the One-Rein Stop?

Montana clinician Curt Pate's cavalry-style alternative balances horse and rider so that both gain confidence.


I've been hesitant to even talk about how safe the one-rein stop is because it's such a popular maneuver and natural horsemanship selling point for safety," Helena, Montana, clinician Curt Pate admits. "And I've even talked about the one-rein stop at horse fairs myself, but I've never really felt comfortable doing it.

"Instead, I now use an old cavalry trick I learned to check a horse, and I think it's a lot safer alternative."

The conventional one-rein stop is the safety net for many riders. When things seem out of control, the rider pulls his horse's head around, either right or left, to disengage the hindquarters and, in effect, stop the engine that's propelling the horse forward.

"It seems a perfect solution, but it's not," Curt adds. "The way a horse is positioned for the one-rein stop, once he loses his balance he can't regain it. Since I've started talking about safety and this stop, four people have thanked me - all four had broken their necks while practicing the one-rein stop or using it in a bad situation."

During the interview for this article, Curt was surprised when Lindsey Frick, who worked with the trainer last summer, added another name to that list.

"Make that five," says the Pflugerville, Texas, horsewoman, who is a member of the Texas Tech University equestrian team. "A horse I was riding in Texas spooked, and my instinct was to grab one rein and pull. But that didn't work. The horse lost his balance, and I hurt the C7 vertebra in my neck.

"It happened really fast. Now I try not to do one-rein stops."

Following is why Curt thinks the alternative cavalry maneuver is a safer and more effective option, as well as being beneficial from both the horse's and the rider's perspectives.

For the rest of this story, pick up the Janaury 2007 issue of Western Horseman.