Canadian horsemen Jeff and Jesse Beckley, a father-and-son duo share a reining-horse training barn at the family's Three Bars Guest Ranch near Cranbrook, British Columbia, which also supports a cattle operation. No matter what a horse's job with the outfit, he is trained for a reliable stop. Obviously, the reiners slide long distances, but ranch cow and guest horses are expected to be dependable in their stops, as well.
Here are four more Beckley tips for improving your horse's stop.
You don't understand the value of repetition.
Problem: You don't know why consistent repetition is so important when you schooling your horse to stop.
Jeff's perspective: "A horse is a creature of habit and must be conditioned so, when I say whoa, he stops. Then I do that ten thousand times slowly. But when I step up the pace, my horse will slam on his brakes.
The Beckley approach: "With any maneuver, not just the stop, slow down and go over the basics time and again. The more you do, the more relaxed in your work you and your horse will be, and the more dependably he'll stop."
Your horse doesn't stop well from a slow lope.
The problem: No matter what you do, you can't count on your horse to stop when he's loping. You hesitate to try a hand-gallop, let alone real speed.
Jeff's perspective: "Speed magnifies everything. Every time you increase your horse's speed, you increase the level of difficulty in getting the desired response."
The Beckley approach: "If you don't get the response you want at a lope, go to the trot. If you can't get it at a trot, go to a walk. Slow down until the response you do want is firmly in your horse's mind. Later you can gradually add speed. "
You're not sure if you have "fast hands."
Problem: You've heard about riders having fast hands, but don't know what that means or if you have fast hands, or not.
Jesse's perspective: "About 99 percent of the people have fast hands-even though they think their hands move the reins slowly. With fast hands, a horse often gets snatched to a stop. Nothing stiffens a stop like jerking on the reins because the horse must stiffen to protect himself.
The Beckley approach: "Use your hands much like you say the word [whoa] when you stop-slow and easy. If you say the word really slowly, you are less likely to jerk your horse's mouth than if you snap out whoa with force. And he's less likely to stiffen up expecting that jerk.
You're not confidant in the schooling you've done.
The problem: You have worked slowly and methodically to retool your horse's stop, but you are not absolutely sure he's learned the lesson.
Jesse's perspective: "Once you think your horse is giving you what you want, test him and your training. Unless you keep pushing yourself and your horse, he won't get any more broke or trained."
The Beckley approach: "Test him. Get out of your usual routine and see how well he stops, or ride him somewhere else, not where you normally do. If he stops, that's good. If he doesn't respond as well as you'd like, go back through the basics with him. But keep testing him."
Contact Jeff and Jesse Beckley at Three Bars Ranch by telephoning 877-426-5230 or 250-426-5230. Or visit beckleyreining.com or threebarsranch.com.