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Advice on getting a consistent halt/a.ka. whoa means WHOA!

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  • Advice on getting a consistent halt/a.ka. whoa means WHOA!

    I am currently re-training a 10 yr old OTTB gelding (I've posted about him before). He is sold w-t, doing trot poles, starting to canter both directions.

    I have been working with him on installing good brakes. He is naturally behind the leg and lazy so teaching him to halt has not been too much of a problem; we practice walk-halt and trot-halt transitions frequently under saddle and also on the ground.

    The problem? Every 4 or 5 rides, he will randomly decide that he doesn't want to stop. He never runs away with me or bolts; he just opens his mouth and raises his head to evade the bit and keeps walking through the aids. I have been trying to teach him to halt using a deep seat and using the reins as a backup; however, in these instances where he doesn't listen, I end up having to run him into the wall or see-saw his mouth to get a response.

    If he was, say, refusing to take an upward transition and ignoring my aids, I would use a stick to get the "move forward NOW" message across. But what do you do for downward transitions? Using a stick seems counterproductive.

    I want him to know what whoa means WHOA, immediately. Am I doing something wrong here, or is this just a greenie thing?

    Advice appreciated. Thanks!

  • #2
    It sounds like the horse is intelligent and has figured out that if he lifts his head, he can evade the bit.

    THe first step I would take is have his teeth checked. It's possible that he has a sore tooth and every few rides, you happen to hit it just right, causing pain and the giraffe reaction.

    If that checks out, there are a lot of things you can try, and a lot of combinations. You can try a standing martingale, encouraging him to keep his head out of giraffe posture. You could also add a flash noseband, keeping his mouth closed, so he has less room to evade. (just be careful, some horses get panicked when they realize they can't open their mouth. Use it very very loose for the first few rides, gradually tightening to where it should be)

    You could also ride in draw reins. Keep them loose (same as your snaffle reins) and only use them if he tries to evade the pressure.)

    I have found in working with OTTB's, sometimes the easiest is to put them in a pelham for a little bit. I use a rubber pelham. When they evade the bit, it adds extra pole pressure. In essence, they can't get away from your aid. I have done this with the last 5 I worked right off the track, and within 2 weeks, they stopped even trying. I put them back in their snaffles, and never had another incident.

    So those are all some options for you, or any combination. Good luck!
    Strong promoter of READING the entire post before responding.

    Comment


    • #3
      I had a Western trainer tell me we over use the word "whoa" so much our horses don't hear it. Think about when you ride--do you say it a lot or only once & when you mean/need it?
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      • Original Poster

        #4
        FindersKeepers--he is getting his teeth checked next week, and getting a chiro session as well, just in case he's out somewhere. I have thought about introducing a standing martingale already because he sticks his head in the air when I ride outside--maybe I will just go ahead and do it.

        Giddyup--I try to be very conscious of when & how I use "whoa." I use it consistently on the ground and under-saddle when I am asking him to stop. When I want him to slow down I say "easy." On the ground, when I say "whoa" he slams on the brakes 99% of the time.

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        • #5
          One rein halt. Do it EVERYTIME he does not respond properly and he WILL begin halting
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          • #6
            I second the one rein halt idea.

            Introduce it at the halt, asking him to bend his head to either direction all the way to your foot. Then ask at the walk, then trot, etc. This is truly an invaluable tool for horse who like to evade the bit.

            Good Luck!

            Comment


            • #7
              If your horse is lifting his head, do get the teeth checked.

              Go back to basics. Ground work and teach the word "Whoa." Some horses really don't associate the word with stopping. Instead they just associate it when you rein back. If his teeth hurt, he is avoiding the bit.

              Once a horse really knows the word "whoa" he should stop. Ours do that sliding QH stop. We have to teach them "easy" and then "whoa" if we want them to stop without sliding to a stop.

              To me, it sounds like he really doesn't know the voice command without the rein back. Teach it first on the ground.

              Some horses take a long time to learn voice commands. Others learn them very well. We have one horse who knows about 30 words. Some horses are good, but their vocabulary is limited.

              Comment


              • #8
                Not sure how long you've been working with this guy, so just a few things I've seen very recently that would have been helpful if I'd known a long time ago...

                Unless someone has taught him differently since he left the track, gradually slowing to a walk -- with or without his head in the air -- is exactly what your OTTB understands "whoa" to mean. You might be the first person to ever ask him to come back to a complete halt from the canter.

                You and he may not currently agree on the definition of whoa, but a pulley rein should be common ground. He probably at least knows that you expect an appreciable slowing down when you plant one hand on his neck and rip with the other. Tugging with both reins, again, probably doesn't mean the same thing to you that it does to him.

                As for the head in the air, I wouldn't put a martingale on him if you already know he's behind your leg. When he understands how to go forward from your leg and come back from your hand, he'll probably drop down naturally. If you feel like you need a martingale to avoid some sudden cosmetic surgery, a running piece is more similar to equipment your horse is already familiar with.
                "I never panic when I get lost. I just change where I want to go."
                -Rita Rudner

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Great advice everyone--thank you so much.

                  actcasual--great point about "whoa" having different definitions for him & I.

                  I don't know why I didn't think of the one-rein halt. I spent TONS of time teaching it & using it with my mare when I was drinking the Parelli KoolAid--they are big on the one-rein stop. I guess in my effort to leave the Parelli cult, I blocked out anything useful I learned from them.

                  For the poster who asked--he's been under saddle consistently for about 8 weeks now.

                  I will put all of your ideas into play and let you know how it goes. Like I said, he does not bolt/run off with me--but I don't want it to escalate to that point. Time to nip this in the bud.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    If he is just barrelling through your aids at the walk, feet on the dashboard, pull as hard as you have to, and back up.

                    Also, make sure you ask with your seat first and expect him to respond to THAT, rather than relying on the bit.

                    School him (and every horse) to downward transition from seat, by asking first with seat, and then going to bit, halt, and back-up politely if he barrels through your seat.

                    Ideally you should feel that you can halt without involving your reins at all.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by shawneeAcres View Post
                      One rein halt. Do it EVERYTIME he does not respond properly and he WILL begin halting
                      Exactly.

                      Please don't use draw reins for installing whoa. Draw reins are NOT a tool for making a horse stop. The are to help with lateral flexion. I'm not completely anti-draw reins but I've seen too many horses "broken" by people who don't use them correctly.

                      Putting draw reins on a horse to install whoa most likely (unless you are a very skilled trainer) teach them to go behind the bit. The person who owned my trakehner before I did used draw reins -- the result was a horse that wouldn't come into a steady contact and who learned to rear. That was a success, huh?

                      If your horse is raising his head, much better to use a running martingale or, if they invert like a giraffe, a standing martingale. These are "self correcting" tools that release without depending on the rider to do so. Many people never release with draw reins.

                      I always teach OTTBs a one rein stop. It's also a good tool to use when they get distracted or jig, etc. as it helps them focus.
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                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                        If he is just barrelling through your aids at the walk, feet on the dashboard, pull as hard as you have to, and back up.

                        Also, make sure you ask with your seat first and expect him to respond to THAT, rather than relying on the bit.

                        School him (and every horse) to downward transition from seat, by asking first with seat, and then going to bit, halt, and back-up politely if he barrels through your seat.

                        Ideally you should feel that you can halt without involving your reins at all.
                        This is what I'm looking for--a halt off of my seat only. My mare did it great; him, not so much.

                        We have not acheived the back-up under saddle yet--could this be part of the problem? He will do it on the ground, but when asked undersaddle I get a gaping mouth, some head-yanking and sometimes he will walk forward.

                        In this video, you can see an example of one of his GOOD halts--it's at about :46. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9E4ADWpKqQ0 So it's not like he is clueless about it.....sometimes he'll do it, sometimes he won't. Then again, that could also be an indicator of how I'm asking for the halt.

                        Again, just to reiterate, his teeth ARE getting checked next week....I do realize that bad teeth could be part of the problem.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Looking at your video, he seems like a sweet guy with a willing attitude!! I expected to see an inverted giraffe, didn't see that at all. My guy will raise the head and run through the aids when I am too handsy. Focus on moving forward into steady light contact, and don't worry where his head is right now. Use more seat and leg for the downward transition, and less hand backed up with "whoa".

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Here's what worked for us. Walk along the rail, ask for whoa. If he doesn't stop, one rein stop toward fence, then about face QUICKLY, and walk briskly forward few steps. Ask again...if he doesn't stop, ORS toward fence, about face. If he does listen and stop nicely, lots of pats and "good boys" and give him a rest to think about it.

                            I do think this exercise works better at the trot. Trot few strides along rail, ask for "ho". If he doesn't stop immediately ORS, turn him around and trot off or canter off BRISKLY. Hustle his feet. If he has trouble doing it shorten the distance....just a few strides...ask for "ho", if no ho, ORS, about face and trot other way. The key is to move and hustle him QUICKLY. In other words, if he ignores your halt request, he turns around and gets moving. Before you know it, he'll rate back to you and anticipate your halt. Make sure your signals are clear. When we halt we do a big exhale, halt with seat. When my horse is at his sharpest, all I have to do is exhale and start asking with my seat and he knows what I want.

                            The above worked beautifully for us. Good luck!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by meupatdoes View Post
                              If he is just barrelling through your aids at the walk, feet on the dashboard, pull as hard as you have to, and back up.

                              Also, make sure you ask with your seat first and expect him to respond to THAT, rather than relying on the bit.

                              School him (and every horse) to downward transition from seat, by asking first with seat, and then going to bit, halt, and back-up politely if he barrels through your seat.

                              Ideally you should feel that you can halt without involving your reins at all.
                              Yep, this.

                              It doesn't have to be pretty at first (and it won't be), but haul that sucker to a stop in a way he won't forget. Then immediately give him the opportunity to respond to the lighter cue again. It is just like the leg>whip scenario you mentioned earlier, but in reverse.

                              Since he's ignoring your light aids intermittently (as in: he knows what you want but chooses not to comply immediately), you will have to crank the volume up to eleven a few times to make him realize he enjoyed the music much more when it was quiet. It shouldn't take more than a few sessions to tune him up.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                Small update:

                                I did some "whoa" work on the ground last night and several of you were right--he is not responding to the "whoa" so much as just stopping when I stop. Will work on that.

                                Also--tried out a different bit last night. Myler D-ring with copper inlays, roller and very low port. He has a small mouth so I thought maybe he'd like something with no joints.

                                He wasn't particularly fond of it, but man, did it give me better brakes! He was WAY more responsive at the halt with this bit. Obviously I don't want to just ride off my hand, so will not use this bit all the time, but I think it will be very helpful as a "tune up" bit. He did not ignore me once during the whole ride.

                                Thanks again for all of the advice!

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  No time to read the whole thread, but I make a habit of immediately backing a couple steps every single time time I ask for a halt on a young or retraining horse. There is no rein slack from asking for halt to back up. They get slack when they back, and I just hold hard on their face until they do, maybe even slap their shoulders with the sides of both my legs (carefully) if they are stuck in the halt.

                                  The reining trainer where I sent my colts for the first 60-90 days longes with a rawhide bosal and gets a 'freeze' stop upon saying whoa. That carries over when ridden. I use a lariat war bridle over a halter - two longe lines in my hands - at home to get the same instant response, especially with big strong horses that can pull me around like a kite.
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                                  • #18
                                    I think you are asking too much too soon. He's been back US for 8 weeks
                                    downward transitions done correctly, with horse yielding and round takes massive amounts of athleticism. My horse was the same way for the longest, and i'll say if you lose your temper once and insists nastily, you'll set him back 6 months in giving you what you want. TB's are different.
                                    Work on getting him to keep his carriage while you ask for him to take shorter and shorter steps. If he shortens his stride even an inch when you ask, reward and praise praise praise!
                                    If you have a small hill they are great for developing the right muscles for a proper transition. Do serpentines on a 15m line up 15m line down and adjust his gait frequently. ask for halts on the turns to start, that way you have his hind under your command.
                                    When he lifts his head and gapes his mouth, keep light pressure but raise your hands to meet his new height. Remain calm. the new objective is not the halt but to get his head to come down. he has to learn that is not a way to escape. when he puts his head down give a little release, let him move forward a few steps and try again. take your time, and take things slow.
                                    he doesnt want to stop ugly either, give him a chance.
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                                    • Original Poster

                                      #19
                                      Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                                      I think you are asking too much too soon. He's been back US for 8 weeks
                                      downward transitions done correctly, with horse yielding and round takes massive amounts of athleticism. My horse was the same way for the longest, and i'll say if you lose your temper once and insists nastily, you'll set him back 6 months in giving you what you want. TB's are different.
                                      Work on getting him to keep his carriage while you ask for him to take shorter and shorter steps. If he shortens his stride even an inch when you ask, reward and praise praise praise!
                                      If you have a small hill they are great for developing the right muscles for a proper transition. Do serpentines on a 15m line up 15m line down and adjust his gait frequently. ask for halts on the turns to start, that way you have his hind under your command.
                                      When he lifts his head and gapes his mouth, keep light pressure but raise your hands to meet his new height. Remain calm. the new objective is not the halt but to get his head to come down. he has to learn that is not a way to escape. when he puts his head down give a little release, let him move forward a few steps and try again. take your time, and take things slow.
                                      he doesnt want to stop ugly either, give him a chance.
                                      Thanks for the feedback. I am not asking him for downward transitions in which he comes forward into the bridle and stops square and round. I am asking him to listen to me when I tell him to stop.

                                      Any horse, OTTB or no, would have w-t-c and WHOA installed after 30 days with a decent trainer.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by LuvMyTB View Post
                                        Thanks for the feedback. I am not asking him for downward transitions in which he comes forward into the bridle and stops square and round. I am asking him to listen to me when I tell him to stop.

                                        Any horse, OTTB or no, would have w-t-c and WHOA installed after 30 days with a decent trainer.
                                        I agree.

                                        In my experience, it is MUCH easier to get roundness in downward transitions when you don't need to use your reins to get the transition. That happens when the horse obeys your seat. And that only happens after you have reinforced the concept that your seat must be obeyed.

                                        TBs are no different in that respect.

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