The Emergency One-Rein Stop
1. I consider Jewel ready to leave the round pen when she can walk, trot and canter, steer left and right, stop and start and do what I call a "one-rein stop." Basically, it makes a horse stop herself by engaging her inside hind leg.
At the walk, I start by releasing the connection on the outside right rein, crossing the inside rein toward my outside hip and using a little inside left leg to activate Jewel's hind end.
2. We continue around in smaller...
3. ...and smaller circles, until...
4. ...Jewel has no alternative but to stop. As soon as she does, I soften my leg, release the pressure on the inside rein and pat her.
Once I can do this exercise in both directions at the walk, trot and canter, I know that I can take Jewel out to the arena and around the property. At all costs, I want to know that I can stop, because if I know, she knows. And when you think about it, it really doesn't matter what I know--what matters is what she knows!
Advanced-level eventer Wendy Wergeles starts young race- and sporthorses at Chris and Charlotte Wrather's Cottonwood Ranch in Los Alamos, Calif. She teaches at the El Capitan Equestrian Center in Santa Barbara, the Flintridge Riding Club in Pasadena, In the Irons Farm in Goleta and at various clinics around the western United States. As an "R" technical delegate and "r" eventing judge, she also organizes The Event Derby series in Southern California and produces Focus on Sport Horses, an event horse sales directory and website.
To read more about Wendy's system for getting on a horse for the first time, see the January 2009 issue of Practical Horseman.