2.Change it up “When working on a whoa, I change directions
after I stop,” says Bourbannais. “It helps disengage the
horse and gets him to shift his weight back.” Riders
often use backing as negative reinforcement when
the horse fails to stop crisply, so Bourbannais suggests
using direction changes instead.
3.Give your horse a job Patterns are great exercises for the rider and horse
because it gives you both a job. Focus on your body
position and consistency when asking for a whoa.
Repeat your transition a few times in a row so your
horse can comprehend the exercise, and allow him
time to stand and process what you are teaching. You
should also practice precise placement of your stop,
whether that is stopping with the horse’s nose, hip or
shoulder to cone, or your leg even with the cone. Make
sure you give your horse enough time to respond,
though. Don’t wait until you are on top of the cone to
ask for a stop.
4.Try something new A fun way for your horse to practice natural
stopping reactions is to have him work cattle.
Bourbannais says the sport excites horses because it
gives them a purpose for all the foundation exercises
they train through. If you’re not comfortable being
around cattle, start with a partner-mirroring activity.
Have one partner and her horse be the cow. Follow the
partner pair, stop when they stop, and back a step and
rollback when they change directions. Then mirror
them along the other direction. The horse will be
intrigued by having something to follow.
Troubleshooting saddle work:
“People don’t want to hear it, but a lot of the time [a
bad whoa is] rider error,” Bourbannais says. “They’re
not sitting, they’re pulling too hard, and their spur is in
their horse giving a forward cue at the same time they
are pulling on the horse’s face.”
A good way to check yourself is to have someone
video your ride. Pay attention to when you ask for a
whoa verbally and how you ask with your seat, legs,
hands and timing. If your balance is an issue, work
on developing your seat by having someone longe
you. You can also practice cues and timing by riding a
Make the firm decision to stop letting your horse
walk all over you. Stop denying that you might be the
problem. Ask for help if you need it. And start getting a
great whoa! HI
A freelance writer from Woodstock, Ill., LISA KUCHARSKI
enjoys recreational trail riding and competing in open shows.