The most important function in any horse back riding is ” Whoa! ” The initial training every horse needs to be taught and continually reinforced is stop. It’s common sense and the front line defense to a safe ride. If you can stop the horse, you can avoid nearly any accident from running in front of a semi truck to simply letting you dismount in an emergency. In breaking young horses, stop is the first thing we teach.
Whoa has to mean stop in every situation. A lot of times you see horses that stop in routine situations, but add a little excitement into the picture and ” whoa ” suddenly becomes ” go! ” That’s no fun!
We like to bring our horses to a complete stop and let them stand while we sit talking. Not only does it allow for comfortable coffee breaks, it teaches them to stand quietly with a rider. One of our practice drills from time to time is for one rider to sit as the others lope away. This is especially interesting if the horses leaving are headed towards the barn. A well-trained horse will stand quietly while everyone else runs away.
Another exercise involves the horse standing as another rider comes running past from behind. Unfortunately we have seen far to many trail rides with a hot shot wanting to show off by racing his horse past everyone else on the trail. Whoa let’s you watch the inconsiderate ding dong go flying by you uneventfully. The ability to keep your horse under control is really important for folks who haven’t ridden as much. Practice whoa regularly and frequently so your horse is ready to comply regardless of the circumstances.