Teaching your horse to halt

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Whether on foot or riding, there are times that you need your horse to stand completely still, not least for safety reasons. However, halting a horse is something that many riders find difficult, either because the horse is still young or too experienced.

Who hasn't put their foot in the stirrup and found that the horse just can't keep still or shies away from the mounting block?

Our technical partner, Benjamin Aillaud, gives you his tips for teaching your horse to halt and, in particular, to stay still in every situation.

Session steps

You need to practice halting your horse both on foot and when riding. The best thing is to start on foot so that you can properly set out the rules between you and your horse. It is a good way of introducing your horse to the mounting block while everyone is calm and relaxed.

The halting exercise involves two steps: the horse stops moving forwards, then remains still as long as you do not ask it to do anything else. The key to halting correctly is a calm horse that is comfortable standing still and does not try to bolt.

Always be clear and precise in your instructions so that your horse understands what you want it to do. Always remember that if your horse does not do an exercise correctly, it is often because it doesn't understand what is being asked of it.

On foot

Start by practising on foot. Your horse needs to understand when it should follow you, and when it should stand still. It should be listening to you. Start this exercise with the "follow me" lesson [redirect link] which will give you a good working basis. Once your horse is following you everywhere, it should generally stop if you also stop. 

To make your horse stays still when you move next to it, establish physical contact by touching its head, and then approach it. Move towards its shoulders while staying close to it, as if you were going to mount it. It should stay still without you needing to hold it. Give it a treat. You should be able to do this exercise on both sides of your horse.

If your horse moves, get it to walk forwards again by increasing the distance between the two of you so that it follows you, and then get it to stop again. Re-establish contact by touching it while you move alongside it, starting with the head, then the neck and shoulders, until you are in the right position to put your foot in the stirrup.

When riding

If your horse is good at standing still when you're walking, you can move on to the mounted exercise. Riding means using the mounting block, so you will be able to use what you have practised on foot. Work through the previous exercise until you are standing next to the saddle. If your horse hasn't moved, give it a treat and then get yourself in the right position to mount it. Your horse should be calm and relaxed, so that it doesn't want to move to get more comfortable.

Start by gently adjusting your reins without pulling on them, and climb into the saddle. If you are having trouble with a horse that shies away from the mounting block, it might be because your reins are too tight. Normally your horse shouldn't need to be held if it has done the exercise correctly. You can therefore now mount and dismount from your horse whenever you want without it moving. If you are feeling a bit more daring, you could try to do this from the right-hand side. Stay alert just in case your horse is surprised by the change in routine.

If your horse moves while standing at the mounting block, check that you are not touching its croup with your leg or that your reins are not too tight. Dismount and start the exercise again by standing in front of your horse and calmly asking it to stay still. This could take a long time if your horse has never really been introduced to a mounting block. Try to stay patient and relaxed. Your horse needs to understand that it will be more comfortable if it stays still.

Once your horse has got used to the exercise and is good at standing still, you can then take things further with additional exercises. Get your horse to bend its neck one way and then the other, and remember to slacken your outside rein. Your horse should move its head without moving its feet.

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