Chapter 14 : Teaching Your Horse Longer Sliding Stops

Once your horse is consistently stopping in one stride and sliding a couple of feet when you say, “whoa”, you can begin to teach him to do a longer sliding stop.  Before you start this training make sure your horse is good at the short sliding stops, so that you will have a foundation to build on.

The length of your horse’s slide is established by several factors.  They are as follows:

  • The horse’s natural ability and aptitude for stopping
  • The type of ground you are riding on
  • The horse’s shoes
  • The rate of speed the horse is going into the stop
  • The manner the rider cues the horse to stop, rein work and posture

Each one of the above factors effects your horse’s slide.

It is important to understand almost any horse the ability to perform a little two-footed slide on good ground.  Not every horse is able to learn to slide fifteen or twenty feet.  For you to accomplish this, the horse must have both the ability and the desire to learn to stop and slide.

Trying to train a horse to make a long sliding stop that isn’t so inclined to making that kind of stop will have the end results of your training sessions becoming harsh and unpleasant for both of you.  Your horse could end up being frightened of you and it still won’t stop well on a consistent basis.  So it’s important to make sure that your horse wants to become a long-slide stopper

So how will you be able to tell if he wants to learn? If stopping while at a trot or a slow lope was easy for him to learn, there is a good chance you will be able to train him to become a long-slide stopper.  This is assuming you have advanced the stop gradually and your horse has the physical strength to hold a hard stop.

On the other hand, if you have had a difficult time training your horse to stop at a trot or slow lope, it’s not worth trying to teach him to advance the stop.  He will resist the training and both of you will end up frustrated.

The ground is another factor that affects how well the horse can slide.  Long slides just won’t happen on the wrong kind of ground.  Good sliding ground is ground that consists of a hard, smooth packed base with two to three inches of loose dirt on top.   This gives your horse the advantage of a solid base to slide on, which will stop him from digging in his hooves too deep and shortening his slide.  It must be smooth or your horse’s feet might catch in a rut.  This could shorten the slide or injure your horse.

The loose, fluffy dirt on top of the base will soften the impact of the feet hitting the hard base.  Without this cushion your horse can get sore.  The loose dirt is easy for your horse to plough through while sliding.  If the top layer is too deep or heavy, your horse won’t be able to slide far.  He will also need outstanding strength to hold a slide in deep, heavy dirt.

You can improve your sliding ground by adding rice hulls or shavings to it.  This will make the top layer a lot more light and fluffy.

The shoes your horse is shod with will also have an impact on his ability to slide.  You must use sliding shoes made of tempered, flat bar iron.  They are about one inch to an inch and a half wide.  The wider they are, the less friction they have on the ground and the longer the slide.

The nails of the horseshoe are counter sunk, so that they are flush with the shoe.  This helps to reduce friction.  The front quarter inch of the shoe is curved upward a lot like the beginning end of a snow ski.  This will prevent the horse’s toes from jamming or catching on the ground while they are sliding.  The shoe’s quarters should come almost straight back from the curve of the toe, which will allow dirt to flow easily out the back.

The trailers of the shoe should not extend back to, but not past, the bulbs of the foot.  You need to trim the hind feet with a slightly longer toes and lower h eel than usual.   You are doing this to create more surface area on the hooves and increase the potential of the slide.  It also reduces the danger of the horse catching his toe in the dirt, which will send him knuckling in the dirt and injuring himself.  These slight changes are good, but don’t make the mistake of thinking MORE is better.  Trimming the heels too high will cause the horse to knuckle over and pull a tendon while trying to stop.  Trimming the heels too low you will run the risk that he will strain a hamstring.

The build of your horse is also important.  The horses with the greater advantage for sliding have straight hind legs and feet that point straight ahead.  Their feet are able to stay together during a slide. However when the horse’s back feet toe out will begin to spread as the horse goes into a slide and the longer the slide the farther out the hind legs will spread.  He will have to come out of the slide to bring his feet back together.

If a horse has this problem the horse will make V shaped slide tracks.  The horse’s owner can correct this just by slightly turning the horseshoe so it points straight ahead.  It can also help to rock the toe just a little toward the inside of the foot.

The speed your horse is running when it goes into the stop is a most important factor in determining the length of the slide.  For example, if you want your horse to do a sliding stop the length of the arena floor, you will start at a slow speed and gradually build up speed, a little with each stride, until you ask for the stop.

You must ask for the stop during the horse’s acceleration. During the acceleration, your horse’s shoulders will be more elevated and his back feet will reach further beneath him.  Both of these things are necessary fundamentals for a good long slide.

Make sure you carefully time his acceleration.  You don’t want the horse to be moving too fast when you ask for the stop.  If he is going too fast he may ignore the signal to stop.   A horse’s instinct will let the horse know how fast they can run and still attempt a stop.  By making him run faster, he will concentrate more on the running and forget about the upcoming stop.  He might not have the strength to hold a hard stop over a certain speed and in essence he won’t try it.  Plenty of practice and experimenting will help you to find your horse’s optimum running speed for a long stop.

Remember; don’t ask your horse to hard stop from his top-speed to often.  He will sour if you do.  Always remember to use skid boots to protect his fetlocks during the skid.

Having your horse accelerate too quickly, then begin to slow as you near the stop; you will usually have a disappointing slide.  The horse is decelerating when you ask for the stop, so there is no need to do it twice.

You must ask your horse for a stop while the horse is running on a straightaway, never during a turn or curving.  The horse’s body should also be aligned straight as if an imaginary line were drawn from the tip of his nose to the end of his tail when you ask for a stop.  If your horse is even slightly crooked when you ask him to stop, he will not be in balance during the stop, which can be dangerous for both of you.  To ensure a straight stop, make sure he’s running a straight path down the arena, not veering or zigzagging.

The method used by the rider to cue the stop is critical. The reins must be used correctly, have perfect timing, and great posture to enable your horse to slide a long distance. It is just as important to know what not to do as it is to the correct method to use.

Pulling harder on the reins will produce a shorter slide, instead of a longer one.  The reason is because the hard pull makes your horse spread his hind legs too far and jam his feet too deeply into the ground to slide that far.  A horse needs the use of his head and neck for balance in a long slide, and he won’t have that if the rider is yanking on the reins.

There are three techniques you can try to do this correctly.  You may need to try all three, but then the first one may work.  Each horse responses differently which is the reason for the three different techniques.  It will be your task to find the technique that works the best for you and your horse.

When stopping your horse for a slide, the best way is to keep slack in the reins and say, “Whoa!”  This signals your horse slide as long as possible, because the rider is not interfering with him.  Just remember to use light pressure, do not pull.   Without the distraction of the reins being pulled, he can slide as far as he wants.  For this method to be effective, your horse has to want to stop and enjoys the slide. The average horse will more likely than not stop this way consistently.

Another method is to say; “Whoa!” while applying light pressure on the reins, then let your horse slide with no more interference from you.  You must use light pressure do not pull.  By applying a pound or two of pressure and setting your hand solid, without pulling or allowing slack in the reins, will allow your horse to slide as far as he can.

This last technique will usually work on the majority of horses.  When you ask for the stop, say, “Whoa!” , wait just a split second, then apply rein pressure, set your  hand, and allow slack in the reins, but only an inch or two, not too much.   Almost immediately the horse will go into the stop. The horse will continue to slide with the reins slack.

Set your hand again, if you feel your horse start to release the stop and then again slack the reins once more.  This set, slack maneuver repeats throughout the entire slide until the horse has come to a complete stop.

 The whole whoa-set-slack technique seems to work well because after giving the verbal cue, waiting just a split second gives the horse a chance to enter the slide on his own.  His hooves enter the ground more smoothly than they would if he was startled by the “whoa” and rein pressure at the same time.

When the horse’s hooves are set and sliding, the short pressure with the reins will remind him to stay in the slide. Immediately slacking the reins, allows the horse to slide as far as he wants.  If you were to keep constant pressure, this would cause the horse’s hooves to dig into deep and prematurely end the slide.  It can also cause the horse to become rigid and pull.

If the horse tries to stop the slide the quick set-slack reminds him to remain in the slide.  Do not set the reins again unless you feel the horse has begun to come out of the slide.  Considering a long slide only takes a few seconds, this set-slack also happens very rapidly.  The rider must pay attention to the feel of the horse to get this one right.

One last key element the rider must do to cue the stop is to relax his body.  You will use your body to generate energy and help the hose accelerate forward as you ride.  When you ask for the stop, your must also stop.  To be more specific, you must sit down, stop the movements of riding and relax in the saddle with your back, shoulders and thighs limp.

As your body relaxes, it is a stopping cue your horse will instantly recognize and respond to.  Timing is an important key.  Keep riding until you cue that stop, or your horse will recognize the change in body language and will stop too early.  This can ruin the slide.

The posture of your body is very important in getting the best possible slide from your horse.  It will take practice.  You and your horse will not be doing any lengthy slide overnight.  Just remember to concentrate and keep practicing.  You both will have it together sooner or later.

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