Horsemanship: Riding the spook and the one reined stop

No place is horsemanship more important than in the first few rides on a colt. I was riding with some friends this last weekend and one was on a colt for only his fifth ride. We were reviewing the importance of the one rein stop. The one rein stop is an important horsemanship skill to prevent a full blown runaway. As important as it is to get a horse stopped safely it is also important to not shut down the horse’s need to move his feet.

Several of my mentors, such as Buck Brannamon and Tom Curtain, have spoken about sitting deep in the saddle and allowing the horse take the first few jumps and trusting him to stop when he realizes his life is not actually in jeopardy. They refer to this as riding the spook. If the horse is not able to regain his composure then you can raise one rein and use your leg to disengage the hindquarters to bring the horse to a stop. The one reined stop must be applied in timing with the horse’s footfalls so as not to  jerk him off balance when he is moving fast.

The one reined stop should be practiced often and at all gaits before the need for it arises so it will become a natural, instinctive move. If you know you always have the one reined stop available when you need it then you can ride the spook with confidence and not shut your horse horse down unnecessarily. If you horse feels you will let him move his feet when he needs to he will be more confident.

As luck would have it, not 15 minutes after our discussion our horsemanship was tested as there arose a major commotion in the bushes right next to our path. All 3 horses bolted to the left and we looked like synchronized swimmers as we each let our horses take a few jumps and then brought them around with well timed, one reined stops. As we all watched a single buzzard rise into the air we broke into laughter. Even the horses seemed to be chuckling.

Riding the spook applies to life as well. Jesus is our one reined stop when things get out of control.  The more we are in daily relationship with him the more we can ride out the spooks life hands out and be confident he will be there for us when things get out of control. For instance, the time I fell asleep at the wheel and found myself careening across lanes of traffic on 2 wheels. I called out to Jesus and felt my hands lifted off the steering wheel as it swung back and forth until the car came to a smooth stop facing the opposite way in the grassy medium of the highway. A prefect one reined stop. Madalyn

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10 thoughts on “Horsemanship: Riding the spook and the one reined stop

  1. business review

    There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man. Horses are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy… Many people just get on a horse ane ride and dont think about how they ride other then getting the horse to do what you want.

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    how does this tie in with your whole sensitize desensitize theory?Do you think this is important on both sides of the fence?It seems like teaching a colt to move its feet in response to bit pressure would be really helpful if you were looking to do something that required quick responses but might be kind of a drawback when the training goal is to create a horse for Misses Weekend Rider.Mugs says I started all of my youngsters the same. For that matter I expected every horse I rode to move in the direction I pointed them.It really isnt that technical. I point you go.The level of response from my horse increases as I ask for more and the horse is physically able to respond.

  3. Madalyn Ward, DVM Post author

    Very good point about having a well trained horse that is too sensitive for a beginner. I have found that some horse temperaments can handle a beginner rider better than others but even these do better when they are trained to be sensitive. I have a sensitive and very responsive TB/QH mare who is doing well with a beginner because she has the solid training in place and knows how to move her feet, without running off, if she gets worried.
    I feel the more things you can expose a horse to during the training the more they will learn to think and not over react. This also helps make the horse more safe to ride. If a horse is allowed to move his feet when he is first exposed to something scary he will learn to accept new things more easily. He will be more trusting if his survival skills are not taken away from him. Hope this helps tie in the two concepts of how to desensitize the horse and still allow him to move his feet and stay sensitive to the aids. Madalyn

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  5. Michael Carabini

    how does this tie in with your whole sensitize desensitize theory?Do you think this is important on both sides of the fence?It seems like teaching a colt to move its feet in response to bit pressure would be really helpful if you were looking to do something that required quick responses but might be kind of a drawback when the training goal is to create a horse for Misses Weekend Rider.Mugs says I started all of my youngsters the same. For that matter I expected every horse I rode to move in the direction I pointed them.It really isnt that technical.

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