How to Halt a Horse

Two Methods:Halting while MountedHalting from the Ground

"Before you go, learn how to stop." Halting a horse is the first, fundamental lesson in horse riding. Learn this before you ever get on a horse, so you can stay in control and lower the chance of accidents.

Method 1
Halting while Mounted

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    Sit deep in the the saddle. Most beginners forget that your position in the saddle is the first tool for halting a horse. Shift to sit deeply in the saddle, with your whole body weight pushed down onto your heels. Pretend you're trying to push your butt onto the ground right through your horse. This ensures that the horse feels the communication from your "seat," or the pelvic bones against the saddle.
    • You may feel the need to lean back. Resist this urge, as it can unbalance you and the horse. Only lean back enough to shift your weight.
    • Tighten your abdominal muscles as well; your horse will feel this tension.
    • This becomes more effective with practice. As you learn to allow your seat to move with the horse's pace, the horse will become more responsive to your cues.
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    Give a verbal command. Say "whoa," "ho," or "halt," depending on which command your horse has learned. Speak in a slow, calm voice, audible but not loud. Do not yell or speak quickly.
    • You may do this at the same time you shift your weight.
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    Gently pull back on the reins. Pull straight back toward your belly button or hips, without much pressure. In English riding, use very light half halts. In Western riding, if you have a two handed bit, pull each side separately. If you have a one-hand bit, pull that back.
    • An experienced horse should not need much force on the reins. If the horse refuses to listen, continue to pull until it does. A novice rider should always ride an experienced, well-behaved horse.
    • If the reins are too long to pull taut, the horse cannot feel your cues. Having short reins will ensure that the message is recieved.
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    Troubleshoot. If you still have trouble establishing a halt, check for these common issues:
    • Ensure your legs are not squeezing the horse.
    • Keep your shoulders back.
    • Do not lift your hands up when halting. Keep them at the same height as they were when you were going forward. If the hands are raised, the horse may not understand your cue.
    • A horse wearing a strong bit, such as a three ring gag or a curb bit, will be more sensitive to the reins. Use a softer touch so you do not injure the horses mouth. Beginners should stick to mild snaffle bits.
    • Untrained horses may require a stronger hold on the reins. Beginners should stick to well-trained horses.
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    Come to a stop. As soon as the horse comes to a complete stop, hold for one second, then return to your normal seat position. If you hold for too long your horse may back up and become confused and annoyed.
    • If the horse is untrained, release the reins as soon as it stops to reward the behavior.
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    Learn an emergency stop. Ask a trainer to teach you an emergency stop, to be used when the horse is running toward danger or when you lose control. This takes skill and practice to perform safely, and due to the risk of falling should only be done in an emergency. Here's the basic idea:
    • Reach forward and grab one of the reins about halfway up the horse's neck.
    • Pull the rein to your knee while sitting back. This will bend the horse's head back near your legs. The horse should slow and stop.
    • If your horse doesn't stop, stay calm and gently pull him to one side steadily, causing him to circle repeatedly until he slows and halts. Do not pull hard, or he may fall!
    • If the horse is frightened after stopping, carefully stroke him and use a soothing voice to calm him down.

Method 2
Halting from the Ground

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    Attach a lead rope to the horse. When handling a horse from the ground, you should have a lead rope, or long rope with a metal clasp on one end. This clips onto the horse's halter.
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    Tug the lead rope toward the horse's chest. This is the proper command to halt a horse when you are not mounted.
    • If your horse doesn't listen when you ask it to stop, make a fist with the hand that's holding the lead rope and gently push into the horse's chest slowly until it stops. Do not hit your horse, just apply the pressure with your hand and arm and it should stop. Be sure never to step in front of your horse as they may step on you.
    • Make sure your horse respects you and has good ground manners. If you have a horse that likes to pull and refuses to halt try using a chain around the halter. Ask an instructor or trusted horse person if a chain is the right choice for you and your horse.


  • It's good practice to halt with no reins. Have a trainer lunge the horse as your ride, and attempt to halt the horse with your seat.
  • Make sure you can halt from a walk before you move on to faster paces.


  • Do not pull, yank, or jerk the reins, or you may hurt your horse's mouth.
  • Some horses, especially racing (or former racing horses), may "run through the bit," which means that pulling on the reins may cause them to go faster! Beginners should not learn on these horses, but use a gentle hand if you encounter this problem.
  • Horseback riding can be dangerous. Always wear a helmet. Do not ride without experienced supervision while learning.
  • Do not stand in your stirrups to pull on the reins.

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