While I’ve always thought of the one rein stop as an emergency brake (Installing an emergency brake: How to perform a one rein stop), I had a lesson recently with a trainer who suggested that I use it on Freedom as a way of recapturing his attention. Kind of a horsey time out.
It started when the other horse in the ring, a mare to whom Freedom is very attached, left and hacked back to the barn. His focus was on her, not on me and he was jigging, snatching at the reins and generally not paying attention.
My trainer suggested that I try a one-rein stop, keeping him stationary until he relaxed, stopping looking for his buddy, and focused on me. We worked on it at the walk, trot and canter. She explained that this was a tool that I could use when Freedom jigged on the trail, if he rooted and pulled on the reins or if he started to flatten and run at a jump.
It’s a technique that I’ve been using since then and with quite a bit of success. Most of the time he’s very good; but there are times when he needs a “time out” to quiet his mind. I don’t want to actively punish him when he’s agitated. I know that will cause his behavior to escalate. Instead, the one rein stop gives him a chance to calm down. It is a punishment because he doesn’t particularly like standing with his head touching my foot. But it’s a passive punishment. He’s figured out pretty quickly that he would rather behave than be in time out.
One thing my trainer reinforced with me is that I should give him his head and let him choose his behavior. If I asked him to walk, I should let him continue on a free rein. If he jigs, go straight into a one rein stop, but don’t pick at his mouth or keep him on a tight rein. It gets me out of the habit of constantly correcting him, a habit that would eventually cause him to tune me out.