I don’t “talk” to my horses a lot. Some people do I’ve noticed, they jabber at them while riding or use a lot of verbal commands. Nothing wrong with that, riding is also good therapy, right? But, I do say one very important word to my steed and that’s WHOA. And, when I say it, I mean it. It means come to an immediate and complete stop. It does not mean slow down, or slowly lollygag around until you finally decide to stop. And it certainly doesn’t mean just keep doing whatever you were doing before I asked you to whoa, “you hump-backed muley” (bonus points for anyone who knows where this quote is from).
Also, let’s face it, having a nice, responsive, balanced whoa on your horse is fun, impressive and empowering even. Who doesn’t want that?
So, in order to get and maintain good whoa, this is what to do. Start out at a walk with some impulsion, engage your hips, legs on, and keep your eyes up so you have decent forward movement, give your horse a little softening cue with the reins to prepare him and get his attention, then all at once, sit deep, take your legs off his sides and say “whoa” WITHOUT picking up on your reins. This is important. Give him a step or two max and then pick up on your reins and make him stop completely as quickly as you can, staying in the whoa position (deep seat, legs off). Then reinforce the whoa with a little backup. Couple of steps is all you need, but also important. Lather, Rinse, Repeat. I mean, just repeat! Might take a few times, but pretty quickly your pony will chose to stop on the body language and verbal cue alone to avoid the tug on his face. All good. Now, once he figures that out, you won’t need the back reinforcement as much, he can get a reward of just getting to whoa nicely and stand still for a bit.