Two of the major areas on a horse to learn to get body control via body control foundation training/western performance horse development is the head & poll of the horse. One of the best ways to do that is with lateral flexion; namely Flexing to a stop, Flexing to slow down and the famous Emergency 1 Rein Stop.
The lateral flexion work starts with the horse haltered (groundwork), progresses to when the horse is bridled (more groundwork) and is repeated when the horse is mounted.
The photo top left shows Trigger when I first asked him to Flex To A Stop while mounted. Notice the resistance in the face. The photo top right shows Trigger as he starts to flex and get softer (his head is moving towards the vertical). He is not resisting. He is starting to understand.
Flex To a Stop, Flex to Slow Down &
Emergency 1 Rein Stop
Below is an exert from my book* which gives the steps to teach a horse to flex laterally from the ground while longeing & bridled. First the Flex To a Stop, then Emergency 1 Rein Stop (Flex To A Sudden Stop or E1RS), & finally Flex to Slow Down (downward transition).In round pen, horse bridled & with stick&string in hand:
1. Ask horse to walk around you. Keep horse walking. Use stick&string for forward motion if necessary.
2. Flex to a Stop: While walking, slide (don’t reach) one hand ½ way down rein & pull back towards you, as you step in front of horse’s shoulder & say ‘whoa’ bending horse’s head until horse stops. Immediately release rein for reward. Rest to reward & absorb idea.
3. Turn slightly in same direction again, ask horse to walk on & repeat lesson a few times.
4. Repeat for a jog to a stop, trot to a stop & lope to a stop so horse gets used to flexing to a stop.
5. Repeat until horse understands to stop when flexed.
6. Always repeat for other direction.
7. Emergency 1 Rein Stop (Flex to a sudden Stop)(E1RS): While walking, quickly slide (don’t reach) your one hand ½ way down rein & pull back hard towards you, as you step in front of horse’s shoulder & say ‘whoa’ bending horse’s head so horse stops now.
8. Pull as hard as needed to get horse stopped now! In an emergency, pull aggressively hard to get them stopped immediately. Safety is important here.
9. Immediately release rein for reward. Rest to reward & absorb idea.
10. Turn slightly in same direction again, ask horse to walk on & repeat lesson a few times. Rest a minute to absorb lesson.
11. Repeat for a jog to a stop, trot to a stop & lope to a stop so horse gets used to a rapid change in speed.
12. Repeat until horse understands to stop immediately with a quick flex laterally.
13. Repeat for other direction.
14. Flex to Slow Down (Downward transition): While jogging, slide one hand ½ way down rein & pull back towards you, as you step in front of the horse’s shoulder & say ‘walk’ bending horse’s head until horse slows down to a walk. Don’t release until horse walks. Keep walking!
15. Immediately release rein for reward while walking.
16. Ask horse to jog again & repeat lesson a few times. Rest a minute to absorb lesson.
17. Repeat for a trot to a jog, trot to a walk, lope to a trot, lope to a jog & lope to a walk so horse gets used to flexing to slow down.
18. Repeat until horse understands to slow down when lightly flexed.
19. Repeat for other direction.
Goal: For horse to understand an Emergency 1 Rein Stop (E1RS), Flex to slow down or Flex to stop.
1. E1RS: Great to stop horses from bucking.
2. E1RS: Used as an emergency stop or as a correction on an unruly horse. Don’t leave home without it!
3. Horse needs to stay stopped in case you have to dismount in a hurry. Please practice this also.
4. Use mild snaffle bit with jointed mouthpiece.
5. Work both sides evenly.
6. Don’t release until horse has stopped, or slowed down.
7. Emergency 1 Rein Stop referred to as E1RS.
8. This is in preparation for riding.
9. This will help to get a soft face while doing sliding stops.
10. This is a review of my Colt Starting lesson.
Other Notes:Once familiar on the ground, the same steps are repeated while mounted.
Flex to a Stop
Teaches the horse a rein cue to flex at the poll. Teaches horse to get light & responsive in the mouth and stops immediately. The horse gets soft and responsive. It's great for teaching a horse to stop with voice & body commands and do a correction with the reins. It's body control.
It's the start of a correct headset as well. And more importantly collection. (I will talk about collection in another article).
Flex to Slow Down or Downward Transition
Teaches a horse to slow down with a slight flex of the reins. Used as a correction when the horse does not respond to 'easy'. Teaches a horse to rate their speed (used in reining and other events). This is body control or western performance horse development.
Is a safety feature for a rider when a horse speeds up too quickly and they want to be able to slow the horse down quickly.
Great in colt starting when the colt is not used to a new gait, gets scared; the colt can be slowed down or stopped.
Alot has been said, read, practiced & perfected with this Flex to A Sudden Stop (as I call it).
Really gets a horse light and responsive.
Teaches a horse especially when 1st taught on the ground, to be prepared for when a sudden stop is called for. The horse does not freak out.
Of course, a great safety feature.
Questions and comments are always welcome.
Putting my spin on Flexing to slow down or stop, perhaps in a hurry!
©Copyright KISS Reiners
Trigger's Lateral Flexing Lesson
UPDATE: For more information on lateral flexion, see Horse&Rider Jan. 09, Clinton Anderson Do-It-Yourself Training, Part I, "Flex Time" article
As I always say: 'DO NOT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!
Putting my spin on training.