Big Stops For Your Breakaway Horse

In our last column, I mentioned that it’s vital for a breakaway horse to have a big whoa in order for your rope to break faster. This month, I’ll talk about the finer points of a big stop for a breakaway horse.

First, I’ll discuss how a horse should stop and what my body should be doing to make that happen. Then I’ll discuss combating two problems that can arise in asking a horse to stop.

Achieving the big stop
When I get a horse, I make sure they’ve been in the cutting or reining pen to get them where they really want to stop. But the horse can’t be anticipating, either. It’s easy to get a horse tight; it’s harder to get them freed up and running.

To do that, I like my horses stopping not on my hand but on my body’s cues. I like to run up to the calf on a looser rein. When I throw my rope, I ask my horses to shorten their strides. They can’t be stopping when I throw my rope. It’s not until I sit down, take my legs off of them and pitch my slack that they should be stopping.

I don’t want to have to be pulling on my horses’ faces to get that stop. I really want them responding to my body. I lope a lot of circles with my legs on my horses’ sides and my butt out of the saddle, just like I’d be doing when I’m roping. When I want them to stop, I sit back in my saddle, taking my legs off of them. They should gather their back end up underneath them, elevate their shoulders, and slide to a stop. I want them doing this when I’m roping at full-speed, too.

Troubleshooting stopping problems
Anticipation is a problem some breakaway horses encounter in their stops. If horses are anticipating the stop, they’ll stop on their front ends. If they anticipate, I ask them to keep going forward and don’t let them stop. I will get them working with their back ends up underneath them and with their shoulders elevated. When I’m roping, I’ll run up with the reins loose, and when I throw my rope, I’ll collect them up and ask them to shorten their stride. Keeping their shoulders up with my rein hand, I’ll then ask for a whoa as I pitch my slack.

Ducking is another problem some breakaway horses develop. They’ll pop off to the left when the rope is thrown or when they stop. To fix this, I give my horses a lot of rein as we run to the calf, rather than hanging on their mouth trying to keep them straight. The more you hang on a horse that ducks mouth, the harder he will duck when you release the pressure. So I minimize the pressure on their mouths, then as I get ready to rope I bring my left hand up to my right hand. This prevents the horses from bracing against me and ducking off even harder.

For more from Lari Dee Guy, visit her website at

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