How to Slow A Horse Down Without Pulling The Reins

First, I want to be sure that there’s not something else we’re missing. Horses can be hard to slow down for various reasons. This post focuses on naturally hot horses. 

If you’re not sure if this is why your horse is going fast, make sure to read this post first: 3 Reasons Why Your Horse Is Rushing & How to Fix It.

My trick to fix this issue won’t work if there’s other issues going on. 

Table of Contents

    What is a “Hot Horse”? 

    Just like humans, horses have different personalities. Some horses just live a little bit on the hotter side of life. Personally, I’m on the lazier side. After about 4 or 5pm, all I want to do is lie on the couch and not move anymore. I’m also a big fan of sleeping in although it’s not usually possible for me. 

    We all have that friend though (or maybe you’re that person!) who is always go-go-go. They’re the person working all week and then they’re working out after work and then they’re planning camping trips or hiking trips on the weekend while the rest of us are scratching our heads thinking “how do they do that?” 

    When I was in my early teens, I went to an overnight camp in northern Ontario dedicated to horse jumping. Really unfortunately, after my second summer my mom stopped letting me go because the owner had a horse accident where she was kicked and suffered some brain damage. I know, it was awful! Anyways…

    At that camp, we would be assigned horses for one week at a time. One of the horses I was assigned to was a grey named Comet. That was the perfect example of a horse that just LOVED to go fast. He was calm, gentle and lovely when I was handling him, he was excellent on the ground and he was not spooky at all. He wouldn’t balk at anything. 

    His trot was always lovely and forwards without having to ask him twice and then whenever we were cantering or jumping, it was like he had a whole different gear. Trying to balance him and get him to put that weight on his hind end was SO hard. He would just live to canter and jump as fast as he could manage. It’s not that he couldn’t canter slowly (on a super hot day, he would canter gorgeously), it’s that he didn’t want to. He just loved going fast! 

    I didn’t want to just yank on his mouth the whole time! 

    How Do I Know if My Horse is Hot?  

    How to tell if your horse is naturally hot and how to slow your hot horse down

    A pretty telling sign that your horse just likes to go fast is if they tend to randomly start galloping around their paddocks. Comet used to do this all the time while the other horses just lazily stared at him while grazing. 

    Young horses tend to run hotter than older horses. Think about how active you were when you were 8 or 9 and compare that to what you’re like now. Likely, your energy level is a lot lower than it was then. 

    My 4-year-old, Rudy, loves to gallop around his paddock with his bestie mare, Bobbi, in the evening around dusk. The two of them will just race around for no reason while the older school horses in the same paddock just stare. I like to think that they’re probably rolling their eyes. 

    In Comet’s case, he loved to canter fast. His trot was nice and forwards but it wasn’t crazy. The second I asked him to canter, however, he would just take off. And if he saw a jump, he would just take me right to it at top speed. He was having the time of his life and didn’t seem to notice me hanging on for dear life half the time.

    Again, if you’re not sure if this is why your horse is going fast, make sure to read this post first: 3 Reasons Why Your Horse Is Rushing & How to Fix It. 

    So, How Do I Get My Horse To Slow Down? 

    The trick is to just let them go completely at the beginning of the ride. Whether you struggle with a fast trot, a fast lope or slowing down from the gallop, this will help a ton. 

    How to slow down a horse without pulling on the reins

    No matter how hot your horse is, they can’t be hot 24/7. All horses get tired just like all 8-year-olds get tired eventually. 

    I’m sure there are other ways to handle this but in my way of thinking, you just want to let them get it out of their system! If they love going fast, then let them go fast right off the bat so they can get it out there. 

    I used to drive up to a friends cottage and there was this ranch on the way up there that would take you out on trail rides. Every single time at the very beginning of the trail ride, all the horses would gallop accross this big flat field to get to the woods where there was a beautiful trail. 

    Having that initial gallop made the horses that much more relaxed and at ease on the rest of the trail ride because they got all that energy out right away without anyone trying to hold them back or tell them what to do. 

    We also didn’t pull them out of that gallop. They naturally would slow down as the tree line approached. If you struggle with slowing down your horse from a gallop, try just going with it for the first gallop. No horse can gallop forever so just try to enjoy the ride! 

    Of course, make sure you’re in a safe environement when you do this. An indoor or fenced arena works really well to let your horse just canter himself out at the beginning.

    What If You’re Nervous About Going Fast?

    Sometimes the issue that we can run into with fast horses is that they can make us nervous. We doubt our ability to stay on them. We don’t like to pass over trust to our horse and let go of control. We’d much rather be in complete control of everything. We want our horse to go exactly this fast at this tempo in this direction. 

    When you’ve got a horse that likes going fast, if you never just let them go, they’ll carry all that excess energy around for the whole ride and you’ll end up playing tug of war with them. 

    There’s definitely ways to settle the horse down and get rid of that excess energy. I use other strategies when I’ve dealt with emotional regulation for anxious horses. You can read more about that here: [insert link]. This would likely work for natually fast horses but it’s not necessary and also you’re suppressing your horse’s nature. Your horse isn’t anxious. They just love going fast! So the quickest way to solve the the problem is just to let them go fast for a bit. 

    I learned for myself that it’s really important sometimes to let go of my need for control. I learned to start gradually. For instance, if I’m riding a horse that’s hotter that day, I’ll just let them canter around the arena with a very soft rein. They’re not outside. They can’t take off wherever they want. All they can do is canter fast in circles and I’ll just let them do that until they get it out of their system and then we can get on with our ride. 

    Being mentally prepared is half the battle for something like this and you’ll be surprised how well you can stay on (and probably even enjoy yourself!) Grab hold of some rein, lighten your seat a little bit and just enjoy. If your horse starts to round their back and you feel a buck coming, just sit back and turn them into a smaller circle before letting them go again. 

    Still nervous?

    A stepping stone to this is letting your horse canter on a lunge line for a while before getting on. Just let them canter it out until they’re ready to come back down to a trot. 

    With Rudy, he also has some other reasons for being forward. One of these is that he is still a little bit anxious and he’s also young so he tends to be a little bit spooky. For that reason, it’s not safe for me to canter him on a loose rein as fast as he wants because it’s a pretty common occurence for him to take off to the side spooking at something. So for now, I canter him on the lunge line until he’s ready to trot again before we start our ride. I also do a lot of “stretching” with him. Don’t worry it’s not horse yoga! You can read more about that here: 

    What if this didn’t work? Likely your horse is forward going for another reason. I really recommend you read this post: 3 Reasons Why Your Horse Is Rushing & How to Fix It. 

    I talk more about slowing down hot horses in my free 7-day Riding Hacks Bootcamp. It basically outlines 2 methods a day for 7 days that I’ve learned over the years. These methods have drastically improved my riding and improved my connection with my horse through clearer communication.

    Sign up below and you’ll get it directly to your inbox for free: 

    Want to learn more about fast horses? This is my entire library of posts just on the subject of “How to Slow Down A Horse”: 

    Having other issues with your horse? Here’s some other posts I’ve written you might like: 

    Happy riding, 


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    How to slow down a horse without pulling on the reins
    How to Slow A Horse Down Without Pulling The Reins

    1 thought on “How to Slow A Horse Down Without Pulling The Reins”

    1. This is how I was taught also, some 40++ yrs ago however, I now know that HOT = Full of anxiety, hurry = worry. Consider methods for reducing anxiety on the ground, partnering with the horse. This takes as long as it takes because humans OFTEN bring the anxiety with them to the horse. Practice leaving human issues at the house and bring a peaceful mindfulness to the barn. You will notice a difference in your relationship almost immediately. Leave all of your preconceived ways of working with a horse in the past and think happy, kind thoughts. Watch the horse’s eyes soften, see how their tension melts away, and focus on ground work to build a better relationship.


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