How To Slow Down A Horse

Have you ever had trouble getting a horse to slow down?

If you’ve ever ridden a horse when you can’t even touch their sides because they’re so amped up and ready to go, then you know what I’m talking about. 

Sometimes barrel racers can have this problem. 

Horses that anticipate a dead run or horses that are just naturally energetic, springy and forwards can often be challenging to control.

They can have a tough time just relaxing and holding a nice steady pace. 

My Tips to Slow Down Your Horse

Here are my strategies to slow these horses down from least firm to most firm: 

Least firm:
Learn back, close my seat, close my hands, push my heels down and verbally say “woah. 

Moderately firm :
All of the above + pulling back slowly but firmly with my reins. If the horse shows any decrease in speed, I immediately release the reins slightly to lessen the pressure. Once they’re at my ideal speed, then I’m just maintaining comfortable contact depending on the type of riding I’m doing. If the horse does not respond, I’ll try pulling back slowly but firmly for a few seconds, releasing for a few seconds and repeating this several times before I try the ‘very firm’ option. 

Very firm:
All of the above + starting to circle the horse. The greater the reduction I want in the horse’s speed to be, the tighter I’m going to make the circle. 

Emergency Brake: 
Learn back, close my seat, push my heels down in an exaggerated way anticipating a fast stop. Then I’ll slide one hand down the rein about 50% of the way between the saddle and the bit and pull right back towards my hip. This will flex the horse’s neck right to 45 degrees. That makes it almost impossible for them to keep going fast. I’ll then hold this position while the horse slows right down to a halt. It’s only once all 4 hooves are planted and the horse is still that I’ll release that pressure. 

When to Use These Strategies?

Depending on the situation, I might start with my least firm tactic or I might start in the middle.

As long as the horse is not listening at all, I’ll work my way up fairly quickly to my very firm request.

The second the horse starts to respond, I provide some release and bump back down in order to teach my horse that I’m only going to provide that pressure until he provides the desired response. 

In extreme cases, I might use my “emergency brake” first but I try and avoid this.

In my mind, the emergency break is just that – for emergencies! 

Having the opposite problem, and now you can’t get your horse to move forward under saddle? Have a look at my tips here!

Happy riding!


How To Slow Down A Horse
How To Slow Down A Horse

2 thoughts on “How To Slow Down A Horse”

  1. Learnt Horse riding at sainik school satara.
    But, still an amateur.
    Was a member of Turf Club Pune city,Maharashtra state, India. Watched Pedegree horses run races on the tracks.
    But your tips really makes me understand the horses.You are a true Guru Encyclopedia.
    Thanks a ton.
    You, really make a difference to me.


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