Monday, February 11, 2013

Stop Fix #3: Correct 'Break and Run' Rundown

The problem: Instead of gradually building speed in the rundown to the stop, the horse goes from collected lope to flat out run in a couple of strides.

Why does this problem happen? This sudden burst of speed into the stop may be caused by one of two things:
1. The rider initiates the sudden acceleration.
2. The horse, because he knows he will be running hard to the stop, ‘breaks and runs’ on his own.

How to correct this problem:
1. If it is a rider problem: If the horse’s burst of speed is only in response to the rider asking that way, it will be easier to correct but the rider must first be “aware” of how he asks his horse to run to the stop. He may be thinking too much about running hard instead of gradually building speed. Running too fast doesn’t necessarily make for a great stop anyway. It’s more about the quality of the speed than the speed itself. The judge wants to see a controlled rundown with a gradual increase in speed, which in fact will lead to a nice stop and will earn a nice score.

When I round the corner for a stop in the show pen, I think first about two things – straightening my horse for the rundown and checking that he is soft in the bridle. (If I schooled him well, my horse will readily comply.) With that established, I ask for a little more speed every two or three strides (not all at once!) to the stop. If I slow lope until the center then ask for a big burst of speed to the stop, I have lost control of the rundown. He may flatten out because he is no longer building speed and the stop is not good. Worse than that, I will have created a problem for my horse who will now think that it’s the way it’s done.

2. If the horse has learned to break and run: This can be a difficult habit to correct and the work starts at home with lots and lots of schooling on the problem.

Any time my horse feels like he’s making the decisions in a rundown, I correct. If he speeds up and I haven’t asked him to, I bring him back down to a walk. I don’t jerk him or scare him in any way. I just ask him to give to the rein pressure and as soon as he does, I release the pressure and try again. If he does not give to the bridle at a walk, I keep the pressure on (changing my body aids) until he backs up and gives. A variation of this exercise is half-passing to a walk when I feel that burst of energy by slowly increasing rein contact and leg pressure into a half-pass position (head and hindquarters yielding the same way) until he walks. When he walks and relaxes into the half-pass, I release hand and leg aids. Then I ask for a lope and a rundown again, repeating the correction if necessary. This exercise works very well but the rider must be able to execute the half-pass to be effective.

Sometimes I might lope slow all the way down and not stop, sometimes I might build speed and not stop, sometimes I lope slow and stop, sometimes I build speed and stop. It’s important to vary to keep my horses guessing and avoid anticipation.

If ‘breaking and running’ is a show pen problem only, I take him to schooling shows and school or blow a class to correct him in competition. It’s very important to get the control back in the rider’s court.

This is an example of a horse running to the stop under control and building speed, not ‘breaking and running’ to the stop.

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