Sunday, June 2, 2013

Stop Fix #14: Correct "Scotching"

The problem: The horse anticipates a stop and "scotches" (repeatedly tries to stop) on the rundown. This results in a poor stop because the horse has slowed down before the stop and has lost the frame – his balance has shifted from back to front and he has lost the momentum for a nice slide.
Why does this problem happen? If my horse is trying to shut down all the way to the stop, it's for one of two reasons:
1. He has been stopped in the same spot too many times.
2. He has become sour about the rundown.
How to correct this problem: I lope a lot of straight lines end to end of the arena without stopping in schooling sessions, even more if I know my horse wants to scotch in the rundown to the stop. When he is running freely without thinking about stopping, then (and only then) I ask for a nice stop.
Another valuable exercise to correct this problem is fencing (See Exercise 2 in Stop Fix #1: Straighten the Rundown because "scotching" is a rundown problem and fencing fixes rundowns. This is how I do it: I run my horse all the way to the fence and let the fence stop him. If he tries to slow down in the rundown, I keep him running with my voice ("cluck"), body (ride!) and legs (bump) - firm but never harsh correction. (If I am too harsh, he will become afraid to stop.) Then I let him rest at the fence a minute, facing the fence. I repeat this, back and forth to the fence, until he goes all the way to the fence without trying to stop. Then I either let him rest a long time at the fence and repeat or I quit for the day.
Note: The value of a horse willingly increasing speed to a rundown is enormous. If he anticipates the stop and tries to stop on his own or if he slows down before a stop, his stop will be rough. When he accelerates, his balance is on his hind quarters and he is already in stopping position before he is asked to stop; if he scotches (slows down) his balance shifts to the front, he loses the momentum he needs for a nice slide and the stop will be bracey.
Note: It's important in schooling to find different places in the arena to stop because the horse remembers where he has stopped. Then he may anticipate and try to stop early.