Having a good set of brakes on your horse is very important for safety and comfort. What if you could stop your horse with just your breath? It would be pretty amazing. Here’s how you can do it.
Ask your horse to move out at a brisk walk. Give him plenty of rein to encourage him to move forward. Sit up straight and tall in the saddle and allow your hips and legs to move with the motion of your horse.
Step 1 – ask your horse to whoa by taking in a deep breath. As you exhale, let all of your energy flow down through your seat and legs and out your feet back to the ground.
Step 2 – at the end of your exhalation say the word “WHOA” in an affirmative voice.
Step 3 – if your horse hasn't stopped at this point, then slowly and gently start to pull back on the reins until your horse stops. Reward your horse for stopping and give him a moment to process what just happened.
Repeat the exercise several times. Make sure your order of cues are: take a deep breath and exhale the energy out through your feet; say the word whoa; then gently pull back on the reins until your horse stops if he hasn’t stopped with the other cues first. Eventually your horse will learn to stop with your breath and the word whoa and you won't even need to use the reins. Make sure your cues follow each other successively and not several minutes apart. Otherwise you will be confusing your horse.
Once you horse has gotten the idea and is stopping on your breath, go ahead and move on to asking for a whoa from the trot and then eventually from the canter. You may want to mix up your exercises to keep your horse fresh and engaged. Practice this exercise in a familiar environment such as an arena, round pen or paddock before taking the exercise out on the trail. When you horse is good at home, begin to practice out on the trail so your horse learns no matter where you are you can stop him with just your breath.