A well-ex­e­cuted shut­down is just as im­por­tant as the spin it­self. Learn how to nail your stop and stay out of the penalty box when it mat­ters.


A“plus” spin can be ru­ined by a poorly timed stop—and leave you sit­ting in the penalty box by the end of the ma­neu­ver. It could be that your tim­ing was off and you didn’t ask for the shut­down early enough, or maybe your horse didn’t lis­ten to your cues, leav­ing you past your in­tended mark.

If you com­pete in events like rein­ing, ranch rid­ing, or horse­man­ship, chances are you’re re­quired to per­form at least one set of spins. Nail­ing your stop of those spins could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween first and sec­ond place. Out­side the show pen, hav­ing an ac­cu­rate stop when you ask for a turn helps with over­all guide and con­trol.

Here I’ll dis­cuss what you might be do­ing wrong when you’re in the show pen and my meth­ods for cor­rectly teach­ing a horse how to stop at home so when it comes time to show you’re not left past your in­tended mark.


Not know­ing your com­fort zone. It’s easy to prac­tice one speed at home and then get to the horse show and feel in­tim­i­dated by the rate of speed other rid­ers spin. How­ever, you’re not do­ing your­self any fa­vors by push­ing your horse past the speed you’re both most com­fort­able with.

Not only do you risk over­turn­ing be­cause you’re go­ing at a speed you’re not used to, but you also risk frus­trat­ing your horse by chang­ing the way you ride and push­ing him past his abil­i­ties, which should be iden­ti­fied at home. Avoid this mis­take by prac­tic­ing the speed you want to go in the show pen at home and in the warm-up pen.

Fail­ing to plan. You need to plan for your spins to end. If you’re not pre­pared to stop, you can’t ex­pect your horse to be. Once you’ve hit the 3/4 mark on your spin, look ahead to see ex­actly where your stop­ping point is. That way you can plan to ask your horse to stop be­fore you ac­tu­ally get there. At a horse show, you can also look for a mark or a ban­ner on the rail to help you find a stop­ping point.

Fear of over-spin­ning. Un­der-spin­ning can also land you a penalty. It of­ten hap­pens when you’re either afraid of over-spin­ning and ask for the stop early or you lose track of where you are in the spin.


When I ask my horse to stop af­ter a spin, I like to in­clude three dif­fer­ent cues to en­sure that he un­der­stands what I’m ask­ing him. At home, I’ll prac­tice these el­e­ments to­gether and also sep­a­rately, so when it comes time to ask for a stop in the show pen and I use all three cues to­gether, I know my horse is go­ing to un­der­stand what I’m ask­ing of him and stop, avoid­ing the half-point penalty that comes with over­turn­ing.

Cue #1. Be­gin with your feet. When you start and are in the mid­dle of your spin, keep your out­side leg on your horse so he knows to con­tinue turn­ing. When it’s time to stop, re­lease your feet and push weight into your heels. It’s sim­i­lar to how you ask your horse to stop from a lope.

Cue #2. Next is your voice. Let your horse know you’re ready to stop turn­ing by say­ing “whoa.” At home, school your stop by only us­ing your voice so your horse is fully pre­pared to stop when you say the com­mand.

Cue #3. The fi­nal cue is your hand. Your horse should be com­fort­able with neck rein­ing and un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween start­ing a turn and stop­ping your turn. When you go to your hand, you want your horse to bri­dle up. If he’s not soft in his face you risk the chance of hav­ing him throw his head in the air if you go to your hand a lit­tle quicker in the show pen.


When you first work with your horse, I rec­om­mend out­fit­ting him in a snaf­fle bit. Once your horse un­der­stands what you’re ask­ing of him and feels com­fort­able in the snaf­fle, move up to a shanked bit, but con­tinue to ride in two hands un­til he wants to stay bri­dled up and re­laxed in your hand. The series of pho­tos on page 54 il­lus­trate the steps.

Dur­ing a spin you’ll use out­side rein for a ma­jor­ity of the turn. If you’re spin­ning to the left, use your out­side (right) rein to guide your horse’s shoul­ders through the turn. As you ask for your turn, your horse should have his in­side (left) shoul­der stand­ing up and his head slightly tilted in the di­rec­tion you’re turn­ing. He needs for­ward mo­tion in his front legs so he’s not suck­ing back or trip­ping over him­self, and he should keep his hindquar­ters still to avoid turn­ing on his belly. Once you’re ready to stop the spin, use your left rein—or your new neck rein—to stop your horse’s front legs. Keep light pres­sure on your new neck rein un­til your horse wants to bri­dle up.

When you work on hav­ing your horse stand col­lected af­ter a stop, he’s go­ing to stay in the bri­dle if there’s ever a time you have to stop him a lit­tle harder in the show pen—and in one hand.

If your horse doesn’t stop his feet when he feels the new neck rein, or doesn’t un­der­stand what you’re ask­ing, snug up on your new neck rein and have your horse turn one revo­lu­tion in the op­po­site di­rec­tion un­til he com­pre­hends the feel of the new neck rein when you ask for a stop. Once you fin­ish that revo­lu­tion, stop and set­tle for a minute be­fore ask­ing your horse to turn again.

If you’re just teach­ing your horse how to re­spond to neck rein­ing dur­ing a turn, don’t be sur­prised if it takes sev­eral ses­sions be­fore he fully un­der­stands what you’re ask­ing of him.

Con­tinue to use your new neck rein un­til your horse re­laxes into the bri­dle. It’s im­por­tant that your horse stays soft when­ever you go to your hand so it doesn’t scare him in the show pen.

As you spin to the left, use your out­side (right) rein to guide him through­out the turn.

Once you go to your new neck rein (in this case, your left rein) it should sig­nal your horse’s feet to stop.

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