The quality of a horse’s stop is directly related to the quality of his rundown. This exercise, in which you build to rundown speed, slow and collect instead of stopping, then go around the end of your arena and build to rundown speed again, is perfect for working on your rundown without the wear and tear of too many stops.

It also helps “take the brace out” of your horse’s stop as he learns to “downshift” his weight back on to his hocks to slow down, just as he must when he actually stops. If his first response to being slowed is to drop onto his front end, that’s what he’ll do when he stops, and that’s exactly what you don’t want. By not stopping, but instead just downshifting, you can reprogram that response.

The Runaround also helps you develop greater speed in your rundown. Many horses have a low “do not exceed speed” (if you do exceed it he’ll start to think he’s a wild horse!) By pushing your horse up to that speed, backing off and asking him to collect up and soften, then nudging him up to it again, you can desensitize him to going fast. He learns to “stay with you” and continue to respond as you “pour the coal on.” Every horse can develop a higher do-not-exceed speed, but some will remain more balanced and in control than others. This exercise helps your horse achieve his best, most controlled rundown speed.

Finally, if you practice the Runaround properly, your horse will naturally begin to slide in his stops. How far he slides will ultimately be determined by his genetics, your feel and timing, the quality of the ground, the nature of his hind sliding plates, and how he feels (i.e., whether or not he’s sore). But working on the Runaround will improve the quality of his rundowns, which will naturally improve the quality of his stop. In other words, work more on your run, and the stop and slide will take care of itself.

Ride the “build speed” part of the Runaround down the long side of your arena (see diagram). Stay in the middle third of the arena, at least 20 feet in from the fence line so you have room to make corrections (to be covered in my next article). Ride the slow-collected part around the ends of your arena. As you encourage your horse to build speed, be sure to look up and straight ahead, and keep equal pressure on his sides; this will help him stay straight between your legs and reins. Ride with purpose, so that he keeps one ear on you, indicating he’s paying attention. Make sure he’s increasing his speed only when you ask him to—not of his own volition.

If he’s responding well, ride as if you’re going to run all the way to the next ZIP code. Then, as the end of the arena approaches, sit down in the saddle and gather your horse up—think of downshifting an expensive car. Pick up your reins as necessary, but keep your legs slightly closed around him to keep him driving from behind. From all the work you’ve done to this point, when you pick up the reins he should soften in the jaw and say, “What would you like me to do?”

Keep him soft and collected as you slow down on the straight line at the end of the long side and as you go around the short end, then build speed again down the other long side. Continue on like this until he’s doing it well, stop and rest for a bit, then go on. Over time and multiple practice sessions, you’ll find he’ll be able to reach higher speeds without getting “wobbly in the wheels” or falling out of lead.

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