Just so you'll have a better picture of what JL is teaching me, here is a video of Julie Goodnight employing the pulley rein to stop a western horse.
JL understands that executing a good halt with the pulley rein does send a very loud message to the horse. Slamming him to a stop with the pulley rein is a little like running into a fence. It will stop your horse, but it's not a very effective way to ride every day. Once the horse understands the mechanics and effect of the pulley rein, the rider can use it in a much, much milder manner.
JL started us at the walk. Once she was certain that Speedy and I were crystal clear in our understanding of the pulley rein, she had us move to the trot and finally the canter.
The trick with using the pulley rein is that the rider must execute it perfectly in order for the horse to understand. The purpose is to get a square STOP without the horse "escaping" to the right or left. If the inside hand is not fixed firmly on the horse's neck, he will evade the stop by twisting his head, falling in, or falling out. If the horse can escape the rider's halt, the horse has won and will only continue to find ways to avoid the halt.
That is/was Speedy's problem. My halts were puny so Speedy just blew through the outside leg and hand. I firmed up my outside aids, so Speedy found another open door - my inside leg. Every time I asked for a halt, even a regular salute the judge halt, his hind end fell inside.
I had to close that door as well so we started to employ the whip. In order for Speedy to move off my inside leg, I had to get really tough with the outside aids. There could be no forward movement. We did lots of whip, outside hand, more whip, more outside hand. I was finally, finally able to feel that I was consistently losing him to the outside hand. Once I felt the connection from my inside leg to my outside hand, I was able to stop his shoulder from falling out and was able to get him to move away from my inside leg. Success!
We had one more problem - the inside hand. With strong outside aids and a firm inside leg (supported with the whip, we were so close to getting it. My inside hand was the last problem. Oh, I am sure there are many other problems, but as far as keeping Speedy pointed in the right direction, the missing piece was a firm inside hand.
At Wednesday's lesson, Jl had me trot and canter with my inside hand planted on Speedy's neck so that I could effectively control his sideways movement with my inside leg to outside hand. By planting that inside hand, I was able to control the bend so he he couldn't counter bend his neck at the trot and canter. Again, success!
I was able to put the whole thing to the test at the end of the lesson. The far end of JL's arena had a scary corner that morning. When I had tried to warm up there earlier, Speedy tried to bolt and put up a big stink about riding into that corner. By planting my inside hand, I was able to keep a firm bend so that he had to listen to my inside leg. My outside hand controlled the pace. There was to be no running through the corner.
Oh, hallelujah! You should have head the angels singing. We rode that corner at the trot and canter, and we rode it DEEP.
I was very pleased with our effort and was eager to try it out at home. Fortunately, I was given an excellent opportunity the very next morning. Someone had fired some alarming shots with a rifle right before I arrived at the barn. They were apparently so close that a patrol car was dispatched to investigate. Speedy was quite nervous about the whole thing so I quickly saddled up to take full advantage of his anxiety. I wanted to ride him through the anxiousness because I knew he was likely to spook or shy.
Sure enough, he was a bit spooky. There was a puddle left over from the sprinklers so I used it as my "test corner." He tried to bolt, but I had him firmly between my aids. Early in our attempt to go through the puddle, Speedy splashed through it but bolted as soon as he was across it. I planted my hand and STOPPED him, hard. We turned around and went right back to work. We did some trot and canter circles with my inside hand planted, and before long, Speedy was marching through that puddle without a wiggle.
I hopped off him and congratulated him as though he had won that gold medal instead of Great Britain's Valegro. Well done, Speedy G!