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One of the most widely taught emergency techniques can be very dangerous. 

The truth is that this technique does have it’s place, and it can be effective done well. But doing it well is very difficult, especially if you aren’t a very experienced rider. 

And when it’s not done well, this popular technique can cause, instead of prevent, an accident. 

The technique I am referring to is the one rein stop, often taught as the go to for stopping a runaway. 

Today, I want to show you something different, a technique that can help to balance both you and your horse and give you control in an emergency. 

As good riders, we want to work with our horses in ways where a runaway is never triggered, where our horses can stay calm and we can use light subtle cues. But being prepared to handle emergencies is not only for our safety, but for the safety of our horse as well. 

Being very strong and assertive in a moment may prevent an accident that could be traumatic for you and your horse. 

Watch the video below for a demonstration of this new technique – the “pulley rein.”




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84 Responses

  1. love this application for stopping! Much kinder and safer, getting the same results, especially on unstable footing. Or on a narrow trail!
    Thanks again, Callie!
    @Ellen: it wouldn’t open on my phone. on my laptop it’s just fine 🙂

    1. It’s actually much harder on the horse’s mouth, and certainly not kinder.
      And one rein stops are safe, as everything else, when you know how to do them properly – which is not necessarily about overbending the horse.

    2. Hi Amy! Thanks for letting us know you had some trouble watching our video on your phone!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  2. This is a great method, Callie. I was taught it in the 50’s when I started to ride, and have actually used it once when a horse I was riding bolted. It worked – much to my relief! Good technique to have on your emergency toolbox!

  3. Great demonstration. I’ve heard of the pulley rein, but didn’t fully understand the mechanics. The person who taught me the pulley rein actually taught me another version of a one rein stop. So I didn’t realize until now there was a good alternative. The one rein stop, which I use and I teach to beginners, depends on the rider’s confidence in their seat and their determination and their ability to be soft and responsive to the horse. Meaning that I never liked it for beginners. I’m going to practice this and then pass it along.

    1. I rode this morning after watching this. I practiced the mechanics of this, tweaked my hold on the reins, and found it worked well.

      And then a huge piece of ice slid down the metal arena roof and my horse bolted full on quarter horse fast. Like yeehaw I’m a real cowboy at the rodeo fast. So I got to try this under pressure! It worked. I kept his head straight, kept my hands forward on his neck, raised the outside rein, and spoke calmly to him. He came right back under control. It didn’t take a ton of pressure and I kept my seat. Thank you!

    1. No, I would definitely not recommend this for a horse who is going back, anytime a horse is backing in a panic, using rein pressure has the potential of triggering a rear. If the horse is backing you want to release rein pressure, or keep only enough pressure to keep them straight (if important) and usually just sit out those quick steps back. As with every emergency, exactly what to do is going to be completely variable on the context of the situation.

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  4. I had a runaway horse at the end of a clinic in a large outdoor arena about 2 years ago. I couldn’t stop her as we charged around and around. I really felt like it wasn’t going to end well but the clinician kept me calm with her voice and reminders to sit back and then instructed me to start going in smaller circles until I could get her to stop. I have a bunch of anxiety when riding outside and only have cantered once since in the outdoor and only at 1/3 of the arena, but that mare and I are still together and even as I still am trying to master cantering… it is not my cup of .

  5. Thank you for this video. As I live in Austria and ride outside a lot, I automatically have to use the pulley rein. The one rein stop is usually too dangerous, because we have a lot of small ditches next to the field paths/dirt tracks and the actual fiel or meadow. Also a one-rein stop would not work for the paths in the forest, since there is no place to go and circle the horse, a one-rein stop is basically not an option. Also I believe the pulley rein is a lot safer in general, as for when you use a one-rein stop or generally one rein to the side in the wrong phase of the lope, the horse might become unbalanced and stumble.

  6. This video was really appropriate for me this week. My leased mare got a little out of control the other day and I am just breaking her into using a bitless bridle. I realize that I was inadvertently (almost) using this method to get her under control since I figured without the bit I would need to adjust and now I can see me practicing it intentionally. Thanks Callie!

  7. Hi Callie,
    Clicking on the link worked, thanks a lot.
    Great video! I will pay attention next time a horse accelarates, it looks a very sensible technique to me.

  8. Great video! Years ago I was given an old hunt masters horse because he was so bad at bolting, and trained to jump anything in front of him. This technique saved me several times with him until I was able to get him to soften in the bit and start listening to his rider. He ended up being one of the best horses I have ever had.

  9. I happened to be on a trail ride with my trainer and we started to trot up in a field and my mare got going too quickly which I did not ask for and yes I used the one rein stop to slow her but I didn’t lean left or right I simply took the rein and actually turned her to the right more than simply pulling on her mouth. It was a combo of the turning and sitting deep and using that to slow her down. But I much prefer the look of the pulley rein stop. I will need to practice at home on a makeshift sawhorse/stand and something to set my bridle on so it will become second nature. Thank-you

    1. Yes! Practicing these techniques makes them automatic in a dangerous situation!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  10. I don’t believe the one rein stop is any more dangerous than the pulley rein stop, because both the horse and rider must be taught to do it before they need to use them. Once the horse and rider knows what to do when using the method, neither is dangerous. I will say that I can see using the pulley rein stop causing the horse to throw up his head and bust the rider in the face causing at the least a broken nose or head injury or the rider falling off. Of course, that’s if the horse and rider aren’t trained, just as the one rein stop on an untrained horse and rider is unsafe.

    1. Anytime we unbalance the horse, whether they’ve done a one-rein stop before or not it can still be dangerous to change the horse’s balance so drastically, particularly at speed!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  11. While I like this as another tool in the toolbox, I have had times when I needed the horse to stop RIGHT NOW, and I didn’t see this technique accomplishing that. In this video, it took Callie several strides to stop the a calm, cooperative, well-trained horse moving at a brisk canter, and that seemed too long for an emergency situation. In my opinion, if the horse isn’t obeying a stop cue, saying the cue louder (pulling harder) doesn’t always work, and that’s what I see this as: increasing the volume of the cue. It has its place, for sure, and I know the one-rein stop isn’t perfect (I had a bolting horse fall once wen using it), but I have had dozens of times when being able to stop a horse immediately was exactly what I needed at that moment. I think I would like to keep the one-rein stop as an option.

    1. Theresa, while the pulley rein might take two or three strides it greatly outweighs the danger of pulling a horse over on their side as a result of a one-rein stop at speed.

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  12. Hi,
    I had a new to me 6 year old horse that reared regularly when he lost confidence and wouldn’t go forward. I started him over from groundwork through saddle work and gained his confidence and the rearing disappeared. However, when the rearing happened earlier in his career, I really needed to keep his spine from being straight or he would lift off. Would you have another suggestion for this particular situation?
    This friend turned out to be my best partner for 14 years and sadly, is now over the rainbow bridge.
    Thank you for your kind advice.

    1. Hi! Thanks for your question! First, when a horse is displaying this kind of behavior I first recommend having a vet check over the horse just to make sure there is nothing causing pain. Including looking at the saddle!

      For rearing you would want to pull on one rein, as pulling back on both can cause them to flip over!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  13. Thank you, great technique. I have a youngster and this will help since I think he wouldn’t handle tight turns very well with his long legs. When I was a kid, my Welsh pony could keep galloping straight ahead with his nose on my knee so one rein definitely didn’t stop him. This would have been a good alternative back then.

  14. Hello Callie I was always tough the 1 rein stop and my new trainer told me never to do that like you said it throws both horse and me unbalanced. I will show her today this stop looks much easier and gentle on the horse. Thank you Callie

  15. Hi Callie:
    This is great! And it makes sense. I have to admit that I have used the one-reign stop a few times. I can see where the pulley stop is so much better. THANK YOU!

  16. A year and a half ago I was trail riding by myself and my horse got spooked and took off. I could not use the one rein stop because it was a very narrow trail and it might have pulled him right into a tree. I ended up getting thrown. Are there any other methods that I could have used to get him under control?

    1. The pulley rein would have been a great technique to use in that situation Elizabeth!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  17. I remain a proponent of a one rein stop ***DONE CORRECTLY*** (neither leaning nor over-bending the horse) when conditions warrant using it. Both techniques have their proper place, and each must be done correctly or either one can be dangerous. The potential for damage to the horse’s jaw is high with an incorrectly executed pulley rein. Your video shows a proper technique. Thank you.

  18. I am grateful I was never taught the one-rein/spin stop, though several of my riding friends were–and one of them ended up with a broken ankle and an injured horse after she tried to “spin” with one rein and instead, her horse fell over.

    I was taught the pulley rein from way back as the “traditional” best way to stop. I am glad to see your great video, which will help so many more riders to find a safe stop in an emergency (though just as you say–the best horsemanship is to avoid the emergency altogether!).

    As always, love your advice and your videos! Thank you.

  19. Callie, So good of you to show this. As a young rider my jumping instructor made sure we knew this technique before we went to the cross country course. This is how I was taught 40 years ago. So glad you are promoting it. I have used it on several run aways over the years in areas where the terrain wouldn’t have allowed a one rein stop. It has always worked for me. The part about the knees lowering makes sense after watching you and Wendy promote that secure balanced seat. I would like to share this video. It should be required before any riding is done outside of an arena.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support Becky! We appreciate you sharing our video 🙂

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  20. I was in grade school and at my uncles farm when the horse I was riding got scared and started running to the barn. I was just a beginner rider and so scared I didn’t think of doing anything except pull back on the reins but it didn’t work. My uncle ran in front of the barn and waved his arms up in the air then the horse stopped.

  21. I was riding by myself in Valley Forge State Park outside of Philadelphia when the bells in the tower began to play. My normally quiet gelding thought that the devil himself was chasing us and it took me almost 2 miles to get him under control. This is one technique that I did not try as he was galloping at full tilt, but should something like that ever happen again I’ll have another tool in my repertoire.

  22. I can see where this would be much safer than a one rein stop. I was taught the one rein stop, but when I used it with a runaway, I felt lucky to have stayed on! My husband always hesitated to use it because he felt it wasn’t safe on a narrow trail (the way we learned was to ask the horse to disengage his hind quarters and almost do a turn on the forehand). Thank you!

    1. Great point Sue, the one-rein stop is even more dangerous on a narrow trail!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  23. The one rain stop is probably more effective on certain situation but I totally get your point. A few months ago I was in a situation that my horse galloped uncontrolled and I couldn’t use the one rain stop as there was no room for turns and then we were heading a swamp and fence and the quick turn seemed more dangerous then my horse jumping the fence. It didnt end well! So I’ll try this now.

  24. Wish I had known about this a couple days ago. My horse had a really bad spook from very loud 4 wheelers coming straight at us very fast. He took off like a bullet and I was just on for the ride. The forrest trail was too narrow to try and do a one rein stop. I just rode the spook thru till he calmed down. Going to practice this. Thank you

    1. I’m sorry to hear this video came a couple of days late, but this will be a great technique to help you in the future 🙂

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  25. Thank you Callie, I too have always wondered about the mechanics of the one reign stop and am glad to have a new strategy to implement.

  26. Hi Callie,
    As basically self taught i’d never heard of one stop reighn but it never seemed roght to me. Common sense tells me it would unbalance both horse and rider if used but usually with all that adrenalin coursing through their body most women and children wouldn’t be strong as enough to turn their necks ..
    Your way would be much moreworkable for both horse and rider…
    P.S. I joined up for the free course get your confidence back from the calm & confident rider program however it won’t let me click on to join the Facebook group attached to the program.
    Thankyou regards Glenys

    1. Hi Glenys, you have to be accepted into the group! If you clicked to request to join the group you should be in the group and all set! If you can’t access it please send me an email at [email protected]

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  27. The pulley (this is the correct spelling) rein is not a new technique — I learned it 30 years ago in English Hunter Jumper lessons. When I started riding Western 10 years ago, I learned the one-rein stop, with a lot of emphasis on keeping your body straight and not overbending to one side. I think both techniques can be effective, but a pulley rein would be difficult if you are neck-reining and need to make an emergency stop. A one-rein stop would be more intuitive and easier.

  28. I learned this pulley stop ad the calvary stop. Yes, it is effective.
    So is the one rein stop, which is overused and done with riders in poor position and overflexed which results in the horse blowing through the shoulder.
    Botb th he pulley stop and yhe one rein stop need hood good technique. Both have a place in the rider’s tool box.

    1. Every rider should have plenty of tools in their toolbox, the pulley rein we recommend since there is less room for error and unbalance as there is in the one-rein stop 🙂

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  29. As a teenager, I had an ex race horse who went by the name of ‘sexy legs’ (you can imagine the looks I got when I called for her in the paddock )… She decided racing was not for her & after many consecutive last place finishes, she was retired from racing & given to us.
    We turned her into a pretty good eventer, however, she occasionally had regrets about her retirement from racing… One particular incident sticks in my mind. Just down the road from where we aggisted our horses, we were lucky enough to have access to a large arena & a dressage arena to practice in. However, Plovers took to nesting in the large areana & defended their eggs fiercely!! We came to accept that we couldn’t use that arena during nesting season & left them alone… This particular day, I was riding back after working in the dressage arena & I tried to keep a good distance from the nesting plovers… apparently it was not far enough (according to mumma plover!) & she started swooping us from behind. She hit my horse in the rump with her sharp wing spur & my mare took off like a rocket!!! There was no pulling her up & I had zero control… we went charging through someones paddock & I could see we were fast approaching a barbed wire fence. With all my might, I turned her into a one rein stop (what I had been taught to do in the situation) & thankfully we eventually came to a safe stop…
    I think that was the day she realized that she actually enjoyed a good gallop (so long as she wasn’t being whipped around a race track…), because after that day, I had trouble with her wanting to bolt on the cross country course… and I lost a lot of confidence.

  30. Wonderful post , appreciate an alternative that is shared to the equine community about the so-called emergency stop. This is so much more balanced easier on the horse and safer for the rider and horse altogether thank you so much!

  31. Hi Callie
    With the pulley Rein, it seems that the horse’s head is getting pulled up and not to the side.
    Seems like that would encourage a rear if the horse was really excited?

    1. The mechanics of your hand braced on the neck along with your centered balance in the saddle discourages a rear, IMO. I have done a one rein stop that nearly threw me and the horse to the ground and he still kept going. On a spicy Arab, I used the pulley stop and where she had been tossing her head to get the bit in her mouth and add speed, the pulley stop first stopped the head movement to a centered position and also stopped her jigging.

  32. There is a better way of stopping a runaway horse that is similair to what you have showed here. Its called a military stop and was taught to cavalry soldiers. It works a quite a bit quicker than this precedure. I totally agree with you on the dangers of using the double (aka 1 rein stop at speed). I have helped a few runaways in my time. Thanks for putting this information out. Great info.

  33. On a hunter pace, emerging from the woods to an open field a pair passed us as we entered the field. It was an instant spark to gallop off and bucking. Thankfully I had one hand buried in his neck and all’s I could think was circle. I think I did this somehow inadvertently. I can definitely say without hand on neck I would have been off.
    I appreciate your reasoning in your explanations. Thank you

  34. I was taught the one rein stop and so was my horse. Attempting any technique without adequate practice can cause injury. Done correctly it does not cause the exaggerated imbalance such as in the video. However having an arsenal of techniques is always beneficial. I would appreciate a close up photo of where and how your right hand is attached. Also in a stand still position demonstrate doing it quickly such as you must in an emergency. I would demonstrate both done correctly.

    1. Hi Jane, where the other hand is anchored depends on the length of your arm the key is to press into the neck like Callie demonstrates!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  35. HI Callie,

    I always tell you how lucky I have felt to have had such a terrific instructor for so many years. Based on Littauer methods. Once again, we were taught pulley rein over 40 years ago! They rode hunters actually in the hunt field. Needed safe emergency methods to shut down any crazy that might break out!
    Thanks for practical safe advice, as always.

  36. good way to stop a runaway, beats riding into the undergrowth and getting stuck in the bushes,
    one rein stop doesnt always work if you have a very large strong horse.

  37. I knew about the pully rein stop but haven’t used it in an emergency situation. My concern is I have a fjord with a thick strong neck and I’m in my upper 70s and not very strong. Will this technique work for me?

  38. Hi I use the one rein stop quiet a lot with my mare she has a tendency to always want to turn for home once we get past the initial leaving part she’s fine (she hates leaving her pony friends) ….yesterday it took 3 attempts before she got the gist that we weren’t turning back the tracks not very wide and at one point she had me half way up the bank and nearly tangled in the scrub I’m sure she tries her hardest to get us in awkward positions lol
    even tho shes not a bolter (but anything is possible under fright) I’m excited to try this as sometimes she gets a bit eager at the halt and doesn’t want to sit still and I hate pulling hard on her mouth hopefully this method may help I’m not too sure it’ll work to stop her turning for home as she does a little tanty half rear and turns quiet fast.
    Also are you able to post a video explaining how to do the one rein stop correctly as there seems to be a bit of controversy on applying inside leg pressure at the same time I just give to the outside rein and bring her around with the inside rein (gently so not to hurt her) but no leg she usually gives after 1 or 2 turns so thinking I shouldn’t have to apply leg..hopefully I’m doing this right 🙂
    I’ll share this method among my friends …thanks Callie

    1. Hi Theresa, we don’t have a free video available about the one-rein stop, especially since it can be dangerous if it is done incorrectly we find that it best just to recommend the pulley rein like Callie mentioned in the video!

      Although, for a horse that is trying to turn for home or is shying away from something it can help to try some different bending techniques, which it sounds like it is similar to what you are doing with your mare!

      – Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  39. seems much safer than the one rein. I have almost tipped a horse over with the one rein. He was very spooked and your stop would have been much better. bty please use keepers on your full cheek. I was at a George Morris clinic many years ago and he sent a rider out of the clinic to get keepers or change the bit. This is even more dangerous if you have wraps or boots on your horse.

  40. Hello,
    I just found CRK Training and have been starting to watch your videos. I am 57 and started riding again at age 50. Wouldn’t you know that the first horse I got ran away with me up out of a ravine at full on gallop! I ride Western and am glad for the saddle horn as I didn’t fall off, just screamed, “Wow you bitch,” all the way back. I didn’t know about one-rein stops, but this seems so much safer. Plus, I now do lots of ground work with my horse before I ever endeavor to take one on a trail ride. Thank you so much! I am going to practice this technique.

  41. Hi Callie, I’m 63 and new to horses, including riding them! And love it . I rode my daughters horse last week, he went into a canter () which I’ve never done. Seemed so fast! I remember grabbing his mane with my left hand and trying to shorten the reins with my other hand, all the while crooning Whoa!! (I bounce like a ball on top of him, he’s huge and I’m little). I think I did your pulley stop, as we didn’t turn at all, and I remember thinking ‘just stay upright in the saddle’ until we eventually stopped. I do remember pulling back, and I’m pretty sure my knuckles were firmly in his neck!
    Thanks for a very interesting video. I love them all.

  42. I learned the one-rein stop several years ago. My mare hates to leave her buddies and will turn to go back. I used the one-rein stop but she keeps twirling around and around dangerously, no matter the terrain. She is using my technique to become her technique to get me off her back!
    I will try the pulley rein the next time! Thanks for an alternative.

    1. I hope this technique helps to keep her on track Linda!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  43. Hi Callie and Julia!
    Love this method. It looks so much kinder on the horse. I agree with Callie though in that body positioning makes all the difference in the world. I have seen people that have used a one rein stop and they ended up off balance and almost on the ground. I can see where even using this method balance would be very important. On a scared or runaway horse keeping your balance is not always easy. Thank you for this demonstration.

  44. Great example of using a pully rein instead of a one=rein stop makes sense. Why use a pully-rein, rather than two reins to ask the horse to stop if you’re keeping your horse straight?

    1. Hi Kimberly, the leverage action of the pulley rein works more quickly than just pulling back with two reins!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  45. Thank you for explaining. I learned the one rein stop, but will practice this one instead. My Spanish PRE can get nervous from the strangest things and then starts dancing around the world .

    1. This will be a great tool to add to your skillset Juliette!

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  46. I certainly agree on the pulley rein! BUT IT IS NOT NEW!! I have been a professional trainer for years. I have used it my whole life as I have ridden all sorts of horses. It is commonly used on the race track and in the hunter/jumper/ eventing world.
    Much safer than a one rein stop! I really enjoy your nice clear videos. I often share them with students or groups that need advice.
    But make sure that you are clear, you did not discover this technique and it’s a very old concept that is used today.

    1. Hi Mary Anne, I’m really glad to hear you enjoyed this video! We don’t claim any ownership over the discovery of this technique.

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  47. Thanks for posting this video – the pulley stop is essential if you are trail riding on a narrow trail. And my experience is that it stops the horse faster than a one-rein.

  48. Hi, I don’t get to ride often and don’t have formal training, but the farm I volunteer at has experienced riders that are very helpful with instruction. I was taught/shown the one rein method & have used it twice. The 1st time I was not caught by surprise & it was quick & efficient. The 2nd time I got bucked off, got back on & asking for a trot he did what he previously did when I got bucked, just took off, it took a lot of strenth & effort, but I got him stopped. How can I prepare for an unknown? Ride with my hand on his neck?

    1. Christine, I wouldn’t recommend riding with the hand on the neck necessarily all the time but you can practice the pulley rein maneuver so that when or if something happens you have the muscle memory ready to spring into action 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  49. Thank you for doing the video on the pulley rein. I was taught that back in the late 60’s when I was learning to ride. However, I’d totally forgotten it over the years. The one rein stop got so popular and promoted, but I could never figure out how the one rein would be safe on a narrow path or real hilly terrain. I appreciate the reminder – the pulley rein is a much more safe and balanced way to stop a horse.

    1. Hi Suzanne, I’m really glad this video was a nice reminder for you about the pulley rein 🙂

      -Julia, CRK Training Community Manager

  50. I no longer want to be notified of comments on this thread. My mailbox is filling up and I can’t find the time to read them all.

  51. I was taught this back in the 80’s in college. I used it when I was riding an off-the-track thoroughbred on a low-level eventing course. There was a slightly downhill straightaway and he got very heavy and started “charging towards the finish line” so I went right to the pulley rein, not strong enough to stop him, but I was able to slow him down and get him back under control and in balance in time for the next jump! It’s a great technique and I’m happy to see it still being taught!

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