Disciplines Reining Riding and Training Western Events Western Riding Young Rider

Improve Your Reining Sliding Stops

A young rider performs a reining sliding stop
Photo by Heidi Nyland Melocco

You’ve seen reining horses lope, speed up, then slide to a dramatic sliding stop. What does it take to ride through this stop and keep your balance? We’ll help you master the position so you’re ready to slide the stop.

Posture Tips

You’ve probably heard your riding instructor talk about riding with perfect alignment. If you imagine a string dropped from your shoulder, it should make a line to your hip, then your heel when you’re riding at the walk, trot, or lope.

A young boy riding a palomino
When riding the rundown, Parker has a straight line from his shoulders, hips, and heels to the ground. Photo by Heidi Nyland Melocco

For a reining sliding stop, you’ll need to keep your shoulders, hips, and heels in alignment. However, you’ll tilt the line back so that your shoulders are back, and your heels move to the front. The straight line will be tilted to help keep you rooted in the saddle while your horse moves his hind legs far under you.

A reining sliding stop
When you ask for the sliding stop, the line through your position will tilt back as your shoulders come back and your feet go forward. Photo by Heidi Nyland Melocco

Here, 15-year-old Parker Ralston helps show you the perfect stopping position. When he rides his horse in the rundown (loping then speeding up for a dramatic stop), he sits up tall with a line from his shoulders down to his hips, then to his heels and straight to the ground.

When it’s time to cue his horse for the stop, he moves his shoulders back and his feet forward to tilt the line as his horse stops beneath him. Once his horse recovers her balance, he moves his posture back to the usual riding position, too.

The Right Order

Parker’s dad, Aaron Ralston, helps coach him through the stopping process so that all looks smooth and relaxed. As you’re loping in a straight line, find a place where you want to stop. To prepare, you’ll first move your shoulders back and slide your feet forward a little bit. On the approach, you want your shoulders slightly behind your hips.

When it’s time to stop, you’re going to say “whoaaaaa” with a drawn out, long tone. You aren’t going to throw your shoulders back—they’ll stay back as they were on your approach. Say whoa, press into your legs, then pick up your hand and move it behind the saddle horn.

Aaron says you’ll keep your chin up and point your belt buckle to the sky as you slide to the stop. Be smooth and breathe. When you lean back, you’ll have a driving seat and a little bend in your back while keeping your shoulders back.


Make sure that you don’t change positions with a jolt. If you move fast, your horse will brace and move too fast into the stop, too.
Instead, all your moves should be smooth and well-timed. Put yourself in the position you will be in throughout the stop. When you’re smooth and relaxed, your horse will be able to move smoothly beneath you.

Slow Work

You don’t have to go fast to practice your position and flow. If your horse is trained for reining, he may look forward to the rundown and speeding up! Make sure that he waits for your cue to speed up, and know that you can practice your stopping position without lots of speed.

If your horse gets going too strong, stop, back up and try again at the speed you choose to go. It’s always good to ask a pro for help if you feel like your horse wants to move too fast.

A young rider backing his horse
If your horse gets going too strong, stop, back a few steps, and then continue until you get the speed you request. Photo by Heidi Nyland Melocco

Once you release your horse from the stop, relax and back up a step or two. You’ll reward your horse for his efforts when you allow him a moment to pause.

With practice, your horse will understand when it’s time to go and when it’s time to go slow!

Non-Sliding Stops

Not all western show classes require a sliding stop. In ranch riding and ranch trail classes, smooth downward transitions are the key.

A slow-down to stop requires vertical shoulder, hip, and heel alignment. You’ll gather your reins and ask your horse to slow down without a slide.

For a smooth downward transition, you’ll keep your reining hand in front of the saddle horn and pick up to cue for the slower motion. For many western-trained horses, a pull in front of the horn means to slow, and a pull behind the saddle horn means to stop with gusto.

To maintain a slow, consistent downward transition, you’ll need to keep forward motion while cueing for a subtle slow down. To do this, keep your vertical posture and shoulder, hip, and heel alignment.

Meet the Trainer

Trainer Aaron Ralston works his horses on his family’s Colorado cattle ranch and prepares them for world-class competition. He won Top 10 honors at the 2021 AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Show and has championship titles in reining, cutting, working cowhorse, and calf roping. He also earned gold for the United States reining team at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2006. 

Aaron’s son Parker Ralston and his mare, Nic Stole My Heart (pictured in article) won the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Youth World Championship in 2021.

This article about improving your reining sliding stops appeared in the March 2022 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

Heidi Melocco

Heidi Nyland Melocco holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Ohio Wesleyan University and a Master's degree in journalism from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University with a concentration in magazine and photo editing. At the latter, she was named Master's Student of the Year. Her stories and photographs are seen regularly in many equine publications, including Horse Illustrated and Young Rider. Melocco is an author of Western Horseman's Understanding Lameness, Western Horseman’s Legends 6 and 9, and Goodnight’s Guide to Great Horsemanship, and she’s a contributing photographer for the Certified Horsemanship Association's Instructor Manual, Hitch Up & Go, The Revolution in Horsemanship by Rick Lamb and Robert Miller, DVM; and Breed for Success by Rene Riley and Honi Roberts. She and her daughter are currently writing a new children's book called Pony Powers—all about what it's like to keep a pony at home. Melocco's photos have won awards from the Equine Photographer's Network and an AIM Award. Melocco holds first-prize awards from American Horse Publications (AHP) for training stories and equine photography. She has had more than 35 magazine cover photos. Melocco continues to write about and photograph horses and also works in video broadcasting. She directed and produced a popular RFD-TV show for more than 10 years. Melocco stays up to speed with social media and has grown accounts to reach and engage with hundreds of thousands of fans. She served on the Board of Directors for the Colorado Horse Council and has presented social media seminars at the PATHi and CHA International Conferences.She started riding Ponies of the Americas at age 5 at Smiley R Ranch in Hilliard, Ohio, with Janet Hedman and the W. E. Richardson family. In college, she was president and later assistant coach of the Ohio Wesleyan University Equestrian Team, coached by world-champion-earning trainer Terry Myers. Keeping active as a rider and riding instructor, Melocco began studying Brain Gym—an international program based on whole-brain and active learning. As a 4-H advisor, she used the simple movements to help horseback riding students relax and achieve their goals in the saddle. Melocco became a registered instructor with Path International, helping to combine horse knowledge and therapeutic experience with horsemanship training. Melocco has presented demos at Equine Affaire and at the Path International and National Youth Horse Council Annual Conferences. She taught at the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center in Longmont, Colo. Melocco resides on her small-acreage horse property with her husband, Jared; daughter Savannah; registered AQHA gelding, Charlie; pony, Romeo; dogs Lucy and Rosie, and three orange barn kitties known as the "Porch Patrol."


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