Teaching a true stop is not very important to me in the beginning of their training. What I really need is for them to go forward. If he won't go forward I can't teach him to stop, or anything else for that matter, so for the first dozen rides I don't worry to much about a correct stop. Having said that I need to have some way to get him to stop so I can get off for coffee. Early in his training, on the ground, I have taught him to flex. He knows that when he is flexing he can, and is supposed to realax. The first time I ride him, the first thing we do is flex in the saddle, so he knows he can just stand and relax. There is a ton of other things he is learning at this point but we won't talk about that right now. But this flexing from the start is what I will use to get him to stop when I need him to, until we get to where he is ready to learn a correct stop. When he is ready in his training to learn to stop, I try to make the idea of stopping his idea. How do I do that you ask? Good question. Early on I have taught him that forward is the answer to everything, circles, following the rail, etc. We do all of these exercises at a walk trot and canter. After a while he will start to WANT to stop. He tells me this by trying to go from and canter to a trot or a trot to a walk, or a walk to a stop. Thats when I want to start to teach him to stop. So, at a walk, we will be going along, I will give the cues to prepare him to flex to a stop, he wants to stop anyway, so when he feels these cues he will try to prepare himself for the flex. To do that he has to get stopped and get his feet under him so he will be able to flex when I ask for the flex. Only thing is, this time, I don't ask for the flex, he just stops. He is surprised to find out that I'm not flexing him, and in his mind he has figured out a way to avoid the work of flexing by stopping before I get the chance to flex him. Once he figures this out, he will be eager to stop anytime I ask, with just the cues of my seat and legs. Remember to make the rest as long as the work. When he gives you a big stop, just let him stand there and enjoy the view.
Will try and keep you updated with info on what the heck I'm doing with horses and music.