Title: HALTING the horse
Subtitle: My horse just will keep creeping along unless I say "whoa."
Case: A 6 year old mare and a beginning adult rider.
Question: All the books and videos just tell you how to halt but no matter what aids I use, she just will keep creeping along unless I say "whoa." Reading what you wrote about doing it over and over helps--in fact I did some of that today--making her stop in front of a wall so she could get the idea, but whenever I would try to stop her out in the middle of the arena we would just keep moving, despite my various aids.
This is a retraining problem and you will need a lot of patience both with yourself and your horse. Remember that your mare is a creature of habit and she understands "whoa" as one of the few things you do that is consistent in the saddle right now.
In order to change this you, as the rider, must change from "whoa" to a new set of aids. On the ground while you are leading her (in halter and lead, or in bridle), always exhale and stiffen your lower back when you stop. I'm not kidding. The mare will notice and learn. Stop at odd times as you lead her, always using the aids but no voice. Each time she stops, praise and pat her then lead on.
In the saddle you use much the same aids: a slight stiffening of your lower back along with a sharp exhale and (if absolutely necessary) a slight quick arrest with both ring fingers equally on the reins. The rein aids require that your have completely still and soft hands within the gait, otherwise she won't notice.
Once you have decided on the aids you must not change them! I repeat: you must not change them. Right now your horse knows what a loud "whoa" means because you use the aid consistently. She is comfortable that she is giving you exactly what you are asking for when you use that aid. This makes her feel happy and secure because she is a herd animal and she knows her place in the scheme of things when you "whoa" and she halts. Other times, especially if you keep changing the halt aids, she is confused and isn't quite sure what you require. You are giving mixed signals. Don't worry, we've all done this to our horses as beginners and intermediate riders.
Using the wall or a fence or a jump standard to begin with isn't a bad idea (if you only do this once or twice during a ride and only for a week or so), as long as your halt aids are consistent and she gets used to what they mean. On the other hand, she may think she only has to stop if she is heading toward a solid object. Rather than "running her into a wall" so to speak, I prefer the ground training and consistency in the saddle. Either way don't be upset that the mare creeps along when you apply the aids. Don't keep the aid on (called hanging on the aid.) Make the aid definite and brief. Don't punish or get tense if she creeps along. Repeat the aid (yes, over and over) releasing completely each time. Remember that the horse responds to the aid as it is released and not as it is held. When she does stop, instantly praise and reward her with a moment or two of asking for nothing at all. You'll be tempted to reach forward to pat her, but remember what that does to unbalance your seat and refrain. Work in both directions and, for now, make your down transitions from trot to walk then to halt.
Have patience with yourself. Have infinite patience with your mare. Keep using the same physical aid(s) and instantly reward her each time she halts. As she gets used to the aids over a period of weeks or even months, you can lighten the aids to a "whisper." Very likely she'll start to halt on your exhale!