- Performing a Half-Halt -

You'll find that sometimes your horse gets a little too excited, a little too jumpy and hyper, or even just a bit too speedy. Half-halts are fantastic for collecting your horse and helping them to gather up under themselves to carry their bodies better. half halt

Many riders have heard of a half-halt, but don't know what one is, and some people with raise their eyebrows in question just at hearing the unfamiliar term.  Then there are some riders that have learned how to do a half-halt, but didn't know that it had a name. It's pretty easy to do and can be used anytime, in any horse sport, regardless of discipline. It is merely a movement executed with the rider's seat, communicating to the horse that something is about to change, that they're about to be asked to do something else. Let's say you're used to using just your reins to stop your horse from the trot or canter. Instead of just using your reins, use your seat to half-halt a few strides earlier than you want the walk (or halt), and then apply your usual aids. This will give your horse a chance to prepare for the transition both mentally and physically, and it will take less rein pressure to stop your horse.  Like most training procedures, this effect won't happen immediately - but chance are, it won't take him long to understand the concept.

The first part of this exercise is for the ride. This can be practiced off the horse, believe it or not! It's going to sound weird - but I swear, it's true, and it'll help! Practice contracting and relaxing the muscles in your Gluteus Maximus. Yes, squeeze your bum! Once you've done this, pretend that you're sitting in  a swing. As the swing goes backwards, imagine what you need to do with your seat to push the swing forward again. To do this, your lower back and seat muscles push down on the swing, which causes you to go forward. You're going to push down in your saddle exactly the same way - trust me, your horse will feel it and respond!

Next you're going to practice on your horse. Try it at a walk first - squeeze your seat, while gently and consistently (don't saw the reins!) applying rein pressure. If your horse doesn't halt, use your voice - "whoa" quietly. If the horse stops, reward him with a scratch, then walk on. Again, half-halt with your seat - make sure your shoulders are up and back, dropped quietly towards your hips, and your legs still touching your horse, and ask for the halt again. It should only take a few times of this before your horse senses your half-halt and will begin to stop before you even touch your reins. If you get befuddled, remember sitting on a swing and pushing it forward. When you feel like you've got the walk/halt/walk/halt transition down with the half-halt, try it from a trot down to a walk. As you trot, do a half-halt with your seat, but still keep your legs on the horse. Gently apply rein pressure again, not pulling back, but just preventing forward motion. You're effectively creating a "wall" for the horse to "run into" by not allowing enough rein to go forward anymore. Remember to use your voice to create a better transition, and if you need to, go back to that walk/halt transitions to review and perfect yours and your horse's training. Keep in mind that your horse is learning along with you, and remember to praise him when he does the right thing.

The half-halt is probably the most important 'tool' in Dressage. The rider sits deeper in the saddle and 'stops' his seat and closes his hands on the reins, momentarily telling the horse to halt with seat and hands. The horse will take shorter, more upward steps. But instead of a full halt, the rider again rides forward and the horse will be more energetic and attentive. The half-halt is something that you will develop to 'tell' your horse that something new is going to happen.

 

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