Readers Write: Half Halts

Riding Questions

?Practical Horseman. All Rights Reserved.

“My 8 year old Arab gelding is very forward. The problem? He runs right through my half-halts. I have tried to over emphasize them and he pays no attention to them. What exercises do you all do to get the horse paying attention to half-halts? I am tightening my seat and exhaling and until I either say “whoa” or pull on the reins he keeps going. ” —SciFi Horse

“Try to sit straight in the saddle. What helps me is if I feel like I’m leaning back I’m actually straight. The half halts I’ve learned have different meanings for different reins. For instance, to slow and collect a gait I half halt on the outside rein with a little inside leg. To encourage bend I half halt with the inside rein – I’ve never half halted by squeezing both reins at the same time. I suspect this has more to do with how the horse was trained than with whether one style is correct or not. Also, this pulling thing. With good contact with the horse’s mouth a squeeze (closing your hands) should accomplish the desired behaviour.” —Paula Edwina

“How is your horse in downward transitions? Does he perform downward transitions correctly if you ask for them correctly, or does he blow you off?

In order to get him to respond to half halts correctly, you need to make sure that he responds to downward transitions and that you are giving the cues for downward transitions correctly.

In a downward transition, you should allow your weight to sink deep into the saddle, brace your back, keep your lower leg on the horse, and squeeze the reins to “shut the door” to prevent forward momentum. You should feel his hind legs come up under him (that’s the reason you keep your legs on the horse into the transition) and you should feel him step up into the bridle. A correct downward transition should feel like an airplane landing.

One of the most common faults I see in downward transitions is too much hand, not enough leg. I’m guilty of it, too, sometimes. Don’t pull. Ride the horse up into the bridle. His jaw and poll should feel relaxed. He shouldn’t lean on your hands (that’s a sure sign that you’re using too much hand) or stiffen in the transition. If you are asking for downward transitions correctly and the horse is responding to them, then you can use downward transitions to teach your horse how to respond to half halts.

Ride a series of correct downward transitions to get him in tune with you. Then, ride a trot/walk downward transition, but at the last minute, change your mind and ask the horse to trot again. This is the half halt at it’s most blatant and obvious. ๐Ÿ™‚

Then you just work on becoming more subtle so that the effect is a rebalancing instead of an “almost” downward transition.” —Holly Stapleton

“Well, I take it that you know enough about Dressage to know that this is used when your horse is in the ‘collected’ stage, so what you want to do, for Half Halts is: Once you are into a collected canter, use your HANDS only. Other than sitting deep in the saddle and keeping your legs ready for correction ONLY, the reins are your main concern. Make sure that you have bit contact with your horse (which I am sure that you do, if he is collected,) and bring your hands UPWARD firmly, with a solid grip, then quickly start opening your fingers, a little at a time. This raises the head and neck and pushes the horse’s weight to the rear. It will take the weight off of his shoulders.

Make sure that your HANDS are slightly to the front, or over the withers when you execute this manuever, and WATCH those legs, as he is probably taking your tightening of the seat and legs as ‘Go, boy!,’ and that would make him ‘collect’ more, while still trying to go, when you are lifting the reins. So pay more attention to the hands and FORGET the legs, until you need them. I can’t stress this enough. In the canter, most people are gripping like mad with the legs, putting pressure where it isn’t needed. They should be used more for securing your balance.

Try putting more weight in those stirrups, as this will give you more security. You just don’t want undue pressure. The legs are used strictly to correct the horse from side to side, or keeping the horse on the bit, if he slacks off. There are other methods for using the right or left rein, or both, too, but that comes with a different need, and involves the snaffle and/or curb bit.” —Ponieden

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