Half-Hearted Half-Halts

I mentioned in a past blog that a key moment in the new tests is in First Level Test 3, where the rider has to leg-yield in the trot to the right from the corner letter at K across the ring to X.? In order to do so, she has to pretty much counter-bend in the corner before K, so that she can half-halt on the right rein (the new outside rein) before starting sideways.? If she wimps out on that half-halt, then sHe’s not likely to get the leg-yield, or the figure 8 at X that follows, or the leg-yield back to the long side that follows the figure 8. If she rides that half-halt with conviction, she’s made a good start that should carry her through all three movements, but that half-halt at K is not for the faint of heart. As I watch more riders struggle with this sequence at First 3, and coach more riders myself, I’m finding that change of bend before K is even more of a key to success in this test than I first suspected. The rider is tracking to the right in the corner.? First, she has to widen her left hand away from the withers to create a bulge on the right side of the neck where she can place the rein.? (In order to have an outside rein, you first have to have an inside rein).? Then she half-halts on that right rein, which straightens and re-balances the horse, making it much easier for him to go sideways to the right when she activates her left leg to signal the leg-yield. What I’m learning as I watch riders struggle with this change of bend and half-halt is that a lot of people just don’t have a solid grasp of how to half-halt and how important it is to the horse.? The outside rein is like a security blanket to the horse, and without the half-halt there he feels abandoned in a way.? If you activate the opposite heel without the half-halt to re-establish his balance, he won?t feel comfortable going sideways.? If he goes sideways at all, it will be like a stiff board nose-to-tail, without any bend under the rider?s inside leg and thus no suppleness.? The leg-yield in First Level Test 2 that goes from the center line to the long side is a chip shot by comparison because the rail has a rather ?magnetic? effect to the horse, who will naturally drift that way on his own with any small incentive from the rider.? it’s much harder to convince the horse to leg-yield away from the rail. I know a lot of people are going to feel especially challenged by this sequence of movements in First 3, but if they figure it out, this will help their training carry forward in other areas because they?ll have finally ?learned the sequence of subtle adjustments of an effective half-halt and make it a tool they can use any time they wish.