Second Year Student
Somehow or another, I figured out how to half-halt. After sharing my lengthy half-halt sequence with my instructor, I was told to simply start shortening the distance from the start of my attempt to the end of my attempt. So gradually I whittled it down bit-by-bit from the long side, to between 2 letters of the dressage ring, until I could half-halt at the letter. I also started asking my body to half-halt in the moment before a corner and after a corner. Sounds ridiculous, but it worked.
Learning to half-halt felt a lot like rider trial and error. Too much seat without driving leg and my horse stopped completely vs. hesitating. Pulling back on my reins vs. simply resisting and my horse shortened through the neck and barreled on, happily leaning on my hand. The second phase in which you release is crucial, since without it, you will not have effected any change; I had to learn not to simply throw away my reins in an elaborate opening, but to drive my horse into a yielding rein.
It actually helped me to stop thinking of applying my aids independently in a specific sequence, but instead to concentrate on creating “a moment of hesitation” followed by “changed my mind continue on”. I actually know how to coordinate and use my aids together, so a half-halt is simply using them in a specific manner to achieve a specific result; I just have to trust my body’s ability.
Then there was that one magical moment in my lesson: My stomach muscles held and my seat deepened as my legs continued to drive into my resisting rein aid, the minute I felt the hesitation of my horse, I released my holding seat, and used a driving leg into a yielding rein - and, the result was incredible! I felt my whole horse’s body change as the hindquarters lowered creating more engagement and lighter steps.
Tomorrow it might be back to the drawing board, but for now, I will celebrate.