Learning to Half-Halt: Part I

Second Year Student

Skills pile on top of each other faster than my brain can assimilate.  Coordinating my aids to work together is the ultimate objective because then I start to have some influence on my horse.  But I am serious when I state that coordinating my aids is s-l-o-w going for me, especially when my brain is involved.  For example, I am learning how to half-halt.  It does not really matter what gait, since the aids are the same and I am just as incompetent at half-halting in rising trot, sitting trot and canter!

I know the sequence of aids:  First phase:  seat holds, both legs drive into a holding or resisting rein aid; Second phase: seat opens and allows, both legs drive into an open or yielding rein aid.  I know the images and phrases that instructors use to help the rider visualize and apply the circle of aids.  The half-halt is:

         ~A hesitation or a pause

         ~A preparatory signal for the horse at the beginning and ending of any                                movement

         ~To capture your horse’s attention

         ~Used to rebalance your horse, achieve more collection, improve self-carriage,                  to engage and lower the hindquarters, to improve cadence

Who wouldn’t want to learn how to half-halt with those incredible results!  And to execute a half-halt all you have to do is:

~Use invisible and simultaneous aids of the seat, leg, and hand

~Use a combination of your 3 aids in two steps or phases

~While making sure that they are applied in the correct sequence and degree

~Your aids must be balanced:  not too much hand or too much leg

Perfect.  Makes complete sense.  However, this is the way my brain tells my body what to do.  And this is how my body executes my brain commands (Do not laugh! This is a real-life experience):

Okay, here I go.  I am cantering down the long side of the arena.  Now I am concentrating on holding with my seat.  About the time I reach the corner and round the long side, I am concentrating using my driving leg aid, and then I remember to hold with rein.  Down the next long side, I release rein to provide an opening with my hands, drive with my legs, and at the last minute, remember to open my hips and allow the increase in motion, which I think I was actually supposed to do first, since the order of sequence is always:  seat, leg, rein.  Apparently, it takes me roughly one lap around the arena to half-halt!  I don’t know how I am ever going to execute one single half-halt before the corner, much less the multiple ones that my instructor is asking me to execute around the arena.

(Okay, you are allowed a small chuckle, since I can laugh about it now, but it wasn’t a laughing matter at the time.)

For a complete definition of the half-halt in dressage, refer to an excerpt from the USDF Training Manual.