Understanding and Refining Your Half Halt

Understanding and Refining Your Half Halt

Understanding and Refining Your Half Halt

Understanding and Refining the Half Halt - Strides for Success

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Understanding how the half halt is like an intercom system for your horse!
  • Timing, Timing, Timing and why you are probably doing too much for too long…
  • Thinking about riding into your hand, rather than against it
  • Working towards slowing the front end to ‘catch up’ the back-end

Riding horses is all about balance.  It’s a balance between your aids, it’s actual balance sitting on your horse.  However one of the most essential, yet difficult balancing acts is the half halt.  There is an ever shifting balance between the aids, the rider and the horse.  In this episode I want to dig a little deeper into the half halt with some practical advice you can use immediately to get results.

What is the half halt?

The half halt is a communication aid between you and your horse.  It is your way of bringing your horses attention back to you, in order for you to then give directions about what you want him to do.

Unfortunately what often ends up happening many riders is that they are so busy babbling to their horse – via the seat, legs, reins and fingers – that when they ride a half halt, their horse has completely tuned out.  He is no longer part of the conversation at all.

Simply put, the half halt is all about bringing your horses attention back to you, so you can then convey something to the horse. 

It all happens much quicker than most riders imagine…

I like to think of the ‘half’ part in the name ‘half halt’ as pertaining to the amount of time it takes to ride the aid.   No longer than half a stride.  You can then take it a step further when you think about performing the aid within one footfall of your horse.

Many riders hold the half halt for too long, and rather than it being that fine balance we mentioned at the beginning, it becomes an anchor in the sand.  Doing this has an obvious effect on the horses way of going.

Rather work on getting your half halt to the point where it is so refined that nobody can see you doing it, and nobody can see the effect on the horse.

It is also important to keep in mind that your goal should be to apply the half halt BEFORE things start to fall apart.  Many riders leave it too late and this results in an almost panicked and rash use of the aids in order to rebalance.

How should you apply the half halt?

Firstly, there must be a clear difference between what you are doing now and what you are going to do when you apply the half halt.  This difference is often missing due to the rider being too stiff and tense in the saddle.

Think of ‘allowing’ through your seat and back in particular.  If you can establish and then maintain a lovely looseness before you apply the half halt it will make all the difference.  The half halt is that little bit of resistance for that split second.  When used correctly and consistently your horse will feel the change.  The difference.

It is also worth remembering that it is a ‘slight’ resistance.  Subtle.  Quiet.  This is why developing a strong core can make a difference to your communication with your horse.

The next part is that the horse shouldn’t change course from what’s happening.  He must be moving forward before you apply the half halt aids.  Once applied, he shouldn’t slow down, he shouldn’t stop.  This is where your leg aids come into play.  With them, you will ask your horse to continue moving forward.  This all happens in a split second (that one footfall) – leg on, leg off – and ridden in a way so that you are not bumping the horse.  It must be a subtle increase in pressure, and then a decrease in pressure, all inside that split second.

Understanding the role of your hands in the Half Halt

The third part of this simplified explanation is your hand.  A lot of riders make the mistake of bringing their hand back in the half halt, in other words they come against the horse.

Rather think about your legs bringing the horse into your hand. 

Your hand will not move back.  Rather think about the resistance that began in your lower back spreading up, across your shoulders and down through your arms.  Your arms will also have a certain amount of tension, resistance, in them.  That resistance is there to meet the energy that comes through when apply your leg aids.  It is truly a balance of your aids.

The relationship between the front end and the back-end

The half halt is what you can use to connect the back-end to the front end.  If ridden correctly, it will cause the front end to lighten so the back-end can come under it.   In order for this to happen, the back-end must be coming forward from behind.

The result is a lovely lightning.  It is your horse re-balancing, re-adjusting, re-calibrating everything in order to lighten and carry itself a little better. 

It is an every changing and evolving aid

The half halt will be ridden differently for every horse and every situation.  The balance of the aids must be adjusted to fit the current scenario.

When working with young or less experienced horses, or less experienced riders, the lightness will not happen straight away.  It takes physical and mental development in both horse and rider in order to really tap into the true power of a subtle half halt.

However, these instances the answer is to perform a lot more half halts than a more experienced pairing or team of horse and rider would require.

Summing up the Half Halt in a few simple steps

Next time you are on your horse, think about the one footfall – that you should allow first through your back before you can ask for that little bit of resistance through your back.

How your leg is then asking the horse to continue to move on so that it is bringing the energy in, but then your hand is there to meet that.

Your hand is not coming up against the horse, your horse is rather coming into your hand, you are holding it for a split second and then you are releasing.

That is the half halt in a nutshell.

Happy Riding


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