Anyone who has ridden in an arena for a prolonged period knows how different the energy feels when they finally get out on the trail. What may have been feeling a little flat and, even, deflated, suddenly comes back to life. Both horse and rider seem to become more keenly self-aware. And more responsive to external elements.
Rather than being afraid of this energy or worried about it, you can rather begin to intentionally channel that energy to improving your training & riding.
By strategically channeling this energy, you can actually use your hacking or time out on the trail to actually improve things. Both you and your horse can positively influence your training and development. And, then return to the arena with a greater understanding of the different questions.
Start with ‘Forward’
I’ve noticed that many riders when they feel something different happening, ‘shut down’. Shutting down looks like the rider collapsing, but also stopping the horse from thinking or working forward. Maybe hanging onto the contact. Or sitting too deep and resisting with their seat. A little like ‘hunkering down’ and waiting for the storm they are convinced will come!
Keeping your attention on the individual footfalls that your horse is making each stride and the rhythm they create, will help you to keep actively working forward.
Once you have identified the rhythm, work on syncing your body to your horse’s movements. Are you able to allow your movements to be led? Rather than pushing your horse along with your body?
Thinking and working forward means that your horse is taking you somewhere with a sense of purpose, and you are very much along for the ride.
From here, begin experimenting with your independent aids… What happens to your outside shoulder when you apply or use your inside leg? And what about your outside hand when you apply your outside leg?
Very often we miss the fact that our aids are not as independent as we first thought; use your work out on the trail to identify and tweak.
Having truly independent aids will allow you to better channel and harness the energy. It also allows for clearer communication, more responsiveness, and just more overall clarity between you and your horse.
Creating More Space
From here, I am going to suggest working on the space within each stride. Many riders only focus on the space between the strides (the tempo). However, by working on the actual space within each individual stride, you can begin to really define and improve the overall rhythm.
Riding a well-timed, well-balanced, clear half-halt is one of the best ways to begin defining each stride a little more and truly harnessing that different energy.
What’s really unique about the half-halt is that no two are ever really the same. There is a level of intuition that, as riders, we need to tap into and explore in order to truly ride it. Each individual situation, each individual stride, will call for something slightly different.
Learning how to balance your individual and independent aids together in order to effectively half halt, will open so many doors for you and your horse.
Half Halt Out on the Trail
Once you can effectively begin to use your half-halt, a whole other world will open up for you and your horse. You will find that the ‘fresh’ energy you experience while out of the trail becomes beneficial, rather than something that causes concern.
It also allows you to approach everyday schooling movements and exercises from a new place – with newfound energy and enthusiasm. I am a big fan of using both lateral work and flexion/bending while out on the trail to help better engage this energy.
And, when the energy is correctly harnessed, it leads to improved contact. Sometimes even better than what riders experience in the arena.
So, this week, plan a hack or an outing that will take you out of the arena and see what you can begin to harness and improve with your horse.
- Your Aids to Ride the Half Halt
- 3 Ways to Use the Half Halt In Your Riding
- What Not to Do When Riding a Fresh Horse