As riders, we have all heard of the half halt. Many riders use it regularly to, let’s be honest, varying levels of success! And while it can be easy to say that your horse is just not all that responsive, and just leave it at that. I think a better plan would be to tweak your approach and see if you can maybe get a better result.
And then commit to sprinkling half halts all over the arena when working with your horse; groundwork, lunging, and when riding.
You might be thinking “half halts during groundwork and lunging? Hardly!” But in today’s episode, I want to literally ‘sell’ you on the idea of learning, practicing, and incorporating these into your day-to-day sessions with your horse. And then just allowing the results to speak for themselves :)
Why Sprinkle Half Halts All Over the Arena?
One of the most simple ways to see the power of the half halt is to begin recognizing and understanding why we use it as a tool in our training with our horses. There are lots of different reasons that this is the ‘go-to’ communication tool for horses. And most of those fall into one of three different categories.
1. Get Your Horse’s Attention
It is all well and good to ask questions or try to correct your horse whether on the ground or in the saddle. But if your horse is not listening to you, it’s obvious that both will fall short of your expectations. This is why we first use the half halt to actually gain our horse’s attention.
It’s a little like saying “Ding Dong, come back here to me please – I’ve something important that I want to say”.
And if your horse brings his attention back to you, the chances are that he will be more responsive and ‘alert’ for whatever request or question comes next. And if you think about how many times you actually need to get your horse’s attention on any given groundwork, lunging, or riding session together… Yep, the result is usually that you begin sprinkling half halts all over the arena. Or trail, field, paddock, pen, etc.
2. Make a Correction
The second reason those in the know love the half halt is due to how effective it is to help correct any “that’s not quite it” moments your horse produces! And I think we can all agree that they are, initially anyway, plentiful in any given training session. And rightfully so.
After all, this is how we literally train our horses to what expectations we have of them when we apply particular combinations of aids. Or, said differently, when we ask different questions.
Your half halt, when correctly applied, can help you point out the ‘mistake’ to your horse. And help your horse to correct that said mistake. Now, obviously, in this situation, we will use it with other aids in order to be as specific as we can with our horse. To offer as much clarity as possible. But, again, sprinkling half halts all over the arena will become easy when you are using it for this reason.
3. Rebalance and Reconnect
The final big reason that riders love the half halt is pretty simple. It allows us to ‘rebalance’ things – maybe even before a full-on ‘correction’ is needed. When we feel that very first misstep in the rhythm. Or we feel that subtle but obvious change in the trajectory of the energy (more heavy and less light)…
When we can both bring our horse’s attention back to us and then, quickly and subtly, rebalance or reconnect the energy, very often the quality of the movement is not ‘lost’.
It is so lovely to have the ability to almost ‘foresee’ a ‘speed wobble’ or a ‘whoopsie’ and then make the necessary adjustments so it never ‘really’ happens. That is the power of the half halt. And this is why, when we take all 3 of these ‘reasons’ into account, it is probably one of the most (if not the most) powerful and versatile tools we have as riders training our horses.
Half Halt on the Ground
And this is exactly why, I believe, that if you can begin practicing this starting today (or the very next time you’re with your horse), you will begin to see a definite difference – even in the first session of being intentional about this.
So, to get started, put a head collar or a bridle (if you’re going riding afterward, this is perfect to do on the way to the arena), on your horse. Find somewhere you can ‘walk’ while leading your horse. This can be inside of the arena, on the driveway (if it’s long enough), or in a field or paddock.
From here, begin thinking about what the ‘half halt’ really is. It’s a way to communicate with your horse while still maintaining the forwardness. And we do this, on the ground, just like we do in the saddle.
Your Aids on the Ground
When you are leading your horse, there can be this temptation to ‘overuse’ your hand aids. Just like when we ride! We have the reins, there in full view, and we use what we can see first. So, just like when in the saddle, your job now becomes ‘wait’.
You need to ‘wait’ before you just willy-nilly pull your hand back. And you also need to learn to ‘weight’ your aids a little – just like when in the saddle.
And if you don’t believe me, try it right now. Stand up, walk forward, and then ‘weight’ one of your feet intentionally. Simply allow more weight to ‘stay’ or ‘land’ on the hip of the foot you are ‘weighting’.
Half Halt in Everyday Life
I do suggest you practice this without your horse initially. And, trust me, this is something you do all of the time in day-to-day life. Walking through the supermarket. And you are passing an aisle… But ‘Wait’… There is something there that I may want. Well, when your mind says ‘wait’, your body will automatically ‘weight’ the leg you stepping onto.
There is an ever-so-slight shift of weight that allows you to ‘pause’ momentarily in order to reconsider what you really want. That is a half halt. And you can apply this to your groundwork with your horse.
And then, from there, you can begin to transfer this across to the saddle, so that you and your horse can learn to ‘wait’ or ‘pay attention’ or ‘rebalance’ when necessary in your work together.
- Your Aids to Ride the Half Halt
- FREE Half Halt Training Audio
- 3 Ways to Use the Half Halt in Your Riding
- Harnessing the Power of the Half Halt
- Improving Your Ride with the Half Halt
- Understanding and Refining Your Half Halt
- Your Half Halt on the Ground with Your Horse