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What exactly IS a half halt ?

What exactly IS a half halt ?

What exactly is a half halt?

and why should I use it?

It can be many things and at different levels of riding and schooling it can be used in different ways and for different messages.  To top riders it can mean a variety of messages – many more than it does to the grass roots rider.  The half halt is a generic term describing a hidden aid.  It could more simply be described as a hidden or silent message you send to your horse.

For the average rider of the average leisure horse it is actually a really useful and sorely underused aid.  So what is a half halt. It is a message to your horse that you are about to do something – it is a message saying be prepared.  It prepares the horse and says pay attention, we are about to do something different.

When you get used to using half halts they become one of the most useful aids in your tool box. A half halt will help you and your horse achieve

  • improved halts
  • better turns
  • better transitions
  • changes of pace
  • a half halt should make your horse pay more attention

Using half halts will help you get improved responses from your horse in general. If your horse is lazy it will improve his or her responses to your aids.  If your horse tends to go too fast it will help you slow things down.

OK – so let’s clarify the halt aids first – and then we can discuss the half halt.

This explanation is not attempting to provide the finesse needed by the top class dressage rider but offers basic explanations for the average rider of the average leisure horse.

The aids for halt:

  1. Sit taller and as you do so, tighten your core muscles slightly – because that will bring your seat into play on the saddle – you will be ‘using’ your seat in other words.
  2. Close your lower leg around the horses sides to a gentle squeeze – not a hard squeeze just slightly more than closing them on the horse.
  3. Close your fingers into a tighter fist shape so that there is pressure down the rein onto the bit.

To be sure that No 3 is effective however, you first have to be holding the reins correctly.

Surprisingly, this is not something that everyone is taught to do.

How to hold the reins correctly:

  • The rein should lie across the inside of the your 2nd and 3rd fingers – usually across the area between the first and second knuckles
  • Your hand should be held in a loose fist and the rein should come out of that loose fist in a specific position
  • The rein should sit on top of the first knuckle of your index finger
  • Your thumb should be slightly bent and the tip of your thumb rests on top of the rein over that first knuckle.  The thumb should not be flat and clamped down on the rein.
  • The second knuckle of each hand should be pointing towards the horse’s opposite ear.

For the leisure rider therefore, who is holding the reins correctly, and who understands the aids for halt, we offer our own interpretation of the half halt:

The Half Halt

Make sure you are holding the reins correctly!

  1. Sit slightly taller
  2. Close your legs gently onto the sides of your horse
  3. Very gently not too quickly, squash closed your fingers into your fist and slowly release again
  4. This will put gentle pressure on the bit, and on his/her sides and back – as though you were about to give a full halt message.
  5. It will alert the horse and may make him come together.  He will be expecting something to happen.

If your horse is going a little too fast in any pace you can use this half halt to slow the pace.  If your horse has a tendency to rush, use it every now and again to keep the speed slower and to calm things down a little.  Remember you do not snatch your fingers into a tighter fist  you gently squash them in and release again.

If you do not already use the half halt, try it just in walk and just before you make a change of direction – just a few steps before you turn.  When you are used to it and happy with how to do it then try it before making a halt.  Decide where you will halt and a 3 paces before you actually ask for the halt, give a half halt just to make your horse pay attention.

Start to use the half halt prior to any change of direction or change of pace from now on.    Send us your feedback on how it goes.

During this lockdown you could be taking a distance learning course and having some video lessons with a qualified senior coach – check out Senara Caddy  the Lingfield team member working with a number of clients via video – she may have a spare space so check that link.



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