The half halt is a nearly invisible, simultaneous action of the hand, seat and legs used to capture the horse’s attention and regain balance. It is one of the most misunderstood concepts in training a horse. The secret to effective half halts is balance of the aids. If the rider applies too much leg, the horse will drive forward through the hand and come over top of the bit. If too much hand is applied, the horse will lose momentum. Applying the aids in their appropriate order and in balance with each other can help you put your horse on the bit but you also need it for every change of gait, balance, movement, or exercise.
1. How to Execute the Generic Half Halt in Trot
- Start in working trot rising
- Before you start the process think forwards: along the lines of “Half Go”. You are producing power and thrust rather than dulling a movement or slowing down.
- First, close both calves as if you’re squeezing toothpaste out of a tube to create that surge of power from behind. (You’ll only be using your legs as your driving aids at this point. I’m purposely leaving the seat out for now to keep things simple.)
- Next, close your outside hand (rein of opposition) in a fist to capture, contain, and recycle the energy back to the hind legs.
- Finally, give three little squeezes and releases on the inside rein to keep the neck straight. (If you don’t use your inside hand, your horse will bend his neck to the outside because your outside hand is closed in a fist for so long.)
- After three seconds, soften everything . Go back to the light, maintenance pressure of legs and hands you had in the beginning before you gave the half halt.
2. When to use the Half Halt It is imperative that the horse be sensitive to both the leg and rein aids. He must also reach for the bit. Only then should the rider focus on training the half halt.
- To capture the horse’s attention
- To slow the tempo
- To achieve lighter contact
- To increase collection
- To improve cadence
Each of the above reasons relates to confirmation of or improvement of the horse’s balance. Half halts can be used as needed so long as appropriate releases and praise are used.
3. Variations- which half halt to use
- Driving aids (seat and two legs)
- Bending aids (inside rein and both legs)
- The rein of opposition (outside rein)
These aids are applied for about three seconds and to the naked eye it appears the aids are given at the same time, although in reality they are not.
4. Common Errors in Execution
- Too much leg
- Too much hand
- A deadening seat
- Too much seat
Getting the timing and power needed for each of the separate aids is tricky and practicing is the only answer. Having a lseeon on a school master with a professional trainer is the best way to get a feel for what you need to do and when. Horse Scout has some great instructors listed. Take a look and check out our list here. Riding a half halt is as important on any horse whether it is a young eventer, a top dressage horse the family hunter or a happy hacker, so go out and get good at it.