MAY 1998 BACK ISSUE
Part of Horse Previews Magazine website. Posted on 5/7/98; 2:00:00PM.
Training Strategies: Half Halts - What Are They and When Do I Use Them?
By Leslie Vilhauer
Anyone who has been remotely near a dressage rider may have heard the term, half halt. Some riders may have been taught to half halt but didn't know it had a name. Some know the term well, but have no idea what it really is. A half halt is really quite simple & can be used in all horse sports, including jumping, reining, barrel racing, & roping.
A half halt is a movement done with the rider's seat which communicates to the horse that something is going to change in the next second or two. For example, rather than just using the reins to stop (or halt) from the trot or canter, the rider can half halt with her seat a few strides early & then apply the usual aids. The horse will have had a second or two to prepare both mentally & physically & will require less pressure on his mouth to stop. This won't happen immediately but it won't take long to train him to understand.
First, you as the rider must learn your part. Practice contracting & relaxing your glutei maximi while you sit in your chair. Yes, squeeze your buns. Now, imagine you are sitting on a swing. As the swing goes backwards, think about what you do with your seat to make the swing go forward again. Your lower back & your seat muscles push down on the swing & you go forward. You want to push your saddle down in the same way.
Now practice on your horse. At a walk, squeeze your, um, seat, & then gently apply slight but consistent rein pressure. If your horse doesn't halt, say "whoa" quietly. If your horsestops for you, pat him & walk on again. Once more, half halt with your seat, making sure your shoulders are up & back & your legs are still touching your horse, & halt again. After a few times, your horse will sense your half halt & begin to stop even before you apply your rein aids. If you get confused, remember the image of sitting on a swing & pushing it forward.
When you feel you have your walk-halt transition down, try using your half halts in the transition from trot to walk. As you trot or jog, half halt with your seat while maintaining contact with your legs. Gently apply rein pressure, not so much as to pull back, but to prevent forward motion. Use your voice commands to help him understand. Say "whoa" or "walk". If you need to, go back to the walk-halt transitions to review your training. Remember, your horse is trying to learn just as you are, so praise him when he does well.
LESLIE VILHAUER, M.S.