DR108 The Half-Halt
The half-halt is a hardly visible, almost simultaneous, coordinated action of the seat, the legs and the hand of the rider, with the object of increasing the attention and balance of the horse before the execution of several movements or transitions between gaits or paces. In shifting slightly more weight onto the horse’s quarters, the engagement of the hind legs and the balance on the haunches are facilitated for the benefit of the lightness of the forehand and the horse’s balance as a whole.
When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, was here in December for a clinic, she had me using the half halt in a way that was new to me. She had me use both reins together. I had always thought that the only correct application of the half halt was through the outside rein. It never occurred to me that you could use both reins.
Using both reins to half halt with Izzy has been a game changer. For Speedy, the half halt says sit down a little and lift your withers, and while you're at it, get your hind end back in the conversation. Izzy's hind end is already working in over-drive. The problem is that his butt is pushing with so much power that his front end has to scramble around to keep him from falling on his face.
Even better is that Izzy is asking to stretch down. This is huge! His go-to has been a hollow back with his neck braced and his head in the air. With the snaffle that I had been using, I couldn't get him to slow down, ever, and he was very reluctant to stretch down to the bit. I know now that he wasn't happy in that bit. Whether he needed more tongue relief or just more room to move his tongue to swallow, he wasn't getting it, and now he is.
I love finding new ways to apply my aids. Someday, I'll be able to half half Izzy with my inside leg to outside rein, and someday after that, I might even be able to ask with just a shift in my weight. For now, I am so happy with how he is working. Each day, I remind myself to ride the horse I have rather than trying to improve on the horse I had yesterday*.
*I turned this into a meme by the way. Look for it this week.