From Endurance to Dressage
An "AHA!" About the Half Halt
Early summer has arrived here in Central California which means our temperatures are solidly in the upper 80s and low 90s. When you're not yet acclimated to it, 90 is hot.
Because I was busy doing a few other things - the Summerlane Farm trail ride, shopping for Mother's Day, and a lesson on Speedy, Izzy had a few days off. At first, he seemed happy to come out and play. He was a bit tense about something in the yard (long story), but he kept his marbles locked up tight.
His walk was mostly fine, but he wasn't really willing to stretch over his back. I tried a variety of exercises including the shoulder in/haunches in on a circle, but he he just wouldn't quite let the tension go.
Sometimes I find that the canter will do what a trotting exercise won't. Izzy disagreed. He refused to pick up a left lead canter. I kicked and asked and kicked some more, but he emphatically said NO, it's too hot. I finally hopped off and got the whip.
From then on, his motor was revved, but he was even more tense because he knew he'd done something wrong, and he hates to be wrong. I didn't even have to use the whip. He finally agreed to pick up the canter but it was not soft nor was it relaxed.
I focused on relaxing my seat and upper body. I insisted that he could only pick up the canter if it wasn't against my hand. As soon as he softened, we walked. We repeated this several times to the left. By the time I asked for a right lead canter, he was listening but was still tight across his back.
The right lead canter is the one that can be the most difficult when he's tense. He doesn't want to give me an inside bend because he falls in on his inside shoulder. He also loses the rhythm of the canter in his hind legs. He'll swap leads back and forth or sort of stutter with his hind legs. All of a sudden I could hear my trainer's voice in my head. Half halt. Where's your inside bend? Half halt! More!!!!
I bent him to the inside to put him on my outside rein, and then I half halted. And all of a sudden I knew why I needed a half halt and what feeling I was trying to achieve.
He had lost the rhythm of the canter, and I could feel that he needed to slow down his front end so that his hind legs could reorganize. It was the clearest sense of understanding that I've had in a while. While maybe not perfectly executed, I could feel that my half halts were making perfect sense to Izzy.
We schooled the canter for a few more minutes. Every time he relaxed and felt balanced, we took a walk break. He was still tight and worried, but he was completely focused on me and was doing his best to do what I was asking. I finally felt like my aids were very specific, and I was actually helping him.
Little by little Izzy and I are becoming a team, and his level of trust in me is growing. He's still not an easy horse to ride, but he's getting less and less complicated. I was thrilled with what we were able to work through yesterday. My diamond in the rough is really starting to shine.
5/11/2018 07:18:16 am
I will definitely have to read it this weekend, Tracy. We've been doing state testing at school this past two weeks so my amount of online time has been severely restricted at work - it's a bandwidth issue.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
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Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
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