From Endurance to Dressage
For such a simple pair of words, the half halt is anything but simple. I am pretty sure that entire books have been written about it. The USEF rulebook has this to say about the half halt:
DR108 The Half-Halt
I am not trying to be funny or anything, but holy crap that's a mouthful. Pretty much, if you can perfect the half halt, you're amazing.
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.
Half halting with both reins has been a huge aha for me. Not that Speedy is getting worked with any regularity, but when we do work, it is getting easier and easier to get his hind end underneath him by half halting with both reins while also adding leg and thinking about lifting his withers with my seat. When I use both reins, I can keep him straight while driving his hind legs forward.
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.
Izzy doesn't need very much leg to push him forward. In fact, he needs the opposite. He needs to slow down so that he can keep his balance. For the last couple of weeks, I've been using both reins to say slow down followed by a release. Then I ask for a stretch down with the inside rein. The stretch down is now starting to come almost as soon as I ask for the slow down.
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 am still using the non-dressage legal correction bit that has a low port with Kimberwick cheeks. Chemaine worried that he wasn't going to take a solid contact with this bit as it's really designed for spoiled horses who don't want to stop. Even though it has a lot of curb action which gives me good braking power, he is taking a solid contact and is getting happier by the day in it. I am able to half halt and get a response quickly which then allows him to stretch if he wants to. And the amazing thing is that he does!
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.
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
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: