Dressage For The Non-Horsey Boyfriend Part 7: The Half Halts


Source: pinterest
The half halts are one of the concepts of dressage that seem to be a mystery for some of us...some even forever. Even more, for non-horsey people half halts seem like a yes, no, maybe, what?! Is it a halt? How can it be only half? And when you tell them that half halts can also be performed to increase speed (yes, you have to precise as that), they might be lost completely. Let us have a look at the FEI Rule Book (remark: this is now the 2016 version).

ARTICLE 408 THE HALF HALTS Every movement or transition should be invisibly prepared by barely perceptible half halts. The half halt is an almost simultaneous, coordinated action of the seat, the legs and the hands of the Athlete, with the object of increasing the attention and balance of the Horse before the execution of the movements or transitions to lower and higher paces. By shifting slightly more weight onto the Horse’s hindquarters, the engagement of the hind legs and the balance on the haunches are improved for the benefit of the lightness of the forehand and the Horse’s balance as a whole.

So, first of all, half halts do not necessarily lead to a halt. What's more, there is no pulling. The half halt is way more delicate than that: it is a symbiosis of your hands, your seat and your leg intending to rebalance the horse. Your legs and seat say go, your hands say no - you are driving your horse with seat and leg into your closed hands - followed by an immediate release. Remember: no pulling. So why do we do that again? It is all about rebalancing.

Half halts could happen anywhere and anytime
Rebalancing means to shift the way to the haunches. We do not only need that to avoid handstands in case of downward transitions (whether it is from extended trot to collected trot, from walk to halt, from canter to trot,..). We also want the horse to sit more when going from canter to extended canter for example because we do not want the horse to become flat and fast but expressive and forward uphill. Half halts are also used in corners to prepare the horse for whatever comes after the corner, right before any other movement as a reminder that we are still there, that the horse is attentive, on the bit and with his weight on his haunches... to cut a long story short: there could be hundreds of half halts during a training session. It is not only THE half halt but there might be more than one necessary to rebalance the horse, to prepare him for the next movement.

Source: http://www.dressageaddiction.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/half-halt1.jpg

You should hardly see a half halt but you definitely feel it. To somebody not used to that sensation, it might be comparable to the feeling of the horse stopping or at least really slowing down and in the last second he decides to continue and goes off. The more precise the aids and the respond of the horse gets, the smoother the feeling. Half halts - often misunderstood and yet so important.

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