Dressage for the Non-Horsey Boyfriend - Part 1: The Halt

When my new equipment manager (that's what I call my boyfriend now - he has been upgraded from groom to equipment manager after also being responsible for preventive maintenance on the horse trailer...and being such a good groom) started his career in accompanying me to dressage shows, he had no clue what it was all about.

Now, several months later, he at least has no problems seeing whether I am on a circle or whether I am changing rein. Still, there is a lack of understanding of the WHY we get the marks for each movement we are getting.

What's more, my mum and dad have no clue whatsoever. Whenever they see me ride they assure me that it was the best they have ever seen.

Time to bring some light to the clueless - what are all the movements about and what the hell the judges (SHOULD) want to see - FEI rule book here we go.

First movement, often forgotten and underestimated, is the halt. After entering at A and riding straight on the centerline, judges want to see the perfect halt. Article 402 of the FEI Dresssage Rules 2014 Edition say the following:

1. At the halt the Horse should stand attentive, engaged, motionless, straight and square with the weight evenly distributed over all four (4) legs. The neck should be raised with the poll as the highest point and the noseline slightly in front of the vertical. While remaining “on the bit” and maintaining a light and soft contact with the Athlete’s hand, the Horse may quietly chew the bit and should be ready to move off at the slightest indication of the Athlete. The halt must be shown for at least 3 seconds. The halt should be shown throughout the salute.

Not too bad, poll could be higher

Poll not the highest point, weight not evenly distributed, legs square?!

Horse above the bit, open, too little contact, not attentive (sleeping?!)
2. The halt is obtained by the displacement of the Horse’s weight to the hindquarters by a
properly increased action of the seat and legs of the Athlete, driving the Horse towards a
softly closed hand, causing an almost instantaneous but not abrupt halt at a previously fixed place. The halt is prepared by a series of half-halts (see transitions).

In early days, when half halts were still a mystery...

3. The quality of the paces before and after the halt is an integral part of the assessment.

Most likely, I am not straight enough on the centerline, our halt is then open and Hafl is more interested in watching the judges and lifting his head than waiting for me to salute. Too bad, because this is one of the movements which every horse could do, no matter how talented or how expensive. And watching some high end dressage presentations lately - even the grown ups are struggling with a movement which seems so easy.

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