When I’m not traveling and succumbing to the subsequent jet lag, travel blues, and general hatred of all things associated with leaving my house, I think a lot about half halts. Shit, who am I kidding. Even while I’m traveling, I’m pretty obsessed with half halts. I think about them A LOT. I think about them a lot a lot because I hardly have one.
Yes, yes, it’s rather a big failing in my riding and training of Murray. It’s not that I never have a half halt, regardless of the horse I ride. It’s just that I don’t have a half halt on my horse. Sometimes I rebalance my core and he just rebalances. It’s kinda cool. Sometimes I think about a down transition and keep my leg on and he rebalances. That’s cool too! But it’s not predictable. I somewhat have a balancing half halt when we’re jumping, but since Murray is so good at balancing himself before fences, and I’m typically more focused on the go aspect of things, I have not worked on this even that much while jumping. In terms of my dressage rides, well, it has taken me so long to get Murray to simply accept contact at more than a feather’s-weight that trying to communicate with more than a little rebalance of my seat has been challenging. And there is only so much I can tell Murray with my seat, until we can get some actual rebalancing done.
I read a lot about half halts, and think a lot about enacting them on Murray. I’ve been collecting information on half halts for a while now, and really appreciate all the different perspectives. But if you’ve ever read anything about half halts (or anything horse related? saddle fitting, anyone?) you know that there are at least 8239423 ways to skin the cat. I’ve not tried all of them, because I don’t want to change my strategy in the middle of things too much, and risk frustrating myself and Murray. But here’s a collection of my current half halting and rebalancing e-resources, all in one place, for all of our enjoyments.
Horse Radio Network — tip of the day. Austen suggested this half halt resource to me, with the corresponding advice “Ask and if thou dost not receive, ask harder” (paraphrasing). This little clip talks about the parts of your body involved in the half halt — how the energy travels from your calves through your thighs, the energy moving up through your core (abs and back), and how that translates to your hands. It includes information on the context of the various half halts and the structure you’re looking for — rebalancing? about to change gaits? — the intention of your half halt. Another part of this podcast is the timing of sequential half halts and how much (Austen wrote here about her own positional changes to greater half halt.)
Jane Savoie’s Connecting Half Halt
This is my go-to thought for the half halt. I love Jane Savoie, and I love her explanations, and the logic and thought of this method works for me. I even say “go, go, go” as I trot across the arena and try to rebalance. At it’s most basic, Jane encourages people to add leg for 3 seconds — think “add hind legs, add hind legs, add hind legs!” — and at the same time capture the energy with the outside hand, while finally also encouraging flexion at the poll with the inside hand. When well trained, these things should be near-simultaneous, but Jane trains them by first adding hind legs, then adding outside hand, then finally putting all three together. I will admit that I’m incapable of the vibrate/jiggle that Jane suggests to encourage inside flexion, I simply am not that coordinated. However, I have my own ways of encouraging and asking my horse to give to my inside hand, and that seems to work just as well too. What I like about this technique is practicing in pieces, which can be really helpful to remind Mr. Behind The Leg what certain things mean, before trying to put them together.
Sustainable Dressage actually talks about holding with the seat a bit more than some other resources do. I’m not sure why, but perhaps this is rolled into the “abs” portion of other authors on the half halt. This website also mentions using lateral work — shoulders-in and haunches-in — to help achieve half halts and rebalancing. A fascinating part of the Sustainable Dressage half-halt progression is the idea of adding the “halt” before the “go” in young horses, to avoid the thought that you are “punishing” them for moving forward. For a horse like Murray who is already slow off my legs, this is an idea that might be worth investigating. (re the pic: leaning is obviously necessary…)
Another of my favourite pony prancing sites, Dressage Different, actually has several articles on the half halt — the first one linked here being the “HOW TO“. This particular article has a video of Carl Schumaker talking about the half halt, the most basic form of which he insists must always include driving in, some contact with the hands to balance, and then drive out. However, he proves that as you train your horse all you need is to sit up to achieve the half halt — you can watch it on quite an impressive white gelding. There are also the “Prerequisites to the Half Halt” and the “Thirty One Flavors of Half Halt” if you want to read more about
Robert Dover on the half halt
Similar ideas, but from Mr. Dover. The theory of the body positioning is here, but it is a little lacking (for me) in how to make it actually happen.
So that’s where I’m at with half halts. These are all electronic resources, of course, and I’ve not yet plumbed into any books for this information. Sometimes online is easier and awesome and sometimes it’s not. If you’ve got good half halt resources, specifically that explore the details of the half halt and structuring one, I’d LOVE to see them!!