Warming your horse’s muscles, and for that matter your own, is really important if you want to avoid injuries to your horse. You should continue your warm-up patterns for about ten minutes or until you feel that you have made progress with your transitions and your horse is relaxed and rhythmic, before you move onto other training exercises.
Exercise 3: Introducing the Feel of Half Halt
Gait: Walk and Trot
Aim: To train and introduce the feel of the Half Halt, as well as smooth transitions.
Working trot large (means trot around the sides of the arena). Around B, C, E and A, ride forward into a walk for five strides and then trot on again.
Once you have smooth transitions, from trot to walk and walk to trot, reduce the number of walk strides to four, then three, then two and then one stride.
You can now set your horse up for a walk transition and then change your mind and trot on – you have now executed a half halt.
Click on the image below to view an animated guide to this exercise.
Aids Used in this Exercise
All your aids will be given in the following order:
UPWARD TRANSITIONS (Walk to Trot):
Prepare > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield
DOWNWARD TRANSITIONS (Trot to Walk):
Prepare > Body Core > Rein > Weight > Leg > Yield
NOTE: Your rein, weight and leg aids occur at almost the same time. Do not rely on your rein aids; they should be the least important aid.
If you don’t find it too distracting, count the walk strides out loud or get a friend to do it for you. If you can’t tell the correct number of walk strides, then watch your horse’s shoulder pass for each walk stride.
You must prepare for the transition from trot to walk before you get to B, C, E or A. The amount of time you need to get your mind and body ready for the aids will depend on your level of training. Three trot strides before any of the letter-markers, start thinking about the aids you are about to give.
Start to apply the downward transition aids at least one or two strides before the letter-marker. This gives your horse time to respond so that he is walking on the marker. We want smooth transitions – no head tossing, hollow backs or hindquarters trailing out behind.
Strengthen your body core by tightening your stomach and back muscles for all downward transitions before applying the regulating rein.
If your horse does not respond to your body core and regulating reins, then trot forward to the next marker and strengthen you body core and then apply a stronger rein (close your hand and move your elbows back a little). Never forget to yield the rein (soften hands) the instant your horse responds. If you don’t give him this reward he will not learn or, worse still, he may develop ‘conflict behaviour’, where he will actively fight you.
Never give a rein aid without a seat/weight and/or leg aid.
While you are trotting straight, ride straight – even hands, a straight line from elbow to bit, an even weight on both seat bones, even legs and pressure, and always look between the horse’s ears.
Don’t decrease the number of walk strides until your horse is responding to your aids and giving you a balanced and smooth transition.
When you are ready to eliminate the walk stride altogether, follow all the steps ‘Trot to Walk’ aids, yield (soften) the reins but instead of allowing a walk stride, tighten your seat muscles and tighten the back of your thighs as though you are lifting the saddle up and forward (you only want a ‘working’ trot, so remember to relax your seat muscles and leg aid when your horse has continued to ‘trot-on’). You have now executed a Half Halt.
You will use a Half Halt every time you ask your horse to ‘get ready for new instructions’. You may want a change of gait, change of rein, flexion for a circle, a lateral movement; in fact, any time you want something different you will use a Half Halt to let your horse know that something is about to happen.