Improve your Horse’s Self-Carriage and Balance

What is a Half-Halt?
Before you can perform a successful, skillfully ridden half-halt (something riders at all levels of training strive to accomplish) you need to get a clear picture of what it is. Simply put a half-halt is primarily just that – a half of a halt; you will ask for the halt, but not all the way. However, there is a big difference between a half-halt and actual halt. When performing a complete halt, the end goal will result in complete termination of the forward energy and engagement so the horse will ultimately stop moving. In a half-halt, you need to maintain the energy and engagement to help the horse re-balance. (Actually, correct application of the aids for the complete halt actually involves using half-halts.) There are many reasons and benefits for including half-halts throughout the schooling session and at all levels of training. Performing a correctly executed half-halt accomplishes the following:

  • lightens the forehand
  • shifts the horse’s center of gravity backward
  • helps the horse use his back and become “round”
  • relaxes the horse’s mind and body
  • centers the rider
  • half-halts aid in collection, engagement, self-carriage, and balance

You can see why there is so much emphasis on understanding and perfecting one’s ability to execute an effective half-halt and how the quality of your performance is directly related to the quality of your half-halts.

The Correct Aids for Performing a Half-halt
Since the primary mechanism of creating self-carriage for the horse comes from the rider’s ability to influence the rearward displacement of the center of gravity, half-halting will always include engagement of the horse’s hind quarters. This is because we want the horse to carry more weight on his hind quarters so that he may be able to lighten his forehand.

Application by the rider of a well-anchored seat and supporting legs, along with restricting rein aids allows the horse to re-establish back to front connection. The exact aids used will depend greatly upon the specific needs of the horse at the moment the half-halt is performed. However, here are the basic aids used for executing a successful half-halt.

  1. Sit tall, with your neck, shoulders and arms relaxed. Think – “everything from the waist up stretches UP, everything from the waist down extends DOWN”
  2. Use your back, seat and legs to support the horse. Press the horse forward into the hands, remembering to keep the horse’s energy active
  3. Restrict the forward motion by closing your fingers. This will encourage the horse to re-balance by bringing his hind end under, rounding his back, and lightening his forehand
  4. When the horse responds, make sure you soften your aids. The goal of the half-halt is to re-balance the horse and prepare him for the next movement, whether it is change of direction, transition to a different gait, increasing collection, or even halting completely

The better you learn and perfect your ability to execute a successful half-halt, the better your riding. It’s that simple.

Previously published in Sidelines Magazine.

Dr. Bev Gordon, Pres.
The Horse in Motion, Inc.
Founder/Creator Equi-Tape® and Developer of The Equi-Taping® Method