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The key to the perfect halt...

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  • The key to the perfect halt...

    So this year I have been doing some intro dressage tests and have had two major problems: 1. is the free walk (but was able to solve that since my interpretation was wrong). 2. is the halt. We are really new into the dressage world and mostly do CT's in our area. But twice now I have actually lucked out and gotten a square halt, not because I didn't anything for it...just got really lucky. However the biggest problem at the moment is that my horse hollows out when we halt. I mean head held high, annoyed, looking at the sky.

    I know as we eventually (hopefully) move up in the different tests this will be a big no no. So how do you teach a horse to stay on the bit or in a frame what halted.

    Example of halt...
    Calm & Collected, 13, OTTB
    Forrest Gump (Catasauqua) , 17, OTTB
    Little Bit Indian, 29, TB
    Owner of Spur of the Moment, Custom made spur straps! Find us on Facebook

  • #2
    on a very basic level,try practicing your halts on a large circle, so that the horse remains on the aids and engaged. I would be mre concerned about that, first.


    • #3
      Working on the circle will help.

      There are several additional things you can do. For starters, be sure you ride forward into the halt, using very little hand, and then only your outside rein. Halt for a nonosecond, and then TROT! Don't give your horse time to start bird watching. Sometimes, don't even halt, and just short of the halt, TROT! Practice this transition a lot. If you 1. ride into the halt properly, and 2. teach your horse that something could very well happen right away, he will learn to stay attentive to you and on the bit.
      Donald Trump - proven liar, cheat, traitor and sexual predator! Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but we have all lost.


      • #4
        Riding a good centerline takes a lot of practice. Here are a couple suggestions:

        One day per week ride down the center line any time you want to change rein (instead of taking a diagonal or whatever). Work hard to keep him really straight and forward between your legs and reins, and don't let him drift.

        Do lots of transitions when you ride. All kinds of transitions everywhere in the arena; throw in plenty of halts too. Make sure they are prompt and clean, if they aren't then bring the horse back and try them again. Good quality transitions will help your horse's attention, strength and coordination, and this will help him stay engaged through your halts.

        Most horses are more supple and strong in one direction. Work to overcome this by doing a lot of circles, serpentines and other figures. Ride deeply into the corners of the arena. Always make sure the horse is properly bent around your inside leg. Strengthening your horse's weak side will help him stay straight through your halts.

        Love those copper penny bays!


        • #5
          Don't forget to use your voice when first schooling the halt. You can start from scratch and start teaching the halt on the longe. Once they master that move on to under saddle using the same halt voice.

          Make sure you ride "up into" the halt. Try to remember that the halt is really a forward movement. I teach my horses that a squeeze of the upper thigh, along with an outward breath sitting deeper into the saddle means halt. I use the voice until they connect the cues with the halt.

          You can also try the halt at a wall or fence if they seem to have no clue but unless the horse in connected over his back through the poll he may continue to hollow and lift his head.JMHO
          Groom to trainer: "Where's the glamour? You promised me glamour!"


          • #6
            Remember to give once you have a halt. The best way to make a horse hollow and stick it's head in the air is to keep hanging on once he's stopped.


            • #7
              As already mentioned - ride forward - ultimately, that will help w/ the hind end (which is out behind and not square - and the horse is not even taking weight on one hind leg).

              So start from the forward walk - on a circle is great, and take a deep breath, let it out, close your hand (don't pull), and lift your knees a bit - that actually stops your seat. Hopefully you'll get a halt Do that a few times on the circle - and ask for a step of leg yield if horse starts to fall in - so keep horse on the outside rein. If it is going OK, move to a straight line - start on the rail before you venture up c-line.

              Once all of that works, progress to trot - and it is OK if you have a few walk steps into the halt. Don't forget - breathe out, close hand, lift knees (stop seat).

              Good luck!


              • #8
                Keys to good halt: have the horse going FORWARD (not fast) while staying between reins and leg. Also, teach horse that a soft touch of the legs means stretch forward and down towards the bit, ie relax on cue. This will also bump up your free walk scores significantly.

                So, you end up going down centerline, or anywhere for that matter, giving the cue to halt - seat, legs, hand (IF needed, once trained, the seat alone is enough); then slight release of hand while the leg asks for the horse to keep stretching and the seat cues immobility by not moving/fidgeting up there.

                Still working on it myself, not a 10 yet, but got me 9s our last show on enter, halt and free walk movements
                Horses should be trained in such a way that they not only love their riders, but look forward to the time they are with them.
                ~ Xenophon, 350 B.C.


                • #9
                  once after a test where i got nines and a ten on my halts, the judge said to me, i do not know what the key is to a perfect halt, but you have got it. lol. It was one of my proudest competitive moments. for me the most basic and important thing is not to use the reins to halt. teach the horse to halt from the seat, so that you can remain elastic and following with the hand, and of course, straight into even contact is key


                  • #10
                    In a square halt, the hind legs are square as well, and are up under the body. Your boy is way out behind avoiding the work.

                    The way to fix your halt is to fix your 'go' - your engine has to stay revved and ready to work regardless of what the activity is. I once had a trainer tell me that forward is a state of mind where the horse is awaiting the cue to go - and the halt is the most forward activity because the horse has to stand there for 1 second or 1 minute and still be activity awaiting the aid to go. (Likely a slightly rough translation as instructor was Dutch - but you get the point).

                    I'd start with the half-halt - i.e. forward trot down the long side, half a step of walk at B/E, then immediately trot off again. If the horse isn't quick off your leg and your hand, correct him, then repeat the exercise using only slight pressure. When you have tuned the 1/2 walk step to be sharp to your aids, make it a half-halt. Once he gets the picture, you can actually do a full halt for 1 second before trotting off. Over time, you ask him to stay on the aids longer at the halt.

                    And yes, you should be able to give your aid for halt, then release immediately as your horse halts. You shouldn't be pulling/holding your halt aid until he actually achieves the halt (which shouldn't take more than 1/2 a stride anyway, but it may in the beginning).


                    • #11
                      A good halt is a state of correct balance/even connection to both reins/good posture of the rider. If the rider drops the contact (as in the pix) the horse can come off the aids/hollow; if the rider drops the hand the horse will hurt its bars as a result. IF the horse properly working into the hand/seeking contact/rider hand independent hands (often early on lifting slightly into a halt), the horse will stop squared and balance (closed with the hind legs). And has been earlier said, it is hh/hh/transition (never hold/drive). If the rider is not in a position that if the horse was removed from under them and they would remain standing (with bended knees), the horse will struggle under the rider's lack of poise/balance as well; still your seat/sit up/suggest the halt repeatedly.
                      I.D.E.A. yoda


                      • #12
                        Move your saddle back at least an inch, as it appears to be too far forward. As you prepare to halt be sure your hands are low, think stretchy circle. If you have had an elastic contact with the mouth, as you should, stop the following motion of your hands, and squeeze slightly with your legs until you just feel the horse enocunter the resistance of the rein. Immediately stop leg pressure, and exhale/relax your body. (That is a little Centered riding tip, as an exhale usually sinks you down more in the saddle as opposed to perching.) As mentioned above, be sure you release rein to let the horse know the right answer was given to your request. The way the horse knows it did the right thing is the release of an aid.
                        RIP Sasha, best dog ever, pictured shortly before she died, Death either by euthanasia or natural causes is only the end of the animal inhabiting its body; I believe the spirit lives on.


                        • #13
                          Lots of good suggestions! I say the halt is in your hips. Hips control the hind legs and need to be square for a square halt. You gotta learn to feel the hind legs. Are they even when you halt? No? Be able to square your horse if he doesn't stop square. He'll be square if your hips and shoulders are square and you teach him to stop square.


                          • #14
                            I see what might be several problems. Is that a dressage saddle, or an all purpose saddle? Am I seeing extra padding under the saddle? An English saddle should only need a thin pad to keep the bottom of the saddle clean...nothing more. Why are you using the chest strap to hold the saddle? I can better answer you if I have your answers to those questions.


                            • #15
                              Hmmm, that rule about shoulders, hips and heels? With your hand down beside you you can see just how far forward your leg is. I suspect the horse hollows because it is very uncomfortable as you are basically sitting in the wrong place and your leg can not be effective. No leg so no leg into hand.

                              Also the padding under saddle is a bit extreme: if it is needed, then the saddle just doesn't fit and again, the horse will hollow because it is uncomfortable.

                              A horse that is on a contact should halt on a breath. Literally. Take a breath in, then slowly breath out so your body relaxes and sinks deeper and the horse will stop. Lovely, lovely feeling. Practice and the horse will possibly just slow to start with but will come to stop - or be so amazed it will stop at once.

                              Helps perhaps to also count the beat in the gait. Get a rhythmical 4 beat for a walk and then slow the count to slow the walk. Then stop counting, stop moving your body, andthe horse will stop too. But breathing is easier!
                              "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths


                              • #16
                                Halts aren't about halts... They are a symptom/clue/test for the quality of the rest of the work.

                                Listen to joie a few posts up
                                chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by cswoodlandfairy View Post
                                  You have a geometry problem. Squares have 4 corners.
                                  ... _. ._ .._. .._


                                  • #18
                                    ^ Well that is a helpful description of the problem. The OP can now feel free to GUESS at the 100,000 ways she may go about successfully or unsuccessfully trying to fix it.

                                    Maybe lifting her right pinky in the air will fix it? No? Perhaps imagining George Clooney on a beach will make the halt square? No? How long do you want the OP to go through a list of guesses before you actually offer up a helpful replacement behavior?

                                    Meanwhile OP has already indicated she is aware her halts are not square so thank you for pointing out back to the OP that the halt is not square. I believe this is why she is posting?

                                    OP, this was a big challenge for my horse and remains a challenge to maintain. My trainer had me first do big steps/little steps/big steps in the trot, and had me get the little steps more and more and more from the seat without holding with the rein.

                                    Then we did big steps/almost walk/big steps, again, with the "almost walk" being encouraged to happen more and more and more from seat and no rein.

                                    Eventually from the alllllllllllllllmost walk we halted. (It is actually easier -for values of "easy" including "still very difficult"- to get square from the trot than the walk since at the trot you have even pairs of legs going instead of the walk where you have legs randomly moving about at the corners.)

                                    For your horse also work on maintaining the contact acceptance thoughout the smaller steps and your release during the smaller steps. This will help him stay soft for you all the way down to the actual halt, when you eventually do it.

                                    My trainer had me do it at the end of the ride so that once the first halt was square, horsie could get a pat and a dismount. We are still working on them and they can always be better so don't be discouraged. I flailed about at it for several months and eventually refused to even try them outside of lessons because I just went crazy. I allocated 10 lesson minutes a week toward halts under calming supervision of trainer and refused to engage with frustration the rest of the time. It is hard for everyone, even if they like to pretend like it's "duh."
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                                    • #19
                                      I think there has been a lot of helpful info here, and I'm basically just reiterating that said by others in my own way for the most part.

                                      For me, the #1 most important factor in square halts is actually just good, straight work. Clearly not a one moment fix, but if we are working straight, including "straight on a circle," he tends to naturally stop square and even stand square at liberty. His tendency is to swing haunches right in the halt and the strike off from the halt when we're not working straight, so it's a great reminder to me that straightness always matters and I'm missing some!

                                      In the moment, in a halt in a test, practicing halting will help you. Do you drive a stick shift? I think of how I smoothly downshift vs. roughly downshift - to do it smoothly, I slightly rev to higher RPMs before switching into the lower gear, whereas keeping it at the same RPMs will jerk the vehicle into a slower speed/lower gear. I use half halts off the seat for my horse to get this, though some horses need more leg to get it, and just get his haunches under me. I then like to almost halt - and go on. It gives you the feeling of a halt without halting, and helps you figure out how to "feel the halt in the trot." Definitely don't pull back with your hands or lean forward, and even the comment about your legs - it's not about exactly where your legs are, but about getting your seat in the right place and hip angle properly open.

                                      Clearly there's more to it than we can post here, but hopefully some of the advice some of us have given helps!
                                      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


                                      • #20
                                        Coming up the centerline to halt your legs must be active, maintaining straightness. Just before you halt , you half halt, your contact and legs remain the same. When you halt, keep your two handed contact but allow your elbows to relax and give, along with your fingers. Your legs must remain on. They may not relax, or worse yet slip forward.

                                        Practice the two handed square halt everywhere, and any where, in the arena, before you start dropping one rein to salute.
                                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.