Half Halt - what is it? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 01:46 PM Thread Starter
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Half Halt - what is it?

Soo, basically I just wanted a bit of extra information. I'm not doing it rgith now, but sometimes if I'm watching the lesson before me, I hear the instructor using this phrase and I've looked in a couple of books and on the internet but there just isn't a good explanation.

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post #2 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 02:04 PM
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It is exactly what it is called; half a halt. As in, the horse slows down and almost halts before you as the rider push them on again. It's normally used to slow down a gait that's getting out of hand, and to prevent the horse from getting downhill if their weight is beginning to shift to the forehand. You give them the normal aids as you would do a halt but after you feel them slowing, you push them on again.

I can only provide you with a rudimentary explanation of a half halt as I'm not as experienced as half the people on here (:

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post #3 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 02:16 PM
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I'm not very good at explaining things, but it was explained to me as when the horse starts speeding up too much, say the horse is trotting and he is starting to go too fast, pretend like you are squeezing a sponge and gently squeeze the reins until you get your horse to the speed you want
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post #4 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 02:29 PM
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post #5 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 02:31 PM
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Here's an article that was in Practical Horseman, it's pretty helpful

Mysteries of the Half-Halt Revealed
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post #6 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 04:37 PM
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Kitten Val - great link! I just love Jane Savoie!

Sbsb- as you progress you will use the half halt to give your horse a heads up that you are about to ask him to do something different than whatever it is you are currently doing (ie, heads up I'm going to ask for a canter). Good for you that you are trying to learn more about the half halt! It will become very very important! =)
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post #7 of 10 Old 02-03-2011, 11:11 PM
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Excellent link to Jane Savoie.
The halt halt is not just a pull on the reins to make the horse slow down but not stop. It is an intricate use of seat, leg and occasionally hand if required, to rebalance the horse thus encourage it to take increased weight over it's haunches. Hence we use a series of half halts to prepare the horse when we are planning to ride a different movement or pace to what we are in at the present.
I ride the half halt as a slight brace of my core, as soon as I feel a slowing reaction in the horse, I close my leg and ride back up to the bridle. This should be as close to an invisible aid as possible, and should only take up a single stride of the gait.
Application of the driving aid is the vital part of a half halt, as if you just ask for the steady, you are doing nothing with the hind legs and all you have done is slow the tempo without gaining increased balance and engagement.

When teaching a green horse the half halt, is the only time we make the half halt an 'almost stop then go again'. This is just to give the horse the idea of the response we are looking for. Once the horse will come back and go again through very slight aids, we can ask for the space between the 'stop' and 'go' aids to become smaller, until they are applied less than a second apart.
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post #8 of 10 Old 02-04-2011, 09:00 AM
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It depends on who you ask.

In general, people think it is a use of the reins, but this is more like what used to be called a 'Check' and is used to slow down the horse by having him slow down his strides. A 'check' is all most people use, they use it to stop, to slow down, it is a taking action, usually on both of the reins.

In dressage, it is an almost-simultaneous use of the rein, seat and leg. At some point in the rider's education, he gets to the point where he doesn't even think about it, it's automatic.

Most instructors teach it as if it is 'half of a halt', and it is more of a fancified 'check' than a half halt; it is still used to slow down, to make a downward transition, to slow the rhythm. You can see the horse's hind legs pause in the air or slow down.

Even more confusing, the first phases of teaching it, do involve, even from the best instructors, slowing the horse down. Most people never go beyond that, though. Once they can slow their horse down, they're satisfied.

But that is not its real purpose. The initial stages are only to get the horse to put his hind legs more under him, it's kind of that most rudimentary 'explanation phase' of teaching something.

Later on, the rider could half halt a dozen times in a few strides of extended canter or extended trot, and the horse would not slow down one bit. All it would do is engage (bend the joints of) the hind legs more, which allows his hind legs to work more powerfully - thrust more or carry more.

The rider more sets the rhythm or stops or slows the horse, with his body. The half halt only puts the hindquarters right, it doesn't slow or stop the horse.

When a half halt is done correctly you can VISIBLY see that the hind leg bends more. The joints of the hind quarter and hind leg bend more. It is obvious, visible in effect.

There is a whole lot that has to happen to make a half halt possible. There needs to be a lot of forward activity, and contact with the reins.

The horse has to be very comfortable with moving forward, and with connecting with the rider's hand. If he is afraid of the bit, if he is taught to 'set his head', half halts will just turn into a mess.

Dressage is a conversation, and the words are all made up of half halts.

Last edited by slc; 02-04-2011 at 09:06 AM.
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post #9 of 10 Old 02-10-2011, 02:43 PM
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You are right. It is so hard to find a good explanation of the half halt. That is because a half halt is more than one simple action. There are different ways to half halt a horse depending on what needs to be accomplished. Basically it is done to alert the horse to an approaching change so he is balanced and prepared, to straighten or rebalance a horse (he could be moving with his shoulder out or on his forehand) or to collect a horse.

Rebalancing and collecting the horse will put more weight on the hind which is bringing the rear legs more underneath the horse, ultimately lowering the croup and raising the wither.

You want to think of using your seat first, then your legs and lastly your hands. You tuck a bit with your seat to ask the horse to come under himself as if to transition down. The seat is your primary aid for the downward transition - not your hands. As you do this you apply leg to keep the forward momentum and push the horse into your hand.
When a trained horse is losing balance, the seat and leg is often all that you need to bring him on the bit again. Just a small catch of this energy on the outside rein.

On a resistant horse (any horse really), there must be slight inside flexion before you can ask for vertical flexion so you soften the jaw with a slight vibration of the inside hand. You want to see the outside corner of the inside eye. If you do not do this (even on a straight line) the horse will lock up his first three vertebra.

You always apply the outside rein aid when you are at the top of your posting rise because this is when the horse's outside foreleg is hitting the ground. Generally you pulse this aid releasing it before the leg becomes vertical - which is half way down your post to the sitting phase.

On a green or very resistant horse you do not want to release in the state of resistance so you strengthen the pulse until the horse gives. Then you immediately soften. Jane Savoy says to hold it for 3 seconds - what she calls the "connecting half halt" but I prefer to pulse the aid, not completely softening it until the horse gives. It would just train the horse to resist more if you soften before it yields. But at first, just a tiny yield is all you are looking for.

The leg yield helps to understand the timing of the pulsing aids for the half halt. You apply your inside leg as the barrel of the horse begins to swing away - which is when the horse's inside hind is coming off the ground (the only time you can influence the leg is when it is leaving the ground). Then you apply your outside rein as the foreleg hits the ground and release almost instantly before that leg is vertical. Leg yield helps to straighten and supple the horse, and put him on the outside rein. Practice the half halt in leg yield first and then use the same timing in other half halts. You just use your seat and both legs.

There are other ways to improve connection and balance. You can lift the inside rein (brief upward motion) as that leg is leaving the ground, to lift a dropped shoulder. You can half halt on both reins in canter while you use your set to lift the horse up and under himself, when he is falling on the forehand.

I know the frustration of trying to get this. I was shouted at for years, "half halt, half halt!" but no one explained it. I hope this helps you.

Last edited by nefferdun; 02-10-2011 at 02:46 PM.
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post #10 of 10 Old 02-18-2011, 01:27 PM
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To be very simple - a half halt is the rider using their legs and seat to ask for a halt, then as horse steps underneth itself (due to riders legs) to halt the rider softens their elbows and the horse continues in the gait the rider has indicated by the length of the "halting actions" - i.e. if Very short then horse continues in current gait, if longer a downward transition occurs.

That's VERY simply. If you search existing threads I've provided sequenced information on how to execute the HH (threads talking about rushing should reference the HH).

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