Half pass is one of those movements that is generally disregarded as anything that is useful for the training of the horse, and far too often in the levels which it is introduced, and even into the Prix St. Georges, it is ridden poorly.
The main thing that people forget or are not taught, is that the half pass is simply a travers on a diagonal line. So often I see the movement ridden as a counterflexed leg yeild without the correct degree of bend around the inside leg, which is what gymnastisizes the horse and teaches him to carry and reach with the hindlegs. However, it is so tough for most people to imagine a wall on a diagonal through the arena that they are riding a travers on. I find I often have to ride out of and restart a half pass because I simply am not riding it with the right bend.
So yesterday I was leafing through the newest edition of Dressage Today, reading the obligatory "Happy Athlete" and "My Biggest Training Challenge" articles when I came to the last page, the one with the pretty drawings and funny little training sayings. What do I see but a half pass sketched in plan view with a straight line sketched through the rider's outside seatbone, inside hand and the bit!! I was so excited about it I HAD to try this new way of thinking in the half pass.
I rode through the corner, visualized my new "line", and then half halted into my half pass and holy crap!!! It WORKED!! Yipee!! Instead of strugging with the whole "am I bent enough?" "are the shoulders straight?" dilemma I go through for the 30 or 60 meters of my usual half pass, I focused on keeping my outside hip aligned with the degree of flexion from my hand to the bit and lo and behold it actually keeps everything in the correct alignment. The more I was able to just sit back and focus on the trot rhythm and less about where the horse's body was, my horse was able to actually INCREASE the cadence in his trot and carry more behind - the goal of the half pass!!
So I'm really excited now that I have a new fun tool under my belt!! Goes to show that you a) never stop learning and b) can always find new knowledge in the seemingly most unlikely places.
A special thanks to Leslie Webb for writing the little half pass tidbit!!