I agree you shouldnt rely only on your hand, so you need to train your horse so you don't have to yank on their face in front of jumps. BUT, having a connection to the bit is not a bad thing. There is a reason we ride with a bit and reins, if their werent then we wouldnt have them. The reins define the length of the neck, and the length of the neck determines where their balance is. Horses use their necks for balance, so you want to have a clear consistant rein length so you are not constantly changing their balance. This idea for the half halt has nothing to do with pulling back or using your hand. You hold your hand in one spot to keep the length of the neck and then use your leg to slow/go.
As far as bending, its a similar idea, you want to train that when you put your inside leg on they give in the bridle and bend. This does not mean you have to use your inside rein to pull their head down. I start doing a very small figure 8, as small as you can possibly do- at the walk. Nudge nudge nudge with your inside leg, and as soon as they give, turn the other way and do the same thing. This connects your inside leg with giving in the bridle without pulling on the reins. Although it still requires you to have contact.
Gypsy & Scout <3Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. ~Albert Einstein