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Rod 03-31-2010 12:25 AM

What is a half halt?
I recently overheard a couple of English riders talking about half halts. From the context of their conversation I gathered it was not a p*** poor stop! This old cowboy could use some education.

Pekoe 03-31-2010 12:31 AM

I was taught that a half-halt is a little warning that something's about to happen. My coach taught us to sit up, give and take a little with the reins, maybe a little leg depending, and then do whatever you were going to do (turn, transition etc.)

Interested to see what others say on this.

justsambam08 03-31-2010 12:31 AM

A half halt is basically giving and taking of the reins. Like for a hard stop, you would pull back on the reins and keep contact, but with a half halt you do on/off contact. There would also be other seat and leg cues involved.

Spyder 03-31-2010 12:43 AM


Originally Posted by Rod (Post 590914)
I recently overheard a couple of English riders talking about half halts. From the context of their conversation I gathered it was not a p*** poor stop! This old cowboy could use some education.

Look at post 2


Throughout all of this training it is imperative the rider understand the half-halt and the halt. To explain them I offer this.

The halt is achieved by the deepening of the riders seat and stimulation of the horses hindquarters to reach forward and underneath his body, thus accepting a greater load of weight. The stimulation is the result of the riders leg pressure on both sides of the horses body causing the "lifting" of the spine to meet the rider's seat.

The rider will keep his upper body straight and push through the small of his back into passive and sustaining hands. They will accept any pull on the reins if necessary and remain unchanged. Once halted the rider allow a slight relaxation of the upper body and at the same time will advance the hands slightly to give the horse a period of relaxation. This relaxation is a vital part of the training process because without them nervousness and restlessness will set in. Any roughness or excessive action on the part of the rider will cause the failure of a soft and fluid stop.

In the half halts the method is the same with the sole difference being that the hands will allow the motion to continue. In this case the driving controls will outweigh the restraining ones.

As far as half-halts it is the one subject that seems to create endless discussions and usually ending in no one being any the wiser than before. When you go to forums dealing specifically with dressage and you still see the endless pages of discussions by well known trainers and no real resolution then we are in good company.

Different trainers create descriptions of what it is and what it does to the point that we appear to be entering a country with a different language. Combine this with its use that will vary as the horse progress causes its interpretation to be based on one horses reaction. However when applied equally to another the cause and effect can differ greatly.

On the basic level the half-halt is used to signal the horse that a decrease in rate is being asked for. It could also be a signal to improve its balance or lighten the horses weight on the reins.

On the highest level the half halt becomes the merest whisper of controls in that it is created with the seat and hinted at with the reins.

MyBoyPuck 03-31-2010 07:59 PM

Half halt is one of those things that you'll get 100 different explanations of how to apply it. It's primary purpose is to rebalance the horse. Spyder's articles are very in depth, so I'll leave it at that.

NittanyEquestrian 03-31-2010 10:23 PM

Just to take what Spyder says and put it in "cowboy-ish" terms. A half halt to the general public can be anything that clues the horse into your seat and legs, or tells them that something is going to happen. It could be a weight shift, taking up a little slack in the reins, even just wiggling your hand if your horse is on the drape. In dressage it is usually as spyder says a whole body thing, but that's not saying a horse going western on the drape can't be half halted. When you're riding your horse and you're getting ready to ask for a canter you generally close your legs a little and pick up on the reins lightly to get them ready and open up the shoulder, then you cue the canter right? That little picking up on the reins and closing of the legs is a form of half halt. A half halt in the barest form is sending energy from the hind end through to the bit and then you determine how much of it is forward energy and then you continue on. So you could be sending a lot of forward energy from the hips to the bit and then holding that energy to get a round, uphill moving horse. Or you could be sending just enough to get them to come under with their hind end and then change gaits. It's all relative and not all half halts are through steady, firm contact. Although most horses, especially those still in training, are going to need some direct contact to be able to come under with their haunches and engage the whole horse without falling forward or rushing.

Rod 04-01-2010 01:35 AM

Thanks for responding. I am having a little problem understanding the difference between half halts and collection. I realize this is an oversimplification but I am thinking that it is a matter of degree and that half halts help achieve collection. Is that a reasonable assumption?

The conversation I overheard (I believe it was meant to be overheard) was between two older affluent women who have a Hanoverian (sp?) mare in training with my friend. He is an old cowboy himself. He is a talented trainer and like me only has experience with stock horses. Since the women moved a distance to stand in front of us and talk about half halts we kinda thought they were trying to teach us something. Part of our confusion was that they used half halt and self carriage more or less synonymously. I see a connection but don't understand them to be the same.

Spyder and NittanyEq I appreciate your help in trying to help me understand. I'll read the referred post again.

Spyder 04-01-2010 08:24 AM


Originally Posted by Rod (Post 592249)
Part of our confusion was that they used half halt and self carriage more or less synonymously. I see a connection but don't understand them to be the same.

The half halt is a tool that maintains or corrects the carriage of the horse along with the other "tools" the rider can use ( legs, seat,voice).

Correct carriage is the result of half halts along with the driving seat and legs that guides the horse into adapting to the bit according to its level of training and physical ability.

So yes they are intertwined but not exactly the same.

iridehorses 04-01-2010 08:41 AM

Rod, what I've found is that Western riders just don't name many of the training corrections that they do. English riders have a name for all of it. I'm sure you and your buddy have been doing half halts but didn't realize you were.

It also seems that your Hanoverian owners were having their moment of "superiority" and were throwing out terms. It's not that you don't do them, you just don't name them.

NittanyEquestrian 04-01-2010 09:12 AM

Thanks iride! You just summed up what I was going to say in two sentences!

I would also like to point out Rod that it is the trick of novices to adopt one way of doing things and feel superior about their methods and training. A TRUE horseman in my book is always willing and able to adapt and learn with the times and the new information that is available to them. So if you happen to be starting a heavy headed colt in a snaffle then you can say oh yea...I can do that dressage thing with my body and my hands and I can get him off his forehand by pushing his hind end up into my hands. Then you go VOILA! I did dressage =)

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