Master the Half Halt, Escape Training Level

463The title of this post kind of sums up this week’s riding lesson and it is going to be my new mantra…I think it would also make a fabulous book title as well.  It is a sobering realization that Ike’s success in the world of dressage is completely dependent on my ability to master the elusive half halt.  Before my riding career is done, I would love to say that I could execute a correct half halt and that I was able to be an effective rider at something other than Intro and Training Levels.  The half halt is the necessary skill to claw my way out of these lower levels.

I have written quite frequently about my struggles with learning a correct half halt.  Could probably be the poster child for How Not to Half Halt.  You know you are doing it wrong when your trainer screams, “Stop pulling on the reins and squeeze your fingers!”  “Stop squeezing your fingers and release.” “Close your legs as you squeeze your fingers.  Your lower leg is not on your horse.” Oh, yeah.  Yes, I do realize that I need to perform these movements as part of a correct half halt, but when the 1200 pound freight train ignores my gentle squeezes, the mind goes blank.  The arms, fingers and legs then start doing whatever they please until my blank mind reboots.

Another key point that I need to add to the list of skills to master is the ability to keep my reins at an equal length so that when I do half halt, I do not cause my horse to end up crooked.  Then I also have to make sure that my dominant hand doesn’t do more than my other hand whereby making Ike even more crooked.  Lots of crookedness plus my blank mind equals one very unattractive picture.  Think of a worm wiggling down centerline.  Pretty, huh?

With less than two weeks until the show, we schooled the movements of the tests during my lesson as well.  Lots of reminders from Ms. C to half halt my outside rein to help straighten Ike.  Yes, there was a lot of crookedness on centerline, on circles and on my long diagonals.  The centerline crookedness was subtle – Ike was slightly flexed to the right.  Worst part was that I couldn’t tell that he was, but I bet the judge will see it.  On circles, I need to make sure to let go of my inside rein a bit and utilize my outside rein to turn my horse…just don’t let that outside rein cross over the neck.  Arrgghhh!  So much to think about to be an effective rider – no wonder my brain likes to reboot regularly to help clear out the clutter.

Fingers crossed that one of my reboots doesn’t occur as we head down centerline nine days from now!


3 thoughts on “Master the Half Halt, Escape Training Level

  1. While I would be doing consecutive backflips if I could ever even hope for intro level, let alone training level, I understand what you mean. That is exactly how I felt in skating…and it took a lot just to pass a higher test. Half halts are definitely it as it seems all transitions follow from same. I hear you on how difficult they are. I wonder if I might ever be able to execute a decent one. 9 days and counting then!

  2. “but when the 1200 pound freight train ignores my gentle squeezes, the mind goes blank. The arms, fingers and legs then start doing whatever they please until my blank mind reboots.” Yup. That’s exactly it. And unfortunately while our brains are rebooting the horse is trying to make something out of the random signals we’re sending … it’s not always pretty!

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