View Full Version : Half Halts - a little more complex

22-01-08, 12:46 PM
I am sure that most of us are aware of, and execute, the half halt on a daily basis.

To the best of my knowledge (very limited I may add) the half halt as I understand it, is the simultanous (and preferably invisible)- a "preparedness" if you like, action of the seat, the legs and the hand, and its objective is the increase the attention/balance of the horse prior to the execution of movement(s) or transitions either upward or downwards - rather like the clutch and gear change on a car.

Again, as I understand it, you basically meet the horse's mouth with your hands and use the opposite leg to a non-allowing rein in order to engage the hindquarters and thus step more underneath.

I recently read however, that in order for the HH TO BE TRULY EFFECTIVE that timimg is the most crucial factor.

As a rider, we must be aware of, and recognise when, each hindleg is a) coming forward and b) touching the ground.

When the hindleg comes down JUST IN FRONT OF THE VERTICAL - so when the haunches flex - then that is the correct time to execute the HH.

I was not aware of this and thus, technically, to date, all my HH's have been applied therefore incorrectly.

Tomorrow I am going to try and get the feel of the hindleg placement, but it is yet one more thing to mystify me.

It seems the more I learn, the more I get confused.

22-01-08, 01:25 PM

22-01-08, 01:25 PM
Oh goodness, Kartika :-) Just how complicated do some people want normal ridiing to be?? If your half halts have done the job, then they haven't been incorrect at all. And there are different times, different stages of the stride, different aids, different reasons (as you have said) for the half halt. Nothing's set in stone and if it works for you and your horse then surely it's ok??

Have to add, though, that the only rule that is set in stone when it comes to training horses is ALWAYS leg before hand, never the two together. So IMHO the crucial timing comes when the leg is used, the flexion in the joints of the hind legs is increased, then the hand holds for a split second and gives ... so the stride becomes bigger, rounder, more energetic. That is a half halt. Sometimes we misuse the expression "half halt" when we mean "check the horse back" or "slow down".

22-01-08, 01:28 PM
As I said before - my knowledge base is very limited.

I was just interested to see if that was what other people had been taught.

I have not.

So far my HH's appear to work but are technically incorrect.

22-01-08, 01:51 PM
Hi Kartika, great thread! Just what we need, some actual discussion of HORSES and RIDING.

My idea of half halts is quite basic too. I read Jane Savoie's work on the half halt, which is a really good simplified explanation. The video is good too. This is pretty much what you have said. Re-balance the body, use the inside leg into the outside rein, and only enough inside rein to stop outside flexion in the neck. DO NOT hold, but breathe and allow forward.

However, I have also read of the more 'complicated version' as you are discussing. If you have ever seen any of Kyra Kyrklund's videos, she too discusses feeling the placement of the hindlegs in regards to the half halts and consequent transitions. I was so inspired by the beautiful transitions. Well worth beg, borrowing or stealing anything of hers.

However, unfortunately I do not have this natural and elusive 'feel'. It was something I was working on until I stopped having lessons in April of last year. What I would love is more stirrup-less, rein-less lunging on a good-gaited horse that I trust enough to close my eyes. THEN I think I could start to 'feel'.

Suzie Q
22-01-08, 02:01 PM
I will just go a little bit further. Whenever you think, talk, write, or do it should always be seat then leg then hand.

22-01-08, 02:52 PM
hmmmm how long is a piece of string.....

What is a half halt to an educated horse and rider may be very vulgar and ugly on the green horse etc...

For me a half halt, is a re-balancing of the horse, getting its hind end more engaged and under it self, getting the horses attention and preparedness for the next movement, corner, impending halt etc....

However in the early days of training in the rudimentary training it can be a little more explixite.

For my more experienced horses, it can be just a sit up taller, stretch down with your legs and a slight closing of the rein, and yep for the young newly broken in baby, hmmmmmm half halt, you want what......, maybe a complete halt would be better....

Good luck in your quest for an answer, for every rider, for every horse, it is different.

22-01-08, 03:09 PM
>Good luck in your quest for an answer, for every rider, for
>every horse, it is different.

Good point MD!! I acknowledge that I am at the more rudimentary stage of my education in dressage, and am still in the process of learning 'which half halt for which horse' (or was until outside circumstances waylaid my plans temporarily).

And then when I started having jumping lessons, and began to apply the principles to a whole other style of seat and horse, it began to dawn on me just how much I have to learn!

22-01-08, 03:19 PM
Its the orange light!

22-01-08, 03:21 PM
Bloody idiot.

But yup, it is.

Not that you've probably ever done one in your life - probably just reef the reins and think of England....

22-01-08, 03:26 PM
No think of Germany Thankyou!

22-01-08, 03:29 PM
So that explains the lousy spelling and grammar...

Aber naturlich...

22-01-08, 04:10 PM
This was getting to be a fairly educational thread before I was sidetracked by DO.

If there are still any vaguely intelligent people out there, please add to the thread as we can all learn.

22-01-08, 04:13 PM
Was I side tracking? Think about it!

And no the grammar was courtesy of the NSW dept of education,

22-01-08, 04:14 PM
Nah - it was me.

But you were just as much to blame.

And whoever your English teacher was should've been canned. LOL

22-01-08, 04:16 PM
Oi, my thread was slightly educational........

Yep know I have drunk way to many wines, but heck, doesn't affect my wonderful writing knowledge, hmmm or does it.

Oh what the heck Kartika, go on have a one to one with DO, makes for more interesting reading than whats normally on here :-)

23-01-08, 12:37 AM
Kartika, you are right in what you have heard/read. I find I can be very slack with using my seat in the half halt. Luckily my horse makes up for my shortcomings and responds well to my just hands and a bit of leg.

There is a fantastic article on the half halt by Christian Thiess in a very old issue of The Horse Magazine. This is the article that got me on my way to understanding them. I have Jane Savoie's articles lying around somewhere too, I must read them again.

Basically, you ideally have a window of opportunity to affect the actions of the horse's hind leg in the time it leaves the ground and before it touches the ground again. Obviously the time to influence it best is as it starts to come off the ground. Then you can ask it to come more forward/under, or across in lateral work.

If you are accidentally applying the aid as the leg is on the ground, obviously you can't get it to engage more under at that time. I think it makes sense.

Anyway, just spouting theory. Like I said, I'm not exactly the best at applying them myself.

23-01-08, 01:08 AM
Apart from the RULE as midnight said - leg (weight, back) before hand, and never together, there are NO set criteria for a half halt.

Definitely they can be ugly and crude on a young (or misbehaving) horse and the "hand" is going to have the emphasis but provided you realise (and explain if necessary) then that's not always a bad thing.

Also you can use the half halt without increasing the engagement of the horse - if you are encouraging a horse to stretch right down on the circle at the trot and the horse is falling a bit forward and picking up speed therefore losing swing, you might only use the hand to bring the horse back - but be very aware that the inside hindleg could block when the hand is used - in which case you would need to keep the horse active as you steadied the rhythm.

I prefer to think of using the elbow instead of hand during the half halt. This actively discourages "fiddling" and is more of a guarantee that the rider gives. It also takes the emphasis away from hands.

Use the back / leg / weight then close the elbow / shoulder /hand, don't let the horse out the back door and soften hand / shoulder / elbow.

23-01-08, 02:11 AM
A LONGGGG time ago we had a fabulous thread on half halts. Zorro, amongst others, contributed and we all tried to describe a feeling you get when the technique works. So HARD to describe feelings using the written word.

But here goes....

A neat trick I was taught by Tina Wommelsdorf was to TALK through the half half halt. That is, say OUT ALOUD "check-release-push".

The time it takes you to say those 3 words clearly is ROUGHLY the amount of time you apply each. BUT NOTE: this is with a horse/rider combination that has a fair idea of what a half halt is.

Ouch... so tempting to write more and delve more into a description!

In regards to WHEN you apply it... or for how much seat you use... well, that was another lesson learnt from Ann Honner!

The FACT you are asking will all help it to fall into place. But really, a darn good instructor will help you far more than the written word here.


DOes this help?

PS> And it is not just dressage riders that avail themselves of the half halt.

23-01-08, 02:23 AM
"Sometimes we misuse the expression "half halt" when we mean "check the horse back" or "slow down".

So very very very true Midnight!!!!!!!

You will never get true collection unless your half halts are effective.

What works for some horses, may not work for others... however as long as they are based on the same rules & your give & take reflexes are spot on.

Weve got an 18hh Friesian WB, you can only imagine what it is like trying to get this horse to do lateral work, say out of a volte.

half half, stride, half half, stride, half halt... half halt... HALF HALT!

23-01-08, 02:29 AM
oh & great to see Bats & Midnight back!

Now if only Improv & Zorro would return :P

23-01-08, 02:54 AM
Oh Violetsmum, you just brought back a memory of Anne shouting USE YOUR PELVIS at me during a lesson whilst the poor church minister next door to her was mowing his lawn.
I still think when I know I am riding badly a great megaphone will come down from the sky and yell at me.
I think I still have my half halt homework sheets from her somewhere. Timing and how much seat to use were an integral part.
But the Jane Savoie video is excellent also (I still have your copy ALHannah and will give it back one day).

23-01-08, 02:57 AM
Thats hilarious!

23-01-08, 04:07 AM
Ranger... thats sooooo funny and, and, .... so true!

Another classic instruction I loved was from Marion Malecki....

MM - use your left rein now
me - so busy concentrating on laterals I play with the right rein instead
MM - No, the OTHER left Camille!


23-01-08, 05:34 AM
1. A half halt moves the centre of the horse's gravity backwards so horse begins to carry more weight in the hind quarters.

2. The best way to learn the 'feeling' of riding a half halt is not on the horse. From a standing/sitting position (like you ride), Jog like you're trotting. Jog around a bit and then... breathe in, lift - lift your stomach muscles and become more upright and you'll find, your legs will become higher in their jogging - you have just moved your centre of gravity to a more vertical way of going (you probably thought you were before you did it but now you realise you weren't). You have just executed a half halt. Practice this.

3. When you're on the horse, you don't need to do much more. You make sure you are moving with the horse and the horse is through (forward but not running). You keep a still, supporting outside rein (like you always do), you breathe, lift and move your centre of gravity up (while the horse is learning, you may need to do a very light sqeeze on the outside rein to bring the horse back a little) - this will lighten the footsteps of the horse by making them shorter and higher (this has happened because the centre of gravity has shifted backwards so the hind quarters is carrying more weight and the impulsion already in the horse's movement will create the movement). Of course, you then release the hand a little immediately (don't give away, just release forward) and the horse will move forward in the new way.

4. Balance and the shorter/higher steps (collection) are the by-product of a correctly executed half halt.

5. In training you can also use a 'held half halt' but that's a whole other discussion.

6. Good riding is good timing - in whatever disapline. The key to riding the half halt is do little and at the point of release, ride "up" (up energy, light seat) to promote increased energy from behind.

Good luck.


23-01-08, 02:22 PM
Thank you so very much for your imput everyone.

Shahron - that was really interesting - as indeed it all was.

If only all posts were like this - or at least most of them anyway (sigh).

shi_ theed
23-01-08, 02:30 PM
Thats very interesting - whearabouts are you as I might be able to help you with the name of a REALLY good instructtor f you are interested that is...