Rider: I am told that I should be riding with half halts, yet I am not sure why and when. I also don't know the purpose or how to achieve this, can you help?
Jill: The biggest question that I get from dressage riders, when they are first learning, is the half halt. First of all, it is one of many key factors in developing collection. It is also a difficult concept to grasp if you don't understand why and how.
Trying to make this as simple as possible, a half halt asks the horse to shift weight from the forehand to the hind end. In working gaits, the horse is still a bit on the forehand but when you reach Second Level dressage you must show the beginning of collected gaits. Young horses and green riders learn that when you apply lower leg it means "go." When you restrict with your body it means "come back." A half halt consists of doing both at the same time.
A+B=C: Easier said than done when you don't have a frame of reference.
Timing is important, too, so a knowledgeable trainer can be of great benefit. Think of the horse's spine, which is from tail to neck, as a metal spring. If you push one end, the spring just slides. If you push the other end, same thing. But if you push both ends at the same time, which would be the body restrictions and the lower leg driving aids, the spring would coil up and create energy--most importantly the energy from the hind end.
This is the shifting of weight from the forehand to the hind end that I referred to earlier. If you released it, the spring would explode with energy.
The other factor involved is that a young horse and new dressage rider have to grasp what true connection is on the outside rein. The outside rein will also be a factor of a true half halt. The outside rein brings the shoulders in front of the haunches thus creating straightness and engagement.
Feel free to contact me for further information.
Jill Beltran has an extensive history in dressage from Training through Grand Prix, and she has earned USDF bronze, silver and gold medals. She is pictured here with Waling, her 14 yr old Grand Prix Friesian gelding. Jill teaches and gives clinics
on a regular basis. For more information, visit www.jillbeltrandressage.com.