Our last blog was about halting. The sneaky way it gets thrown into competition tests when all we’ve been focusing on is moving our horses freely forward. If you added the exercise from the last blog to your training regime halting should be more the ‘normal’ thing you do like picking up the walk, trot or canter. Now it’s time to improve your halt. The idea is to get it balanced and square and get yourself balanced and equal in the saddle at the halt. You will need mirrors or a ground person when you work on this if you have trouble feeling where the horse’s legs are underneath your seat at the halt. They ground person’s job is to tell you which hind or foreleg is out behind or to the side. They can also tell you if your correct when you try to tell them which one is out. First, learn to glance down at the horse’s shoulders to see if they are straight. Also note where your hands are – are they evenly spaced on each side of the wither? Are they level – like a rule could be set across your hands and it won’t slide off either side? Generally, if your hands are level and the horse’s shoulders are equal you will be straight. If you are sitting equally in the saddle and your calves are equal on the horse’s side, you will find that the horses hind legs are equal. You can tell which one is out behind based upon your hip feeling lower or ‘not equal’.
How to do this? First, you’re going to turn down the center line at a trot and then transition to walk and halt. You will go three times turning left down the center line and then 3 times turning right down the center line or quarter line. Pay attention to which way is easier for you and your horse. The easier way will become the way you turn in a show as it will be squarer. As you get more proficient you can take out the walk strides until you trot to halt. You can also practice canter to halt transitioning through the trot and eventually walk until you can go from canter to halt. You can also halt on the long side to help with straightness. Try not to always halt at X - pick some other letter. As you develop a square halt plan to make a square halt a requirement. The halt is always square when you ask for it so it becomes just a natural part of the halt. This will help your horse understand that halting is no different between a show or work at the barn.
Pick a place to halt in your mind and about 5 strides out start giving half halts to your horse to alert them something is about to change and shorten but activate the stride by keeping the calves on the horse.
Grow tall in the saddle, inhale and draw your head up.
Rest your thighs on your saddle, and your calves on the horse’s side and close your fingers. Tighten your abs.
Have your ground person tell you which leg is out of alignment. Fix the leg out of alignment. Nudge the horse with the left leg if the left leg is out behind. Allow a little bit of forward movement to correct the halt.
Relax the muscles squeeze the calves and move off in a trot.
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