Tips from Train­ers Who Teach

Dressage Today - - Content - By Jan Ebel­ing with An­nie Mor­ris

jan ebel­ing ex­plains the ba­sic con­cept of the half halt in sim­ple terms

In dres­sage our goal is to im­prove the horse’s abil­ity to carry the rider’s weight by mak­ing him stronger be­hind. When the horse car­ries more weight be­hind, he low­ers his croup, lifts his back and el­e­vates his fore­hand. That’s when you see that beau­ti­ful out­line when the horse is put to­gether in col­lec­tion.

The way you achieve this is by giv­ing the horse two op­pos­ing com­mands. You give the aids that tell him to go for­ward and at the same time give the aids to re­strain him. The cor­rect com­bi­na­tion of aids will put the horse in bal­ance and on the bit. That is your half halt, a com­bi­na­tion of for­ward aids and re­strict­ing aids. The driv­ing aids are your leg and your seat, and the re­strict­ing aids are the rein aids. The half halt al­ways finishes when you re­lease all your aids.

Half Halts Ex­plained

To be­gin un­der­stand­ing the half halt, think of slow­ing the horse down and as soon as he slows down speed­ing him up again. Then you get a sense of us­ing not only the rein aids but also the seat and leg aids. How­ever, the half halt doesn’t just slow the horse down. Each half halt could be used to im­prove the horse’s frame, change the tempo, en­gage the hind legs or re­bal­ance the horse. For ex­am­ple, ev­ery cor­ner you do, ev­ery fig­ure you ride, ev­ery tran­si­tion you make and ev­ery time you bend the horse, it all starts and ends with a half halt. It is a tool that solves many prob­lems and works on many dif­fer­ent lev­els.

You need to ride half halts con­stantly. Some­times you must be stronger, some­times you must be more per­sis­tent, but de­vel­op­ing the cor­rect tim­ing and strength re­quires quite a bit of feel on the rider’s part and quite a bit of train­ing on the horse’s part as well. The more trained the horse is, the bet­ter he can re­spond to those sig­nals you give him.

Novice rid­ers will some­times find half halts dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand be­cause they are such small aids, but they are ex­tremely im­por­tant ones.

The big­gest mis­take I see in the half halt is too much rein aid with the driv­ing aids com­pletely for­got­ten. If this oc­curs, the horse be­comes stiffer, heav­ier and harder to stop.

The Aids

Think of your aids like the ped­als in a man­ual car:

The brake. To use the rein aid for the half halt, feel your hand squeez­ing the wa­ter out of a wet sponge, hold­ing onto a dry sponge or a feel­ing in be­tween the two.

The gas. In the mo­ment you are squeez­ing with the hand, you ap­ply more pres­sure with the legs. Imag­ine sit­ting on one of those big ex­er­cise balls you find at the gym. You squeeze the ball a bit with the leg. That is about the right amount of pres­sure ap­plied to the horse.

The clutch. The seat al­ways has a for­ward-driv­ing ef­fect on the horse. Use the seat like a clutch to co­or­di­nate be­tween the re­strict­ing and the for­ward-driv­ing aids. When you feel the horse re­spond, you back off and re­lease the aids. Even if the horse doesn’t re­spond, you back off then give an­other half halt.

The art is know­ing how much rein, seat and leg to use. The amount changes from mo­ment to mo­ment. Some horses are sen­si­tive and don’t need a whole lot while other horses need more. How­ever, there is never a long pull back or shove of the horse for­ward. The half halt is al­ways a rel­a­tively short aid, so some­times you need a suc­ces­sion of many half halts and many re­leases to get the re­sponse you want.

Try This

The best ex­er­cise for half halts is tran­si­tions. Start with sim­ple

tran­si­tions such as trot–walk–trot. From the work­ing trot, do a tran­si­tion to six steps of medium walk and im­me­di­ately trot again. Then try four steps of walk and two steps of walk. When that is easy, from the trot do a tran­si­tion al­most to walk but right be­fore you feel that the horse is about to walk you al­ready push him for­ward again into the trot.

When you have the feel­ing that this “al­most walk tran­si­tion” works, try to pro­long that mo­ment of al­most walk­ing for two to five steps be­fore re­turn­ing to the work­ing trot. You don’t want the horse to fall to walk or run off in the trot for these steps. You will feel the com­bi­na­tion of the driv­ing and re­strain­ing aids to main­tain those small trot steps. Then you have de­vel­oped con­trol of how much for­ward or how lit­tle for­ward the horse goes, which is your ba­sic half halt.

The half halt, a com­bi­na­tion of for­ward aids and re­strict­ing aids, doesn’t just slow the horse down. Each half halt could be used to im­prove the horse’s frame, change the tempo, en­gage the hind legs or re­bal­ance the horse. Here Jan Ebel­ing rides the Olden­burg mare Rafalca.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.