Halt is more important than you might think. Riding a good, square halt is an easy way to boost your marks in dressage competition and shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s also worth bearing in mind that if your dressage test has a halt on the first centre line your ride, how you execute the movement will be the first impression the judge gets of your horse, and it can set the tone for the rest of the test. Here’s 9 top tips to help you nail the halt every time.
1. Your horse needs to be submissive, willing and soft over his back and in front of your leg.
2. Help your horse by preparing for the halt. Ride two to three shorter, smaller trot steps in the approach to the halt, while maintaining sufficient energy. This will help him maintain his balance and give him the best possible chance of landing in a square halt.
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3. Don’t ride too directly into the halt. This will unbalance your horse and give him little chance to land square. Give yourself and your horse time.
4. Think of riding forwards into the halt rather than backwards. Keep your horse between hand and leg. Use half-halt with your rein while keeping your leg on. This will help to keep your horse soft and round and stepping under with his hind-legs and prevent him from leaning on you.
5. If your horse swings his quarters left or right into the halt, think about riding with a little leg yield to try and avoid the quarters from moving.
6. Once you are in halt, stay there (immobility). Try not to fiddle around with the halt too much. Often riders can think their halt isn’t square enough when in actual fact it’s not too bad. Training your horse to remain still in the halt is vital.
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7. If you struggle to ride a straight halt, set two poles out to ride and halt between, while remaining strict on yourself to try and make it happen instead of relying on the poles doing the work for you.
8. If your horse anticipates the halt, practise riding your test without the halt and ride plenty of centre lines without it too.
9. Your horse will learn to halt square by repeating the exercise over time. Never tell your horse off for not halting square. Make sure you praise and reward your horse when he does as you have asked.