Shaun Mandy’s dressage blog: It’s all about the half halt

  • Dear Gorgeous Readers,

    Isn’t life busy?! I can’t believe I am more than half way through month one of living in my new home and yard!

    It has been a fabulous one of moving, BD summer regionals, Pony Club area dressage and then the Championships, a great friend’s 40th and day to day teaching….ooh and starting workouts with a personal trainer!

    The move went very well and friend and client, Ben Ambrose, gave up his day to help, which was invaluable! Poppy has settled into Gainfield Farm and had a friend stay for a couple of weeks. Betsy, one of my client’s horses, came to me for training while her owner was on holiday. Sadly the other horse who was meant to join me went lame and so that is on hold for the moment.

    Excitedly, though, I may soon be having another full time friend for Poppy! 2Gallop and I are getting together a syndicate to buy me a horse to train and compete. If any of you are interested and would like to be a part of this, do get in touch! As part or full owner of any horse you have with me, I promise to have Prosecco at every competition you come to watch!

    A few days after the move, Poppy and I were off to Mount Ballan for the summer regionals. It was a great

    On the way to regionals

    On the way to regionals

    couple of days and I was very happy with how Poppy relaxed into the environment. Being a very spooky horse, I worked her there the day before our test and did two arena walks with her —one the evening before and the other first thing in the morning.

    It was a big class of 49 competitors in the medium open. The top three hit the early 70%’s and the rest all between 69% and 59%, so it was very tight judging. We got 64.1% and although I was hoping for a higher mark, I was pleased with how Poppy went when I look at where she was in her training a few months ago. Everything in perspective! She got a bit strong in the test and then lost self-carriage at times which lowered the scores.

    This reminds me of how important those half halts are and really it is what dressage is all about! It is the heart of training the horse and it is what strengthens the amount of collection and balance. The half halt is also what we should be doing to prepare and execute every movement. When riding dressage, there is nothing we do that does not require a succession of half halts.

    For the half halts to have the right effect, your horse must be light and reactive to your signals and must not be against your hand. You ask your horse forward and then catch the energy with a slightly restraining hand. At the same time, you are tall in the upper body and tightening your tummy muscles, before relaxing, giving and riding forward again into another half halt until you have the desired reaction. This is engaging the hind leg more and therefore getting more collection.

    As we are asking more from the hind legs through the half halts, horses will often try to evade this by

    With the Old Berks Pony Club

    With the Old Berks Pony Club

    lifting their heads and lowering their backs. Start your half halts on a circle where you can be on a curved track with the horse bent through his body and flexed at the poll. This way it is harder for the horse to be against your hand. The inside leg is placed just behind the girth, creating the bend and lateral movement, with the outside leg by the girth to ride forward. It can also be moved back to control the quarters from swinging. The outside rein is restraining and supporting and so the horses inside hind leg can move further under his body. The inside rein is just asking for flexion.

    When your horse gives in at the poll and steps more underneath himself, the half halts are working. Reward by sitting still until you feel he is losing self-carriage or becoming to elongated. When you have achieved this you can start on the straight lines, but still keep the horse flexed to the inside (see inside eye and nostril) when executing half halts.

    Remember if your horse is losing forwardness from the leg aids, you must concentrate on riding him forward for a while and relax on the restraining signals or if your horse is too forward (like Poppy!) you must get him to stop from the rein signal in the half halt.

    I had a great day out with all my Old Berks Pony Club teams for the area dressage at Malvern, Three Counties Showground a couple of weeks ago. It was full on and I started warming up my first rider at 8am and did not stop until 5pm! It resulted in one of my teams going through to the championships.

    The championships took place at Cholmondeley Castle in Cheshire on Saturday and my intermedieate team that got through were second so a great day for the OBH Pony Club and everyone involved!

    I was recently been interviewed by Style Reins and will now be conducting interviews with riders on the

    At Castle Coombe

    At Castle Coombe

    fashion front! Variety is the spice of life as someone once said.

    Talking of spice makes me think of flavour. I can highly recommend the cream tea at Castle Coombe Manor! It was my dear friend, Sarah Boon’s birthday and we celebrated there. The cakes were phenomenal. It was so funny, though, as we could not finish all of them, so we asked our waiter if he would kindly box the rest for us to take home. We were waiting at the front of the hotel and a few minutes later were handed a couple of beautiful white cake boxes which we proceeded to carry around with us as we walked the grounds. Later that evening after we had had dinner, we decided it would be a good time to finish the cakes, only to find the boxes were empty! Bit of mis-communication I think!

    Until soon xx

    Body Mind Mastery quote: If I had six hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first four hours sharpening the axe. – Abraham Lincoln (quite fitting a feel with the half halt theme!)

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