How to ride the perfect square halt

Here’s some great advice on how to ride a perfect square halt on your horse or pony from four-star event rider Coral Keen

1. When you first start introducing halts, it is important to remember that the most vital part within this movement is for the horse to stand still and be submissive. Initially you do not want to be making too many adjustments trying to make the halt square, as this can lead to the horse fidgeting within the halt and it becomes an issue. Once they are happy and immobile in the halt, then think about the squareness.

2. When you start training halts it is fine for them to be a bit progressive. Start with walk to halt first and then move on to trot, halt, reducing the walk steps gradually. Don’t expect it to be too direct. Allowing your horse time in the movement initially will also help them to develop the feeling of positioning themselves into a square halt.

3. The quality of the walk or trot before you halt is vital. Your horse needs to be active, so when you collect and prepare for halt they do not drop off behind the leg. You need to keep the impulsion and the hind leg working underneath your horse as this then helps their hind quarters to be square and not trialling behind. Remember, as with any downward transition, it is a forward movement and you need to ride forward into the halt.

4. Straightness is key. Practise riding squares instead of circles to test your straightness. Also ride halt transitions on the square after a turn. The turn will help position the hind leg in the correct place to ask for a square halt.

5. Your balance and position as a rider will contribute towards a good halt. The aid for halt would be to step into the heel, sit really nice and tall and deep in the saddle and let everything go down through your stirrups, remembering to look up and ahead and not down.

6. Once your horse is ready for adjustments within the halt, use your leg for whichever leg your horse is trialling behind. So, if it is the left side hind, use your left leg and if it is the right side, use your right leg. Correct the horse by making them take one small step. Try to keep hold of the rein, use the leg on that side and make them stand square. When the horse reacts to this, even if it is not the perfect halt, praise them for a positive response. The horse will then start to learn that when he comes into the halt, he needs to move his legs and position himself to be square.

Now you’ve got that advice in mind, take a look at these dressage competitions available to enter where you can show off what you’ve learnt…

Open Christmas dressage show

Date: 15 December
Venue: South Bottymyre RDA Forfar
Details: “This competition features classes from intro to medium with all welcome. Fancy dress is encouraged.”
Enter now

Open dress down dressage

Date: 15 December
Venue: Leyland Court Equestrian Centre, Bristol
Details: “This unaffiliated competition features classes ranging between into and elementary. As the name suggests, this is a fun, supportive Christmas dressage competition — there is no need for show jackets and you don’t need to plait — the more Christmassy the merrier! The main aim of this competition is to come and have a go and to have fun.”
Enter now

British Dressage

Date: 16 December
Venue: Alnwick Ford Equestrian, Morpeth
Details: “This competition has a range of classes between prelim and inter II with a selection of qualifiers.”
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Nervous dressage

Date: 16 December
Venue: Ladyleys, Oldmeldrum
Details: “Warm up in small indoor school for 20 minutes, then ride a dressage test of your choice without having to leave the arena.”
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British Dressage

Date: 18 December
Venue: Keysoe, Bedford
Details: “This affiliated show has classes from prelim to prix st georges with a variety of qualifiers and freestyle to music classes too.”
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Dressage evening

Date: 20 December
Venue: Highfield Equestrian at Howe, Cupar
Details: “This competition includes classes from intro up to elementary. There is also a ‘clear round’ where you can ride in the arena before the competition starts. This is also a casual event, so there is no need to plait.”
Enter now

Visit for full competition and training listings