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Horse-Riding: The Half-Halt

The half-halt is almost synonymous with dressage riding. Classical riding idealizes the perfecting of the horse’s balance under his rider, without the force of hands. When properly done, the half-halt is a rebalancing aid without pulling.

The success of a half-halt is dependent on the rider’s steadiness and coordination in the torso, for it is based on the anchorage of the seat. The driving aids, so intimately at the heart of a proper half-halt, cannot propel the haunches forward without the restraint of the forehand by a firm anchorage of the seat. The half-halt is an interlude of briefly doubling both the restraining and the driving aids.


Horse-Riding: The Flying Change of Canter

For aiding the flying change, we must be concerned only with phases five and six of the canter. In phase five, a rider can see the horse’s outstretched foreleg on the ground slowly slant backward as his body travels over it. With this movement of the receding inside foreleg of the horse, the rider’s inside (forward) leg must slowly recede. It travels backward on the horse’s side into an “outside” leg position. As a result of the rider having changed his leg position to the opposite of what it was, his entire seat and hand position should change harmoniously.

In phase six, the horse is suspended above the ground and comes easily into harmony with the rider’s new position. Without anchorage to the ground, the horse can rebend himself into a new lateral position. By the time his flight is concluded, he will exercise the option of touching down with the opposite hind leg on the ground. The flying change will have been performed!

Two words of caution: Before asking for a flying change, produce an impulsive, collected canter. As you change position, and with it aiding diagonals during phase five, you must do it harmoniously so that during phase six, you can once again clarify the new balance to the opposite side.


Horse-Riding: the development of the seat through lungeing exercises

Riders have traditionally been evaluated, sometimes praised and admired, entirely on the correctness, and therefore the beauty, of their seat and the imperceptible effectiveness of their influences over the horse.

Horses cannot be improved by giving them physical exercises only. The diversification of work awakens the horse’s mind. Movement over open country and acquaintance with varied terrain is indispensable to the development of the horse. Climbing, sliding, moving up and down hills, jumping natural obstacles, stretching over ditches, wading through water, all these and more are the natural tasks for the horse before he is trained in the controlled environment, the manege, the dressage arena. The means toward the desired dressage ends cannot all be found in the small indoor arena.


Horse-Riding: The Development of the Basic Gaits

The natural gaits include the walk, trot, canter, backing, and the halt. The halt is included in spite of its essence being immobility because it must show a willingness to move forward. The most prolonged training use is given to the trot. Based on the length of strides, there are the extended, medium, working, collected, and school trot, plus passage and piaffe.

Once the collected and medium trots have been established, the working trot becomes useful only during warmup periods.

All two-track movements should be ridden in a suitable level of collection. While the shoulder-in and shoulder-out increase the ability to perform a brilliant collected trot, the half-pass helps the development of a brilliant extended trot, by developing hip and stifle flexibility and freeing the shoulders. Development of collection, for most riders, is easiest in the trot, and it is by far the most difficult at the walk. The highest degree of collection in the different gaits is demonstrated at:

Collected walk—for walk. Piaffe—for trot. Pirouette—for canter.

Extensions in all three gaits are best developed by riding the extensions on a straight line, rather than through figures and turns. Extensions depend on even loading and striding legs used with maximum stretching.

When the natural walk of the horse is poor, in most cases his canter will also be poor. When purchasing a dressage prospect, the walk should be scrutinized most carefully, for the improvement of that gait is the most difficult and sometimes impossible. The trot is the gait most easily improved by schooling.

While there are periods of suspension in the canter and the trot, there is none in the walk. In both walk and canter, we ask for pirouettes, but we do not perform the same at the trot. The flying changes are unique to the canter and there are not analogous movements in the other two gaits. While in trot we may ride a piaffe, a movement lacking in ground-gaining advancement by the horse, we always gain ground and advance in the other two gaits. While we perform shoulder-in and shoulder-out at both walk and trot, we do not perform the movement in canter. However, one may ride a shoulder-fore in canter, which is an increase in the lateral bending of the cantering horse and invites his inside shoulder to track positioned slightly inward, in front of the inside hip. This canter exercise omits the crossing of the legs, but it does promote suppling, straightening, and liberation of the shoulders.

Horse-Riding: The Crooked and Runaway Horse

The Crooked Horse
A horse that is moving above the bit because he is crooked needs only to be straightened and he will step up to the bit instantly. A rider who can align the horse’s spine by controlling the relative position of the horse’s forehand to his haunches will access the hind legs. Once the spinal alignment is secured, the rider should drive to load the horse’s hind legs evenly. This activity includes the slowing of the. horse until his strides on both sides are equal to the length the horse performs with his shorter-striding hind legs. Even length and height of strides with both hind legs are dependent on the rider’s abilities to align the horse’s spine, as well as his ability to sense how to even up the strides of the hind legs. This important activity was turned into the age-old advice, “Straighten your horse and ride him forward.” Indeed, in misinterpretation, this is being “translated” into running horses off their legs at top speed. The admonition, however, was meant to address the cognoscenti who knew its meaning to be “Spinal alignment, followed by equal use of the hind legs” yields the “straight horse, moving correctly forward by loading the hind legs evenly.”

The Runaway Horse
A horse that is running because he finds his rider not a weight but a frightening burden will need to be slowed down through repeated half-halts in order to flex toward the bit. All horses can be slowed down through half-halts, the rider indicating a desire to walk. Just before the horse walks, the rider must yield on the reins, without losing contact, however, and allow the horse to slowly trot on. If repeated, this will convey to the horse that he may trot, but slower. Eventually, he will relax, find his balance, feel a more harmonious rider accompanying him, and will gently accept contact on the bit. On a rushing horse, it is essential to slow the tempo to the point where the horse allows himself to be drivable! As long as the rider travels on a running horse like a passenger and dares not contact his horse’s sides with his legs, the horse will not flex to seek the bit.