How do you do a Half Halt?

It’s one of the things you hear all the time but when asked people tend to say what it does but not how to do one. We hear it all the time “sit up and half halt, before the turn half halt, before the transition half halt, balance your horse with a half halt.”

But what really is it and more importantly, how do you do one? Let me explain…

A half halt can be described in many ways, some of them are: rebalancing, a “half of a halt”, a pause, a shifting of the horse’s weight from their frontend to their hindquarters, etc. The list goes on but basically, when you do a half halt you are asking the horse to step more underneath himself (think that his hind legs are reaching more towards the girth with each step) and in order to do that he has to shift his more weight onto his hind legs than his front.  This is hard for a horse because he naturally wants to have more weight on his frontend.  To be able to shift his weight back he has to sit down behind (lower his croup) and in turn it raises his poll and makes him lighter on his front feet, easier to maneuver, and more comfortable to ride.

But how do you do one? 

To do a half halt you almost simultaneously apply your lower leg pressure on the horse, hold the motion of your seat, and squeeze the fingers on the reins for a second. Then release and go with the horse onto the movement you were preparing for.

Let’s break it down:

Apply lower leg – Calf down to your ankle wraps around your horse and applies pressure while keeping your lower leg long and weight in your heel.

Apply your seat – Engage your core (think about bringing your belly button to your spine or that feeling when laughing really hard).  Hold through your core engage it and stop the motion of your seat for just a second.

Apply your hand – Squeeze your fingers on the reins. It’s not pulling back per say but squeezing your gloves on the reins.

Release – Release all aids – the leg pressure lightens, you go with the movement of the horse with your seat, and you soften your hands.  It’s a coming together of the aids and then it’s a release so the horse can go forward in better balance.

Things to keep in mind:

You can’t half halt nothing. Your horse has to have forward energy and be forward thinking to even think of applying the half halt. Forward thinking and obedient means when you put your leg on your horse has to go, now. Not in 5 seconds, not after 10 kicks, NOW!

Start this at the walk.  Every time you put your leg on your horse should move off of it. If they don’t then tap with a whip.

Once they are walking forward they should maintain that forward energy until you say otherwise.  The moment they slow down, squeeze and then tap if no response (good reaction times are key).

This has to be a black and white rule (forward when asked – no exceptions)

Your horse doesn’t have to be on the bit for instilling forwardness. 

Tips for a better half halt:

Have a partner grab the reins and you be the horse, have them squeeze the reins so you can see and feel it.  See that their elbows don’t pull back but you can feel the pressure on the reins.

When applying your seat make sure you aren’t gripping with your thighs as this will make you pop out of the saddle.

When applying the rein aid by squeezing the fingers you must already have a steady contact with the horse’s mouth for this to influence the horse.  If you have loopy reins then the horse won’t feel a squeeze on the rein at all.

Don’t forget the release at the end of the half halt. The release is incredibly important and overlooked.

Happy riding!