Without forward, there is no half-halt but without half-halt, there is no forward. (Click to tweet this if you agree.)

go and no
Photo Credit: NBanaszak Photography

Let me explain.

Has it ever happened to you that after you kicked (or preferably, didn't kick but used more seat/leg for energy), the horse flew out from under you, running faster and faster until he fell to the forehand and perhaps had to scramble his way back to balance?

Or conversely...

Has it ever happened that you went to half-halt (or check) and the horse braced his neck against your pressure, slowed the rhythm and reduced energy until you thought you were stuck in quicksand?

In both cases, there is one aid given to the horse but the other is missing. And there seems to be no other way: if you want to control energy, you have to have energy in the first place. If there is no energy, there is no controlling.

What to do?

We have to learn the coordination between "go and no" - all the while, keeping our balance to give the appropriate aids while not pulling on the reins.

Try this:

Teach your horse to kick (not literally!) into gear when you use a light leg and encouraging seat (that floats right into the movement that your horse offers). Then, before it's too late and he loses balance completely, use a restricting seat, contact with your (probably outside) rein, and a little leg to help the horse's hind end to come underneath his body.

See if he steps deeper underneath his body, rounds more, becomes bouncier, and breathes deeper (or gives you a well-earned snort). Look for more swing in his stride, more reach through his shoulders, and a lighter contact pressure on the reins.

The rhythm should be unaffected. A half-halt is a rebalance; it isn't a "putter down into the slower gait little by little and let the energy peter out." Therefore, the idea isn't to interfere with the horse's gait and tempo. Instead, your aim is to celebrate the energy your horse gives you and redirect it not only straight forward, but also a little upward, so the overall balance tilts a little to the hind end.

Keep your balance.

Encourage more energy.

Keep the tempo the same (not faster or slower).

Get the "go", then get the "no".

And let us know how it works out in the comment section below.

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Stepping “Forward” in Horse Riding: The term ‘forward’ is used liberally in horse riding but is often misunderstood.

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6 Ways to Unleash the Power of Your Riding Seat: As you become more subtle in the aiding process, you will begin to discover just how powerful the seat can be in guiding the horse without disturbing and interfering in his movement.

Top 10 Ways to Reward Your Horse: A happy horse is a willing partner, and many horses will give everything they have if they feel your acknowledgement and generosity of spirit.

Demystifying “Contact” in Horseback Riding: Does “contact” have other-wordly connotations? Here is why effective contact is within reach of the average rider.

12 Comments

  1. I learned that a half-halt was ridden in a full seat. Knees were moved slightly forward and down – and then squeezed as if to move them together. It ALWAYS worked when I thought and did exactly that. My horse’s ears and body concentrated slightly backward – under my seat, and I (eventually) learned to feel the deeper stride taken by the horse’s inslde hind leg. Useful, subtle, magnificent tool. As with anything – it helps to practicepracticepractice, and use it in your transitions – or anytime you need your horse to come back and listen. Good luck.

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