How to Ride a Good Halt
One movement that appears at least once in every dressage test is the halt.
On the face of it, the halt should be an easy mark winner – all you have to do is stand still!
So, what is the dressage judge looking for in a good halt, and how can you teach your horse to halt well?
Read on to find out more.
What is a good halt?
In a good halt, the horse should be straight. Each leg should bear the same weight evenly so that he has ‘a leg at each corner’.
If the halt is unbalanced, the horse may tip onto his forehand and drop his poll as he halts, or he might throw his head up against the contact and not halt square.
The horse should remain still and relaxed but will remain attentive and wait for his rider’s next instruction.
When asked to move off, he should step forward immediately and smoothly into whatever pace his rider asks for.
How to ride a good halt
Regardless of the pace, you are approaching the halt from, it’s important to ‘think forward’ when riding into the transition.
If you just close the reins and fail to use enough leg, the horse will lose engagement as he halts. The halt will become unbalanced and will probably not be square behind.
As you prepare to halt, give your horse a clear half-halt and cease following the movement with your seat.
Close your hand and leg.
Always use a forward hand; don’t simply pull backwards on the reins.
Keep both legs on, and maintain an even contact in both reins to make sure the horse stays straight.
Sit still and allow the horse to relax and mouth quietly on the bit.
Once the halt is established, ask the horse to walk on.
Common faults and fixes
A very common fault in the halt is a lack of straightness.
This often occurs if the horse is unbalanced on the approach to the halt. He may run against the rider’s hand and swing his quarters to one side as he halts, or might step sideways into the halt instead of standing still directly.
You can make it easier for the horse to keep his balance as he halts.
Try to ease your hand slightly into the transition and don’t try to make the transition too direct. You can sharpen things up as the horse becomes more experienced and better engaged.
If the horse persists in swinging his quarters out, practice riding halts alongside the fence, making sure that you keep both legs on equally.
Carry your schooling whip on the side to which the horse habitually steps out. Sometimes, the mere fact that the horse can see the whip there will do the trick and help you to keep him straight.
If the horse is about to halt crooked, walk forward straight away and ask him again.
Some horses fidget in halt or even step back. This is a serious fault in dressage and will lose you many marks.
If your horse begins to step backwards, ride forwards immediately. Ride the halt again and ease your hand as you do so. Be positive with your legs and keep thinking forwards.
The impatient horse that fidgets in halt can be difficult to cure. It’s really just a question of practice and insisting that he stands still until you ask him to move off. To achieve this, you may have to sacrifice straightness at first, but you can tidy things up once the horse has accepted that he must stand still.
Your horse should be straight, square, attentive, relaxed and immobile during the halt, and the move-off should be immediate and obedient.
The key to a good halt is balance and submission to your aids. Remember to include riding the halt during your schooling sessions, using the tips given above to help you.
- How to Ride a Half-Halt
- How to Ride a Good Trot-Halt Transition
- How to Ride a Good Halt-Trot Transition
- How Much Contact Should You Have?
7 Simple Steps To Boost Your Dressage Scores
Every mark counts in dressage. Subscribe to our email list below and we'll share with you 7 simple ways to boost your scores.
Thank you for subscribing. Please check your email account.
Something went wrong.