The biggest myth about half-halts, and how I teach, ride and use them

If I say ‘half-halt’ to a rider, I’m often faced with a blank look somewhere between confusion and sheer terror. And it’s no wonder, it IS confusing! Every coach has a different meaning associated with the term half-halt. Here’s how I teach it, ride it and use it.

How I teach half-halts

A half-halt is a waiting aid; it is used to put your horse’s feet back underneath you and enable the horse to re-gain or establish balance. Because of this, half-halts are the first point of call when you feel like your horse is running away, pulling or diving downwards on the reins.

It’s important to note that a half-halt should only be used on a horse that is going by itself, meaning that they are in front of the leg and travelling forward. After all, you can only ask a horse to wait if they are going forward, and you can only ask a horse that is waiting to go forward.

How I ride half-halts

My half-halt aid sequence is:

  1. A tightening of the shoulder blades
  2. A tightening of the core
  3. Followed through by a squeeze of the reins. This step is only required if steps 1 and 2 gained no response
  4. Relax the half-halt and enable the horse to move forward freely

How I use halt-halts

If you were to drive to the supermarket, by the time you arrived would you remember how many times you touched the brakes, how firmly and for how long each time? Chances are you can’t remember, you simply touched your brakes as many times as was necessary for the road and driving conditions.

Similarly, when you are riding, you should not try and measure the ‘appropriate’ number of half-halts, it is totally immeasurable!  The idea that there is a correct or incorrect number of half halts for any particular movement is a total myth! Half-halts are entirely dependent upon how the horse feels, and it is, therefore, impossible to predict the exact number of half-halts needed for a particular horse.

See how many half-halts you can pick in this 30 second video clip: