Most instructors have their own, unique ways of describing a half-halt. I would like to take a moment to summarise my thoughts that they may help our readers to better understand (and implement) the concept.
My definition of a half-halt is a momentary blocking of the forward aids simultaneous coupled with an engagement of the hind quarters with the intention to balance, lighten and call the horse to attention.
So as such, the half-halt has 2 parts; the blocking first followed immediately by the engagement component.
I like to teach the half-halt by breaking down the 2 parts rather than complicating the aids and confusing the horse by doing it all simultaneously. This is also a great approach for an experienced rider on a green horse.
Blocking the forward movement involves
- Engaging your core and flatten your back, pulling your navel in towards your spine and lifting your pubic bone. This will tilt your pelvis backwards and sit your weight deeper into the saddle
- Breath out as you do this to deepen your seat
- Close your lower legs a little…definitely don’t take them off or slide them forward. I suggest that tightening your knees is not a good idea as it has the effect of lifting your bottom out of the saddle
- If the horse doesn’t slow down, breath in again releasing the half-halt for a moment then repeat immediately using a small check with your hands if the horse doesn’t listen the second time. The idea is to teach your horse to listen to the seat aid first and not have to pull at all on the reins.
Practice blocking the forward movement until your horse responds well to a small aid (ie seat only, no hands). Do this for shorter and shorter periods reducing it to 1-2 strides only then practice the engagement part by closing the legs and sending your horse forward into a soft contact. Like the response for your seat, tune up the response from your leg such that a small aid results in an observable push forward.
Most horses will be weaker at one part; coming back to you if they are a forward mover or going forward if they are sluggish. Look for that reluctance (resistance) and tune your horse by CONSISTENTLY using light, firm and eventually strong aid if required but always giving your horse the opportunity to respond to lighter aids first.