In this lesson, you're going to read about three additional ways to control
your horse. One way is through the half halt. Another is to collect your
horse, also known as getting your horse onto the bit. A third is by learning
to handle evasions -- that is, when a horse doesn't do what you ask or
develops bad habits to avoid work.
For this lesson, your instructor may saddle you with a horse that is
particularly likely to evade. At my barn, that horse is Waffle.
Waffle is a cross between a Quarter Horse and a type of Draft known as a
Belgian -- hence the name (Belgian) Waffle. She reigns as queen of the
pasture. Don't dare try to give another horse a carrot without taking one
along for her. If you do, she'll run all the other horses off and grab the treat.
She also hates for the shutters on her stall to be closed. If she hears you
coming with food and the shutter is closed, she'll knock it open and knock
you over with the force of a gale wind.
Under saddle, she has evasions down to a science. She's figured out very
well what the rider will and will not allow, and she'll test you at every turn.
She'll make you want to drop riding and take up golf. But then,
miraculously, she'll give you a beautiful ride. Her fantastic conformation
makes her a very smooth mount. Why does she behave like this? She's
really a very talented horse, but extremely lazy.
The Half Halt
Previously, in lesson 3, you learned that a half halt is just what it sounds
like: It's half a halt and can be used to slow down a horse. But the half halt
also serves another very important purpose: to let the horse know you're
going to ask her to do something different, such as pick up a different gait
or turn a corner. The half halt is one of the most important aids that you will
To understand the half halt, think of it as equivalent to clearing your throat
or raising your hand to get someone's attention. It primes the person to
receive your message. With a horse, you use the half halt to say, "Waffle,
pay attention, I'm going to give a new command now." Or sometimes,
"Waffle, I know what you're thinking about doing and want you to cut it out."
To further understand the half halt, first review the basic aids to the halt:
Aids to Halt
1. Sit down.
2. Set your hands.
3. Close your legs on the horse.
4. Push with your back into your hands.
How you execute the half halt depends on the desired result. In other
words, it can be very, very mild or very, very harsh. Choosing the intensity
comes under the heading of "horseman's tact." This is something you learn
over time while riding and will vary with the horse's personality.
During one lap around the ring, good riders will always give at least eight
half halts. How is this possible? Because there are four corners in a ring.
There's a half halt before you enter the corner to create a bend, and a half
halt after the corner, to straighten the horse. Obviously, since there are
four corners, that equals eight half halts. But practically speaking, eight is a
In a small ring -- say, 60 by 120 feet -- a professional rider probably will give
30 to 40 half halts in one lap. Why? Because before each command he
prefaces it by a half halt to get the horse's attention.
Try this out. Ask Waffle to trot around the ring. Think ahead! Before you
ask her to bend around the corner, give her a half halt. Now around the
corner you go. As you come out of the corner, half halt again before ;you
ask her to straighten out.
Practice your half halts at the corners going both ways around the ring. If
you practice enough, half halts, too, will become as natural as using the turn
signal when your car approaches a corner.
Boost your confidence
Build your skills
Enhance your lessons
Put Mike Smith's
40 years of
experience work for
You'll love it!
|Woodland Horse Center
16301 New Hampshire Avenue, Silver Spring, MD 20905
301-421-9156 fax: 301-421-9049