A half-halt isn’t: pulling the reins. To start out, riding instructors often teach beginners very simplistic aids to take the place of certain skills until the rider’s balance and body control improves. This is particularly true of the half-halt. Since one of the requirements of the half-halt is having the ability to “ride along” or move your body along with the horse’s motion, you can understand how making a proper half-halt is nearly impossible to the rank beginner who is concentrating on so many things—holding the reins, sitting up, learning the rhythm of the rising trot, turning. Therefore, for a little while, the beginning rider may have to rely on pulling the reins to slow down or stop. Unfortunately, this aid often continues to become the rider’s way of half-halting forever. This way of braking eventually creates problems. Constantly having the bit pulled in his mouth is an unpleasant experience for the horse, which often leads to his resistance. If a rider’s answer to the problem is changing to a stronger bit or using training aids such as draw reins, it becomes a vicious cycle. Instead, master the subtle skill of the half-halt.
American author Sharon Biggs is a freelance writer currently based in England.