Half Halts and Connection

Half Halts and Connection

By Martina Harcarova

As a horse lover and passionate equestrian, I was very pleased when I found out I was awarded the spring SEDA scholarship that I applied for a few weeks earlier. Even though I was not sure at that time what I was going to use it for, I knew I would love to participate in a dressage clinic when the opportunity arose.

Sure enough, a ‘ride a test’ clinic was offered at Lagniappe Equestrian Center with recognized judge and rider, Helen George. The participants had an option to either ride a test of their choice and work with Helen for fifteen minutes going over the moves or take a lesson instead. As this was my first clinic ever, I decided to take a lesson to take as much advantage of Helen’s knowledge as possible.

On the day of the clinic, my horse, Talisman, was a little up and distracted by new surroundings making it hard to get his attention. Helen started the lesson showing us a few exercises we can do to help calm him down and get his attention focused on me. 

We would ride three loop serpentines and every time we crossed the centerline we would come to a complete stop. As we were walking around, we would change the tempo moving forward and slowing down on the circle bending around the inside leg to the outside rein getting Talisman to connect.

Another exercise that was very helpful to achieve connections as spiral in and spiral out of the circle using leg yield.

One of the important pieces of advice I received was to make sure my horse is always forward before I try to work on anything else engaging his hind legs, not just running through me trying to avoid connection. It is very important to get him to do what I want and let him just roam around in undefined shapes while I try to focus on the correct use of the aids.

The secret lies in correct use of outside rein, from the seat to the hand. Once riders are able to work on more than just walk, trot, and canter, connection and use of seat becomes the next big challenge.

I still rely way too much on the reins when it comes to directing my horse, trying to cross the inside one over the withers, but Miss Helen helped me to see that even though it does not always make sense to me to use outside rein when working on a  circle, it helps to straighten the horse out and get him supple and connected.

It is very important to ride the horse on both sides and not to over use inside rein pulling the horse’s head around rather than getting him bent in his ribcage and correctly using his shoulder. 

Half halts are our very good friend if we know how to use them. Every rider can interpret them differently, but the results should still be the same. Rather than pulling up and to the side, it should be a hardly noticeable pull back and release or supple. Very important is to make sure we always release as soon as we get the desired response.

Miss Helen also helped me realize that I must never stop asking, it sometimes takes me a long time to get what I want and once I get it, I stop asking, being happy with the result. But this throws me right back where I was, having to start all over again.

I was advised to always begin the training ‘our good way’ for us to get motivated and not to feel bad about doing the ‘easy’ things first.

I always knew dressage is not easy but to put everything together and think of millions of little details all at the same time can be at times frustrating and challenging.

However, this amazing sport is not about winning to me. It is about cooperation, collaboration, and bonding with the horse, having tons of fun on our way to achieving the beautiful harmony I’ve always dreamed of.

Thank you, SEDA, for this opportunity!

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.