Core for half-halts
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, July 6, 2011 07:05 PM
Half-halts are a vital part of riding. They help to control the horse's balance, movement and focus. However, for many riders this concept is extremely illusive and confusing. They struggle to grasp the idea and execute it properly on a horse. From my observations one of the most common missing links is an activation of the core muscles during half-halts. For more information about core muscles engagement click here
I have talked a lot about importance of core muscles in riding. However, they are absolutely vital in half-halts. The problem with "seeing" how core muscles work in good riders is because they give the rider an appearance of being quiet, appearance of "doing nothing". Even small hand movements are very easily seen. However, strong engaged core is not so much visible unless you know what to look for. Using hands as only means for half-halts puts rider behind the motion, compromises rider's balance, makes rider pull and hang on the reins. Instant release is impossible and horse will most likely drop his back and pull or go behind the bit.
One of the easy and effective ways to check if you are using core during half-halt is in rising trot. This is what I want you to do:
  • Ask your horse for a forward active trot. Simply go with him without trying to slow him down or rebalance him. Rising trot.
  • Now ask for a half-halt but only during sitting moment of the rising trot. For the next moment you have to soften your contact during rising phase of the trot.
  • Repeat every stride until your horse slows down or even makes a transition to walk.
  • It is impossible to release in time if you are simply pulling on the reins. You will end up rising on the other leg.
  • Mistakes that show you are not engaging your core muscles for half-halts are: falling backwards, hands are moving too much back and too much forward, switching the rising trot to the other leg, landing heavily into saddle, catching your horse in the mouth
This simple tool can really teach you a lot about how to execute half-halts and what to look for in your horse's respond. Doing half-halts only during sitting phase of your rising trot creates perfect timing, you will be half-halting your horse when his inside hind leg just landed on the ground but not yet started to push off into flight. When the above exercise goes well and you start to feel of being in control and in balance start half-halting during rising phase only, half-halt only inside rein, or only outside rein. Observe your horse's reactions and make notes which of your half-halts feel most effective. Try to analyze this information so you understand what is happening during your rides and why...
Happy riding...
Comment by Christine Biser on Monday, December 9, 2019 06:43 PM
The analogy of the balloon or jug containing one's watery viscera is excellent! I had not thought of my torso that way but it makes a lot of sense. Thank you for the visualization. I would love to see an animated video that highlight which parts of the rider are working to execute a half-halt. Calves, abdominal muscles and fingers or wrists. Maybe it would be good to see how the horse's muscles respond to the half-halt, also.
Comment by Irina Yastrebova on Monday, December 9, 2019 11:11 PM
The animation would be a great idea. When a rider closes the hand the muscles are activated in the lower arm, particularly back ones. To steady the whole arm - the rider must pull shoulder blades down and set the arm in place, lats muscles get activated as well. It is very important to keep upper body organized and not let resistance of the horse to pull it forward or round shoulders. Core muscles help to keep pelvis in correct position and allow it to stay plugged in into horse's movement (unless rider is halting then pelvis will stop). Lower leg muscles mostly stay out of acting during actual moment of half-halt. The leg aid should be used before and/or after not during. The only exception is halt where leg is pressing on steadily to ask the horse to step under and square the halt.
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