The horse’s natural stance is on the forehand, with his weight over the front of the legs. Your job as the rider is to re-establish the horse’s centre of balance and move it further back so that he can carry you comfortably. This balance can only be achieved if you have engaged the most powerful part of the horse – the hindquarters and you will do this with the half-halt.
Now I subscribe to the Carl Hester school of thought that the half-halt is a very personally developed aid which differs for every horse/rider combination. So let’s say as a generic description for the half-halt might be – close the legs to ask for more forward energy and close the fingers on the reins to block that energy. The block ensures also that the horse does not run away or drop down onto his forehand but rounds his back, lifts the forehand and steps under himself from behind.
Be sure not to pull back in the half-halt, the closing of the fingers is a ‘block’ to send the energy asked for by the leg back to the hind-legs. If you pull the horse’s back will hollow. However you execute the half-halt it must be with finesse and subtleness and the aids should be applied for only a few steps. Prolonged pressure will not give you the desired result, so as the horse responds, back off, soften the rein and then go again.
… circle the two areas of the horse where energy can escape; the front and the back. When the horse is ‘on the forehand’ energy trails out of the hind end; if you have no contact or are not using the half-halt the energy will leak out of the front of the horse.
You are aiming to get these two circles closer together. The front circle coil clockwise up through your legs, over the wither, down horse’s face, down under the horse’s forelegs and back up through the sole of the rider’s boot.
The Hind circle spirals anti-clockwise comes up through the rider’s legs, over the horse’s quarters, down under the horse’s hind legs and back up through the sole of your rider’s boots.
What is the desired effect?
You are looking for the hindquarters to be under the horse’s centre of effort with the back soft and light shoulders, thus enabling the forelegs greater freedom of movement.
Here’s what to do … always look to the end result, try to feel your way through, try not to be too mechanical about applying the aids, play with the pressure until it is achieving the desired effect. Experiment and feel your way, too much hand and your horse will back off the forward impulsion, too much leg and he will shoot forward – you will know when you have it. You will feel the containment (or rather flow) of the energy coming up and over the back.
Once you have experienced it, you will want to be sure you always have it, because without it, you will not feel good about your riding, so you will want to work harder to keep it.
Balance, that’s it!