Continuing ‘The Novice Test’ series of posts, the entry and halt at X is your chance to make a good impression. A good halt is an indicator that you have the basics right, so don’t squander the opportunity to make the judge sit up and take notice of you.
At the lower levels it is acceptable to ride a progressive transition from trot to halt. The judge would prefer a few steps of walk than your horse screeching to a stop.
The Novice Test has a number of different places where the halt may be asked for:
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- X – Halt Immobility Salute
- G – Halt immobility Salute
- D – Halt Immobility Salute
Followed by either –
- Leave the arena or
- Proceed in working trot
Then there’s the halt in the middle of the test:
- A Halt. Immobility for 4 seconds and proceed in medium walk
A correct halt requires for the horse to stand squarely, which means your horse’s hooves should form a ‘perfect’ square—with a hoof at each corner. The Dressage Judge is looking for your horse to stand quietly, no head tossing, fidgeting or mouthing the bit. Firstly ask your horse standing quietly. Gently reminding him each time he fidgets that he should be standing quietly and calmly.
It’s all about your balance at the point you wish to halt and for every second you wish to continue halting. If your legs are too far forward or too far back, you are not in balance. Your horse will take your cues but what you think you are asking for is not what you are actually asking her for, hence your horse will fidget. Be still in your seat and hands, but NOT heavy. Once you have established this you can work on the mechanics of the square halt.
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Feeling a correct halt through your seat bones is not easy. When your horse halts square, you are looking to feel his weight evenly distributed. His hindquarters will seem lower and you’ll feel his hind legs underneath your seat. Unfortunately, leaning down to check will probably knock your horse off balance so you will need to ask a friend to tell you when the horse is square and then soak up the feeling, register it and store it for future reference. They can also tell you when the horse is not square and you can register that feeling too.
The most important thing about a good halt is that the judge should get a sense that the horse would move forward immediately when asked, rather than using it as an excuse to shut down; think of the halt as just that – a halt; a suspension of the movement; a temporary stop; your horse should be on the aids and waiting for his next instruction. Ride your horse into the halt so he steps up into it, rather than trails to a stop.
If you have finished the test, you will give the rein and the horse will know it is the end. If you are starting a test or half way through it, you will give the instruction to continue but the horse should be primed and ready for that next instruction. He has not stopped, he has halted … temporarily.
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Failure to soften your hand will result in your horse leaning on the bit.
Here’s a few things to check out if you are not getting a square halt:
- Is your horse engaging his hind legs and powering forward into the bridle?
- Is your contact equal on both reins?
- Are you using both legs equally?
- Are you sitting straight. You could be unbalancing the horse with a crooked seat.
- Are you looking up in the direction of travel?
Making Halt Corrections
If your horse is trailing a hind leg, quietly ask him to step forward with your corresponding leg, maintaining a holding contact with the bit to reassure your horse that you are not asking him to walk on. Only ask for one correction at a time or you will teach your horse to fidget.
- You should always ensure that your horse is immobile before saluting.
- Take the reins into one hand.
- The free hand should be lowered to your side.
- You then nod the head with a wide smile
- Make sure you make eye contact with the judge.
There should be no extravagant hand gestures, or waves and absolutely not an actual salute ! like in the army. Simply drop your arm. You could try gently touching the numnah to make sure your fingers are not flapping and that your arm is not too wide.
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Your horse should always stand quietly while you mount and not move off until asked. This simple little discipline will aid your ability to develop a good square halt in the dressage arena.
Train for this and try not miss out on easily available points due to a poorly executed halt. As always, have fun!
Patricia – The Dressage Tipster