How to Half-Halt at the Canter

Many riders struggle with the half-halt and especially at the canter! Some horses want to rush and “run through” the half-halts where as other horses tend to break into the trot the moment that the rider half-halts. Here are some tips for effective half-halts at the canter!

What is the correct timing of the half halt?

It is extremely important to half halt is when the mane is flying up.  This is when the hind legs are on the ground. Half halting at the wrong moment when the front legs of the horse are on the ground will cause the horse to go on the forehand and often the horse will break into the trot or speed up and go on the forehand.

What is a half-halt?

A half-halt is a gathering up of energy from hind leg through the back and to hand. It is a moment where the rider gathers the energy of the horse so that you can do something with that energy. To ride a half-halt:

  1. Tighten lower abs- still follow the motion of the horse, but just a little less
  2. Close the legs – how much depends on the horse but enough leg that the horse does not slow down or stop!
  3. Intermittent squeezes with the outside rein when the mane is flying up – be sure not to just pull! 

How much seat leg and hand really depends on the horse. A lazy horse will need more leg in a half halt for “energizing half-halts.  A hot horse will need more rein and seat in a half-halt.

What if the horse doesn’t listen to the half halt?

Small circles and turns are always a great way to regulate the speed at the canter and get the horse to come back and slow down. Pulling back on 2 reins does not work! A great exercises is to ride down the long-side in medium center and use a 10 meter circle in the corner at the end of the long-side to bring the horse back and re-collect the horse from the medium. Shoulder fore and a little bend can help to bring the horse back after a medium canter and this also helps to keep the horse uphill and engaged when you bring them back!

Common Mistakes in half halts:

  1. Rider leans forward – it is especially important at the canter that the rider is sitting back on the hind end for the half halts to help the horse engage and lower the hind end.
  2. Incorrect timing of the half halt – the half-halt must happen on the up stride of the canter
  3. Half halts that last too long – the half halt must not last longer than one stride.  Although you can repeat the half-halt several strides in a row!
  4. Too much rein – many riders forget the importance of the seat and the leg in the half halt!
  5. Horse runs through the half halt – make a small circle or a downward transition to get the point across.  Repeat until the horse is willing to listen to a lighter and softer aid.

Does this answer you questions about half-halts at the canter? What other questions do you have?

Happy Riding!



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