Halt at X Part 1

Featured in Horse Canada

I write this article on return from the horse show, after judging multiple disciplines. One common denominator across divisions? The box on each score sheet in which I record a mark for the halt. Equitation,  hunter hack,  reining, western riding, driven dressage, pleasure driving, and showmanship.

Good brakes are a must-have for safety. Power brakes, once considered a bonus feature are standard on modern vehicles.  Similarly, power brakes are standard in today’s competition if you wish to score well.

You’re not alone in your dragging halt dilemma. Open mouthed, crooked, lugging-past-the-marker stops rear their heads (pun intended) at every show. Yet the halt remains an often ignored component of training.

Equitation over fences riders hand gallop past the stopping cone. Trail competitors lope into the chute and land past the end. Sometimes I have to step out of the way in showmanship to avoid being run into!.

Three reasons to tune your horse’s brakes:  1.Safety. 2. Education. 3. Competition test.

  1. Safety. It’s essential in working with horses,  to have control over their legs. A prey animal’s first instinct is to flee before understanding. If we don’t interrupt his flight, the unsettling event is recorded in his mind. Extinguish a  spook, runaway canter transition or rushed jump with a calm, unemotional halt and rein-back. No hauling, No learn- your-lesson back up.  My riding students are familiar with my favourite phrase –Slow his legs, slow his thinking.

 If you can stop your horse, you can slow him down. If you can full halt, you can half-halt. As a judge, I see countless riders on course or in speed events with faulty brakes-rushing down lines, rushing for home. It’s a safety hazard for horse and rider.

  1. Education

Quite simply, Stopping is a building block for collecting your horse. It’s a universal obedience test (closely followed, I might add, by the rein- back).

All equestrian work, whether it is in hand or in any discipline under saddle rests upon sound basics of stop and go. {Collected movements} represent the most sophisticated development of stop and go and the quality of the training of these basic responses is the foundation for a relaxed, problem-free horse  Dr Andrew McLean

The goal of training is a light, attentive horse by eliminating every resistance.

  1. Competition test. In most disciplines a stop will be on the exam. Styles may vary slightly but in every pattern or test the stop is your presentation’s final “ta-da”.

What is the judge looking for? (Continued next post)