14 December 2016

The impossible half halt

    In the dressage (and English) riding world, there is this invisible, obnoxious thing called the 'half halt'.

   It's been described in many different ways: it is akin to pushing in the clutch to prepare your transmission to change gears. A way of preparing the horse for a change in gait. A means of telling your horse to collect himself, balance himself, calm down or  speed up.
I read the articles written by professional riders, riders who KNOW how to ride, and they toss the term off as if it was something EVERY one uses-except me. 

  I haven't a freaking clue how to do one.

  Oh, it's not through lack of research and personal training. I've read the books, the magazine articles, talked to the trainers, the pros, even people who claim they can see when a rider does a half halt. I've read articles by people who claim they half halt all the time, every single time they do something as simple as change rein. 

  Every one of the sources knows how to do a half halt...and their descriptions are all DIFFERENT.
  Every single one.

  "Squeeze with your calves to stop the hindquarters." "Set your hands without pulling on the reins."" Don't use your hands".  "Push with your seat bones and squeeze the reins three times". "Stop following him with your pelvis." "Stop him and then change your mind."
"Use your core to push the horse up into the bridle".

  Don't start me about 'core'. It's the term du jour. Everything, I'm told, can be solved if you only use your core. Really? I didn't even know I had one until I used a training aid, and now I know I have my "core" "engaged" ALL the time-without any result whatsoever. 

  I have tried. I swear to all the equine gods I have tried.  

 Any 'pushing' I do with it merely scooches me up closer to Raven's withers. He must wonder what in the bloody hell am I doing up there, wiggling and pushing and pulling and squeezing and changing my mind for no reason whatsoever. It shows, too, as he calmly continues on with whatever he was doing in the first place. 

  I've read the Master: Alois Podhajsky. Not once does the word 'half halt' cross his pages.
  "Riding Logic' s W. Museler mentions that a properly made horse is 'taken up by half halts' but that is as far as he goes. "Classical Equitation-Simplified's author takes two and a half pages of very detailed instructions on how to do a half halt and for god's sakes don't use the hands.  This author: moi: doesn't have the brain capacity to be able to do more than a few things at once. And those things are usually "breathe from your diaphragm". "Keep your ear shoulder elbow heel aligned'.  'Engage your core core core core core core'. Damn it that's six things all at once. Now I have to add more?

  I give up. From now on, I refuse to do a half halt, or attempt one. Because I am beginning to realize that, with a million different ways of doing one, it means there IS no such thing as a
half halt. 

  I take a bit of comfort, though, again from the Master, Podhajsky, who said in utter dejection: "I think I better give up riding altogether. I am never going to learn it!"

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