Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Thursday, February 24, 2011

In the arena # 55 - It's all about the half halt

The half halt is one of the foremost balancing tools. It is one of the main keys to forging harmony between horse and rider. This is so because it is only when the horse finds independent balance - through correct use of the half halt - that he begins to carry and complete (or "fill") the seat and leg so that the rider can find a comfortable place to sit (half the seat is made up by the horse!). The half halt is also the single most important avenue to liberating the horse's powers. Through the freedom, founded on independent balance (self carriage), true suppleness can be developed, which in turn enables the horse's energy to travel unimpeded through his whole body and enables the gaits to blossom beautifully. Erik Herbermann Dressage Formula


Slowly but surely there are more days you can ride, than days you can't. Thank goodness. I'm working up a raging case of spring fever... things are greening up, my winter garden is finally producing and sleeves felt unnecessary for part of today. I even contemplated flip flops, then came to my senses ;)

Monday was super windy - blowing steady in the 30's by the time I got to the barn. For a little while I reconsidered riding. Really hated to have wasted the time and fuel to get there - so I decided to give it a go. The wind blows six out of seven days around here, so I need to learn to just deal with it. Fear is such an interesting emotion. My desire not to be wasteful eventually over-rode self preservation :)

We worked on the half halt. Specifically coordinating the half halt with posting, and keeping a quiet leg. I found it very challenging, and don't need video to know that I need a lot of practice. Even so we had some nice moments. Every ride Val is moving off of my leg a little more, and more responsively. My use of the whip is reserved for when we lug in the corners. I find I need to give that aid well in advance of the actual turn for it to be effective and avoid stalling out.

At one point, the tarp canopy over the front of Val's run-in flapped violently as we passed by and lifted up like a parachute. Val spooked - one of those crouching then sideways kind of spooks - which left some air between my butt and the saddle. I guess I was relaxed because it was no big deal. We both survived. :)

Tuesday was a day off, although I did get the chance to drag both of the arenas. A happy conjunction of the perfect amount of moisture in the sand + equipment functioning. As I was cleaning up the arena before I dragged it, Val suddenly charged from the far end, full speed galloping, veered towards me, and screeched lightly to a halt right at my feet. I don't know why, but I didn't flinch. It was an impressive maneuver lol.

We rode again yesterday, and this time our focus was on forward. I really wanted to try to get a big walk. I have noticed how nice of a walk we have achieved when Val was slow to respond to my request for the trot, so I drove until we just about trotted, (sometimes trotted), half halted, and praised, praised, praised the bigger walk. I aimed to be very clear about what I was asking for.

Next we tried for forward at the trot. I drove, drove, drove! Again, there were nice moments. It felt to me like I had Val reaching in the beginning of the transition, but only for several strides before we lost it. I'm guessing that I'm not sustaining the driving aid? We finished off with some beautiful 10m circles, which got the best reaching of the session, and a number of lovely rein backs. Perhaps my contact was better with the circles? Finished up with work on the buckle. Can't wait until I see my trainer again - miss you Erin!

Val got off property walks to indulge in grazing both days after our rides. He's becoming more comfortable every time. The death dealing trash can gauntlet is officially no big deal. We did some trot work on the pavement, to continue toughening up Val's feet. It must be working, as our farrier commented on how good his soles are looking today. And how well he behaved he is. He also mentioned how nicely Val is moving as I trotted him out after the trim. Floaty he said. Now if we could only do that under saddle ;)


Finally got time to work in the garden this afternoon, thinning the rows. This is the raised bed and deck I built with my dad. The soil is a combo of composted horse manure and composted eel grass (sea weed). I used some recycled widows to make a simple cold frame, which was enough to defy the ridiculous temperatures we've had this winter. Romaine, spinach, chard, mesclun, buttercrunch, arugula, bok choy, flat leaf parsley, and cilantro. Shared some of the thinnings and planning to eat the rest. Yum :)  

last summer


  1. Sounds like you guys are doing great. I love the idea of almost asking for a trot in order to get a big walk. I'm going to try that too!

  2. Wow - your garden beds are so tidy and organized!

  3. Wow you and Val are doing some great work. I'm sure all the desensitizing work you're doing on the road will be a great help when you do the trails in the warmer weather.

    Great looking garden boxes too. I don't think we could start one here this early, everything would just freeze.

    How's Sweat Pea doing?

  4. When I read interviews with Grand Prix dressage riders talking about how they "almost" have their half halts where they need them it makes me wonder what they would think watching my horses and I demonstrate our version of a half halt!!

  5. Jealous of your beautiful horse and NOW your weather and green sprouts! UGH.

  6. Half halt done properly is one of riding's most magical tools.

  7. So nice to see green and growing plants!!!!! Half halts - I love your exercise with this and I am going to ask my instructor how to do it properly. Thank you!

  8. Sounds like lovely work. So nice that you are getting cooperating weather. And green! How very nice! We only go from white(snow) to brown(mud).

  9. Flip flops?! Garden?! You really are in springtime. Send some my way :)

    I enjoyed reading about your riding. It's so different from the riding I do (western) and yet there's something to definitely be learned!

  10. Carol-

    Happened on that idea by accident :)


    It's all about when you take the picture ;)


    I've had the boxes covered with old windows making a quasi cold frame, otherwise there'd be nothing alive in them.

    Sweetpea is doing well, slowly improving. I'm cautiously optimistic. The test will be getting her off pain meds in a couple more weeks. Will keep you posted - thanks so much for asking :)


    I'm planning on spending the rest of my life "perfecting" my half halt - it will surely take that long :)

    Rachel and Amy-

    I feel bad posting about our improving weather when some folks still have it so tough :)


    I'd love to hear your take on the half halt sometime - will email you :)


    It makes me happy if you get inspiration from my struggles ;)


    It seems like the important concepts in riding transcend discipline.

    Val and I were weaving through cones the other day and I was thinking we could be in an "extra slow" pole bending race ;)

  11. I like the sharing of energy of the half-halt.

    What a good report from your farrier about Val's feet. And the trot...there can be no better word than "floaty" in my book...that words sounds like the horse is enjoying it completely.

    Cilantro and company sound yummy. I did a nice cold frame one year...until the typical forgetting to lift the lid on a warm day...oh, my. Your rows look divine.

    And good luck on the out of the ring ride. Ignore the trash cans - laugh and sing to Val and you two will have a good time. I hope your weather is warming up. It must be because we saw 40 today so you must have had 50 or 60!

  12. On Friday it was really windy but it was like in the 70's. I really wanted to go out and ride.
    Sounds like you had so good rides. And I've been working on the half halt a lot more!


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