Every dressage test requires a halt. Sometimes at the beginning, sometimes in the middle somewhere and always at the end of each test.
This is where Arnie has to stop but keep a leg in each corner, parallel to the one next to it or opposite it. It’s something even experienced dressage riders struggle with and I have been working on this for some time now as I also find it very hard.
I have to give credit to my square halts to Emile Faurie a British Olympic dressage rider and a set of instructional videos I found on Youtube. Sorry if the title misled you, I doubt I would be able to afford a lesson with the great man himself, but I’m hoping that maybe one day my daydreams will become true and he gets in a fight with Carl Hester to decide who will train me 🙂
The first thing he taught me was about balance. Too often I would ask Arnie to halt suddenly and sometimes he wasn’t even in a balanced straight line so I was asking him to do something almost impossible. I was also trying to get these immediate stops which didn’t give Arnie to prepare for anything, rather than slowing into the halt gently by throwing in a couple of steps of walk at the end. It’s not always clear in dressage the halt, immobility instruction and I always thought this meant an immediate stop where his hooves screeched to a halt looking like a spider with his legs splayed out everywhere.
So I started to follow Emile’s instructions. Now I practice my halts in every single training session I do. In warm up, I practice them in walk. I make sure I am sitting nice and balanced, Arnie is in a soft outline and we are both straight and then I ask for the halt. It doesn’t always happen first time and I don’t try and correct him with little moves, we simply walk on and try again a few more paces on and I ask for the halt again. It’s more difficult to get Arnie into a square halt from a stand still if he hasn’t naturally come into it so I don’t bother. I also NEVER tell him off for not getting it right, we simply go on and try again. And this move is really about practice makes perfect.
In trot we do the same checks. Am I balanced? Is Arnie? Is his contact there? Soft outline? Then I ask for the halt. Rather than making this a backward move, I actually transition to walk for a step or two and then we halt and I personally find getting the move right is easier in trot or canter than walk. This may well mean our walk is not as balanced as some of our faster movements so this is an area my trainer will look at.
The secret to getting the square halt is lots of practice and lots of praise for Arnie when he gets it right. As you can see in this video we get a square halt from a canter as you can see I start to ask for the halt as we come around the corner and are straight, then you can see a couple of trot steps and a step of walk before we get the halt. This means we are in a forward motion and not a backward one. So now I can pretty much get a nice square halt every time, except of course when we are at competitions!
Thank you Emile Faurie. I encourage everyone to get onto youtube and watch his videos which are published by Horse and Rider Magazine. It’s the cheapest way of getting a lesson by a dressage superstar!