Thinking about the Half Halt

005You can’t get away from them – they are ubiquitous.  They are important for every gait, for every movement in a dressage test, and seem to take up a lot of space in my posts.  Ms. C spends hours patiently trying to ingrain the correct technique into my cranium.  They are my nemesis and a literally a pain in my shoulders on some days.  Master the technique, and you will find success and move up the levels.  Those who aren’t coordinated enough to perform them effectively are doomed to muddle around the lower levels for eternity.  I fear that I am the latter and poor Ike is doomed by his mother’s lack of coordination to perform a correct half halt.

To complicate things, I opted to purchase a young, green horse, so I am wholly responsible for Ike’s education.  He’d only been under saddle for 30 days when he arrived in Virginia, so I don’t think he knew a half halt from a flying change when he arrived.  The responsibility is mine for teaching Ike what a half halt is.  I do know that I don’t half halt often enough.  Sometimes when I do, Ike “overhears” the request and we go from trot to walk or canter to unbalanced trot…or maybe I overdo the request.  Perhaps it is a little of both?  In any case, half halts can stymie me like no other concept.  Did I squeeze too much with my fingers and not enough with my legs?  When I engaged my core, did I accidentally tip forward and confuse Ike as to what I want?  The madness of it all!!  And don’t get me started on timing my half halts!  Half a stride too late is oh too common.

Now I must say that Sir Ike must bear some of the burden on his shoulders.  Some days he softens nicely when I close my fingers for a half halt.  Other days the request is met with 50 pounds of resistance to the request, “no, I do not wish to do that today.”  Arrghhh!  Just do it Ike and let’s get on with the program. “No, I wish to be argumentative today and even get pissy to your leg as well.”  Thus is how our ride went today.  I would ask Ike to soften, he would resist.  I would repeat the request, he would resist.  I would then demand compliance with a very loud half halt, he would soften for a millisecond and then brace.  Ah the joys of working with a young, smart horse.  He obviously know what I want, but is just electing to not participate.  Out of a 40 minute ride, I had a relaxed and connected horse for maybe 15 total minutes.

Ike’s current mental state of “not today Mom, I’m too busy ignoring you” reminds me of my brother in his younger days.  He was tested for four years straight in elementary school for participation in the gifted program.  The teachers were stymied.  How is it possible that a smart boy continues to not do well on this test when he obviously has the intelligence?  My mother finally dragged the truth out of him….”I don’t answer all the questions on the test.  If I have to go to gifted class, I still have to make up the work I missed in the other class.  I don’t want to do the extra work.”  Oh.  Is Ike the equine version of my brother?  The smart kid who resists to avoid having to do extra work?

I certainly hope Mr. Smarty Pants gets over himself soon, my body needs a week of easy rides to recover.

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