HEY RAY! I’ve ridden over 20 years under several trainers, and they all have used a term that I am embarrassed to admit that I don’t know—a “half-halt”. What is this, and how do we apply it? —Anonymous rider, San Diego, Calif
DEAR A.R.: Your situation is a lot more common than you think. You would be surprised how many riders have conﬁded in me that exact same question over the years. This is a topic that I actually like to explain and talk about. Once you have the right visual, it’s a very helpful and eﬀective tool in helping with balance and self carriage.
When we think of the word halt, the picture we usually see is immobility or “freeze.” The purpose of halting is to bring all movement to a complete stop. A half-halt is exactly the opposite of a halt, but it is not a half-hearted halt or kind of halt. The halfhalt has a very speciﬁc purpose—to possibly stop, if necessary as an adjustment, with the intention of continuing to move forward.
HEY RAY!: I know you are very familiar with the Andalusian. I have an awesome Azteca gelding I am considering selling with incredible movement—great for dressage. When he moves, he has a “paddling” motion with his front feet. I believe the correct term is “Termino”. This is part of the Paso Fino movement, but is it acceptable in the Andalusian breed?
Columnist Ray Ariss has tips.
HEY RAY! I’m an avid dressage rider who has owned many horses, but my Dutch Warmblood is by far the horse of my dreams. He has everything — looks, size, movement and disposition. My only wish is that he would listen to me better.He is totally dull to my aids, and it seems like the more I squeeze the less he goes. Where do I go from here?
—Debra of Arizona
HEY RAY!: I am a professional, training a 10-year-old Arabian gelding that has, with dressage training, turned into quite an impressive athlete. But, I can work him under saddle IF it is a warm day and IF there is absolutely NOTHING in or around the arena that is moving — and even then, we might be working beautifully when out of nowhere he “sees” something (a leaf moving), drops his shoulder, turns and bolts. It finally occurred to me that he’s making the choice to act this way because he “can,” and something in my training has allowed it. As his trainer, the buck has to start and stop with me – HELP!
HEY RAY: I sent my 5 year old Thoroughbred gelding to a local trainer for 30 days to put some leg aids on him. Before he left, he didn’t know his leads but I could canter him in both directions with no problems. When I got him back I saw the trainer do leg yields and canter him on the correct leads but he seemed a little on the muscle and worried. I’ve had him at home for a month now and even though he doesn’t fight, he seems to lose his mind anytime I think of using my legs for anything. What happened? Can you help me?
Lisa Martinez, Scottsdale, Ariz.
HEY RAY: I own a big 3-year-old Friesian colt that will not trot next to me when asked. He either drags behind me at the walk or when pushed will erupt into a dead-run—kicking, rearing and playing while dragging me. I’d like to show him in halter, but I’m afraid he’ll get away and hurt himself or someone.
—Jacquelyn Anderson, Fresno
HEY RAY: I have a beautiful 20-year-old Lusitano stallion that has always done everything I’ve asked of him. Lately though, when I go to pick his feet he seems to be bothered when I reach for his feet. It almost seems like he doesn’t want me to touch them, especially the back ones. Initially, I thought he was being helpful because he would pick up his feet before I asked, but when I went to hold them he would move around or snatch his foot out of my hand. Now he has gotten so bad that I am afraid I might get kicked.
–Kristin Johnson, Corona
HEY RAY: Whenever my horse would get heavy in my hands, what worked well was backing him up until he was “light.” This would keep him in self carriage and off my hands when moving forward again. Lately though, not only is he heavy going forward, but when I attempt to back him up, he’s remains heavy. Now I’m stuck with a horse that doesn’t mind hanging all the time. Riding him has become no fun — just a real workout. Help!
– Patricia Wiggens, Las Vegas, Nev.
HEY RAY: I have a horse that is fairly responsive and soft to my hands until he gets distracted or scared, and then I have nothing but a hard-braced neck, head up, lousy brakes and poor steering. I practice suppling every time I ride but it doesn’t seem to help when he gets distracted. He also seems to look for things to spook at when we are at shows and stares at it as we go by. How can I keep him focused on our work in a snaffle when he feels like a ton of bricks in my hands?
HEY RAY: I have a lesson horse that is my best money-maker at the ranch because she is easy to ride and everyone’s first pick. I can always trust she will take care of the rider and show them a good time. Here’s the problem: When another horse gets near her, she expresses all the signs of aggression. That’s why we do the lessons away from horses. I’m afraid to start something I won’t be able to handle, causing the good side of my horse to change. Should I worry?
–Christina Walker, Pine Valley