How To Ride A Square Halt
Whatever you do, you cannot seem to get your horse to halt square. Here is our KA Coaching How to Guide…
What is a square halt?
A square halt is when a horse steps up into a halt where his four hooves form a perfect square (or in reality, rectangle) with a hoof at each corner.
Why is a square halt important?
In all the training you do with your horses, and at every pace, you should be aiming to improve and develop straightness - it’s how we keep our horses strong and even, and it helps prevent injuries caused by loading onto a particular side. Halt is no different from walk, trot or canter in that respect and to teach your horse to stand with equal weight on all 4 legs is vital to their training and physical development.
In every dressage test, you’ll ride at least one halt and in some, up to three. It is well worth perfecting a square halt in order to score some easy marks.
How to ride a square halt
Ensure you are straight. A square halt can only be achieved if the hind legs are following behind the front legs, if you ride up the centre line crooked, you’re guaranteed that your halt will also be crooked. Be super-aware of your own straightness - how you sit will affect how your horse holds himself. In training, if you feel your horse’s quarters swing to the left, move the shoulders the same direction so that over time, you horse learns to halt square. Equally, if the shoulders go crooked, correct by moving the quarters in line.
Give your horse plenty of time to prepare for his halt by starting to collect him a few strides prior to where you want to end up. Slamming on the breaks without any preparation will make it much much harder to achieve a square halt and only result in your horse collapsing onto the forehand. Use half-halts to prepare your horse and to keep the horse’s weight behind.
Once you feel your horse is straight and slightly collected, close your fingers around the reins and sit deep into the saddle to ask for the halt.
If you’re not square, make an adjustment with a nudge from your leg on the corresponding side. It can take a few attempts for your horse to understand what that means but with gentle, clear and consistent training, they soon know what you mean. The trick is to correct every time it needs it and offer big praise when they’re straight and square. There’s no point getting frustrated or angry with your horse, they want to please you, you just need to be clear in your training.
Ask a friend to help - until you develop a ‘feel’ for a square halt, it can be really tricky to tell when you’re on top. Quite often, the horse will be square in front but trailing a hind leg and when you move to check, the horse can adjust his balance so you never really see what’s going on.
I hope that’s useful - let me know how you get on!