It’s out of character for me, I know, to go right to the exercise without a long-winded exploration of what the phrase “half halt” means and if, in fact, a half halt is half a halt and if such a thing, regardless of what it is called, exists at all, along with the multitudinous ways of performing it, and why you would or wouldn’t perform it one way or another at any given time.

That gives you at least one thing to be thankful for today.

Plainly, I think of a half halt as a rebalancing.

Two Germans rebalancing c. 1547

My “cue” for rebalancing is stilling the seat.

Interestingly, some horses get it right away, as if instinctively.  That goes for greenies and for horses with years of experience under their girths who have never been asked to half halt.

If you have one of those horses, you’re in luck.  Simply still yourself in the saddle for a fraction of a second, watch your horse rebalance, and enjoy the easiest thing you’ll ever train a horse to do.

If nothing happens, you don’t have one of those horses who gets it right away. No big deal.  I’m sure your horse has plenty of other outstanding qualities matched by no other horse who has ever lived.

To train your horse to half halt:  Have a special someone with educated hands (your trainer or someone else with feel who knows how to instantaneously release) on standby.  Warm up at the walk for long enough that your horse is relaxed and focused, riding on contact.  Ask your special someone to walk alongside you, parallel to your horse’s neck, holding the inside rein but doing nothing.  Make sure your horse is not responding to that nothing (if he is, get his calm and focus back, check yourself to make sure you didn’t tense, or trade your special someone in for another).

You’ll need to coordinate with your special someone in preparation for the half halt.  Ask him/her to say “half halt” and when he/she does, immediately still your seat for a fraction of a second.  Your special someone, at the same time, will perform his/her own half halt, stilling his/her body, alongside you. He/she should still his/her body for as long as it takes for your horse to make the slightest indication that he understands what you’re after.

If your horse “got it” and rebalanced himself, thank your special someone and try it on your own.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.

If your horse still isn’t making the connection, repeat the same process but have your special someone add a very subtle restraining rein aid at the same time as you still your seat.  The rein aid should last as long as it takes for the horse to show the slightest sign of rebalancing.  Do not hold the stillness in your seat.  Let your special someone do the work.

Then try again, with just your seat and without the help of your special someone.  If your horse still doesn’t get it, ask your special someone to repeat the restraining rein aid in conjunction with the stilling of your seat. Keep repeating the lesson and re-testing to see if your horse gets it.  Stay relaxed and focused and make sure your horse stays relaxed and focused.

If you do, and you follow this simple procedure, it usually doesn’t take more than five minutes for the horse to understand the half halt.  And for another of life’s mysteries to disappear.

The Conjurer, Heironymus Bosch, c. 1475-1505