January 5, 2015

Working on Halting

Gentry's halt needs work. His current understanding of the halt cue is the rider pulling his face off until he stops. Although this seems to be a commonly seen style of halting among certain circles, it is not the technique in which I choose to employ. I prefer my horse to halt more or less the moment when I think "halt", with no arm lifting, hand moving, or other loud and obnoxious face ripping off movements.

Gentry displaying and obvious lack of understanding how to halt properly

So, how do you get a horse to go from only halting whilst having his face ripped off to reading your mind? Well, first of all, in my opinion the horse doesn't really know how to halt if you have to rip his face off. First and foremost accept that fact. You horse does not know how to halt. He's only begrudgingly stopping because you've bent him backward like a pretzel.

Now that you realize your horse doesn't know how to halt...just like Gentry...you can start to teach him. That is the big thing we are working on at the moment.

The key to quietly halting from your seat are your hamstrings and gluts. At first this won't look pretty, because you have to make your horse pay attention to what your weight is doing in the saddle. That is something, which at this point, he probably doesn't pay too much attention to. Eventually you will work on subtlety, but first you have to get the point across.

Here is what I do:

  1. At the walk, prepare yourself to halt, by thinking through all these steps before you start. Once you are an old hand at this it will be second nature to you.
  2. Quickly, in one smooth motion do the following:
    1. Sit deeply in the saddle.
    2. Tighten your gluts and upper hamstrings.
    3. Then, keeping your hands low, pull back on the rein until the horse stops.
    4. IMPORTANT! The moment the horse stops, relax your seat and your hands. Give the horse a scratch, “good boy”, while remaining at the halt for a few seconds.Then walk on and repeat several times. I will usually only practice the halt a few times in a row and then break it up with serpentine or circle work and then come back to it. This keeps the horse from getting too frazzled about it. If you get a particularly great halt dismount and make a big praising deal about it. There is no greater reward to a young horse than the rider dismounting and calling and end to the session.

Keep practicing these steps until the horse quietly halts from what has become subtle cues. Once your horse starts halting well from the walk, move onto halting from other gates. Then start working on developing a square halt.

I like to think of training as baby steps. If you break it all down you get to the desired end result faster. Unless of course you like the face ripping off halt…then you are already there. Lucky you!

Want more halt work fun? The next step is to get that halt nice and square. Here is a previous post about working on the square halt specifically.

Happy trails and swooshing tails!


  1. hello my name is emma and my horse does not know how to halt.

    acceptance is the first step in recovery, right??? lol... in all seriousness tho - nice reminder to break it down into the most fundamental steps rather than resorting to getting 'loud'

  2. Interesting! I've not really worked on halting this way before, and Miles could definitely use some work in that area. I'll have to try this!



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