How to Perform the Half-Halt

So you think learning equitation is all about serious schooling? Let me tell you about one of my teachers, and an experience I had down near the shores of Lake Pontchartrain.

Three young horses trotting across a green field.

We were in the habit of making trips to Diana and Arthur Christiansen’s Shalimar Farm near Abita, Louisiana, where we learned French classical equitation on Grand-Prix level horses. Diana had spent numerous years studying under Nuno Oliveira in Portugal. There she had learned his version of the half-halt, which was to simply attempt to make one’s shoulder blades touch together. As it turns out, this causes a chain of position changes in the riders body, which, on a trained horse, bring about rebalancing and collection. On one of those visits to Diana, I was taking my turn in our lessons on a horse that was to teach me how to ask for, and sit, the passage. In a medium trot down the long side I thought I heard, through her British brogue, “shove your legs together,” which I did. The horse responded by speeding up. She gave the command again, somewhat more emphatically. I was whizzing around at race track speed when she stopped me.

“What on earth are you doing?” she asked.

I said, “shoving my legs together.”

Amid trills of laughter peeling out and echoing off the rafters she choked out

“no, I said shoulder blades together!“

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