THE QUESTION OF THE MONTH IS BACK! (Send yours to us for an answer) The Newest:
My friend who is riding Third Level tells me she makes a half halt every stride in the canter. Should I be doing that with my horse?
BILL—Two questions arise before I answer. What does she mean by a half halt? And for what purpose is she making them? I don’t mean to be glib with my first question, but the term really does mean very different things to different people. I think you would find some French School adherents who think of every half halt as a titanic (and often painful) disruption to the horse usually including a grunt from one or both of the parties involved. [Ed. note: It doesn’t!] Half halts (which never mean simply a hand action) may be made along a spectrum of strengths. The watchword “As little as possible, as much as is necessary” applies. At its most sublime the horse is so attuned to the rider’s body language that he exactly follows his rider’s rhythms. Those orchestrated rhythms could be thought of as half halts, and if so, it’s fine to be making them all the time.
Most likely the person whose words spawned this topic was referring to something more obvious. Then we have to ask what was she feeling and what was she trying to accomplish? Half halts generally have two functions—to regain either the horse’s attention or his balance. If either of those elements is lacking, then half halts are prescribed. The only thing I would quibble with is that the goal of making half halts is to get reactions which make it unnecessary to keep making them.
If you make a successful half halt, there should be some carryover. In the beginning it may not last long—a stride or two—and then you have to make another one. But if you are continually making one over and over, chances are they are unsuccessful ones—they are not going “through.” This leads to a variety of sub questions: Is your horse in front of the leg? Does he have to become more supple first? Is there a problem with your timing?
If your horse expects you to rebalance him every stride, you may be inadvertently inviting him to develop a dependency. If you don’t yet have the feel to determine when he needs one, try a preplanned, rote solution: Make one two strides out of three, then every other stride, then two out of five, two out of seven… whatever. The point is to see what happens during those strides when you are not micromanaging. Are you teaching him to carry on, i.e.: carry himself? How will you know if you don’t give him a chance to show you? Remember, if he truly is in self-carriage, by definition you should not need to make a half halt every stride. Your mutual reward to one another is that you proceed in harmony with no need to interfere.
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BILL’s On-Line Store — STORECRAZY — is here to provide you with items that Dover and John Nunn can’t offer. Here’s a quick sample.
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Sometimes it’s hard to tell, but this is real. If you’re in the Ocala area, here is equestrian-friendly yoga right in the heart of horse country.
[A Note from Bill]
Let me introduce our Associate Editor, Hayden Finch. “Sidd” worked with us back in the ’80s when Susan and I edited A Tip of the Hat, the New England Dressage Association’s newsletter. Prior to beginning his career in journalism, Sidd scratched his competitive itch with a brief foray into professional baseball. In his first stint with us, Sidd penned this alternative biographical sketch of me for the Dallas Dressage Club newsletter publicizing a clinic I did for that group:
Bill’s bio courtesy of Sidd Finch
Bill Woods (not his real name) comes to the Dallas area several times a year. He and his wife, Onyx, are members of the Federal Dressage Witness Protection Program; thus, their true place of residence is unknown. Both train and compete most of the year in central Florida, often in disguise. Bill has been teaching in Texas since the mid ‘80s, having been brought here by Lisa Brown.They had met in New Hampshire some years before, drawn together by a mutual love of hybrid roses which they tended on summer afternoons at the institution.
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Remember Reiner Klimke and Ahlerich in the victory lap after their gold medal win at the ’84 LA Olympics? All those 76 one tempis in a row? Well, for old time’s sake, click here for the instant replay!
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Quote of the Month
“We are all time travelers — just the really dull kind — ones plodding through the 4th dimension one pathetic second at a time.” (Robert Smith on NPR’s Talk of the Nation)
Quote of All Time
“The bad news is you’re falling through the air, nothing to hang onto, no parachute. The good news is there’s no ground.” Chögyam Trungpa
Click to view an important cultural icon: “Bambi Meets Godzilla”
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FEAST YOUR EYES ON THIS — A FANCIFUL VIDEO MONTAGE TO LEONARD COHEN’S “DANCE ME TO THE END OF LOVE.” The tango sequence is from the 1992 film Scent of a Woman.
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Below: To imprint in your mind. Harmony in the person of Col. Kurt Albrecht von Ziegner. His mount unknown.
Carl Sagan speaks of The Pale Blue Dot. Please click below and watch this!
It’s another Monday!
If this August’s total eclipse of the sun worked for you (or if you were indoors at the movies), there’s a second showing. The date will be April 8, 2024. Visible in the US on a swath from Texas through parts of the Midwest to Buffalo. I am not going to miss it!
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