First (and Last) Impressions

(“Take a cue from your Mighty Hunter friends.”)

Major Lindgren used to tell us that we should treat centerlines like our calling card – the very first impression we make and the last thing the judge sees before she writes the Collective Marks at the bottom of our test sheet. We would be foolish not to make the most of them!

The most obvious item is the halt beginning with attentiveness and immobility. A distracted, restless halt is a killer. Acceptance is a must. A high-headed, hollow frame or a deeply curled neck are bad news. Then comes straightness. We all know about square halts, but if you make your halt straight enough, from the judge’s chair at C it’s impossible to tell if the fore legs or hind legs are exactly aligned. Squareness is the icing on the cake. Without it there are no 8s or 9s. Remember: Halt, then salute, then move off. Don’t hurry things. Your horse should be motionless during the salute.

Pay attention to the transitions in and out of the halt. They should be both smooth and prompt. At Intro and Training level they may be “through the walk” but that means a couple of steps, not prolonged and aimless wandering. In the best world above Training level the halt should be direct without walking steps into or out of it. At First level you may still score a 7 with a walk step but certainly not a 9.

Getting on and off the centerline is worthy of your attention also. It’s tempting to look at the judge at C and aim there. But take a cue from your Mighty Hunter friends. You will only hit the target if both sights line up. Find D first, and then align it with the far end of the arena. If you are turning onto the centerline from within the arena, it’s better to undershoot the line rather than go beyond it and make a jug handle curve back.

A well ridden centerline and halt are picture frame bracketing what 9we hope) will be the artful designs of your test.