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Moiya Canters Away

Strength of Aids

I’m at a point in my riding where I know a lot of the basics. For example, I know what a half halt it, how to perform a half halt and the general circumstances in which I should apply a half halt. But what I’m still learning is how HARD to apply a half halt and how often I should half halt. These are more complicated questions because the answer is fluid: it depends. It depends on the horse, it depends on the day, and (most importantly) the answer can change throughout your ride.

Moiya Between the Ears Jan 2016
Outside in late January!

Ever since I gave Moiya a trace clip at the beginning of the month, she’s been hot. She’s been raring to go, spooky and generally over-enthusiastic about everything other than standing in the middle of the arena and napping. Flying lead changes are actually flying… with feet off the ground and she’s exploding off the ground over crossrails. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad that Moiya is feeling so good, but I could do with just a few less theatrics. So we’ve been working on relaxing on the flat and over ground poles, but things just weren’t really translating to our fence work.

Until the best friend ever finally stepped in.

Moiya Canters Away

Nichole has ridden Moiya extensively, and as we were hacking earlier this week, she finally said to me “Tracy, halt that horse.” So I did, but of course I did it softly because 1) Moiya doesn’t have great brakes and 2) she one mare I definitely don’t want to start a fight with. But I got: “No, really. Halt her. Shoulders behind your hips, and make her stop.” So I did, and the effect was immediate. Moiya slammed on the brakes, but then walked away quietly and picked up a nice, soft canter. I simply had no idea I could insist on a halt that strongly and not make Moiya mad. But now that I know that, it’s worked like a charm. I haven’t had to be quite as strong with my halts since then, but Moiya believes me now. She knows she has to listen, and remembers the rules.

Moiya Walking

So in our lesson last night, I was pleased to be able to jump a 2′ course and be able to work on me a little bit. A few times Moiya got excited, but we simply halted, and then trotted the next jump. And she quickly remembered who was in charge, and how to do her job properly. So I’m learning how strong I need to be sometimes, to get the response I want. Add that to the (very long ist) of skills Moiya has already taught me!


Fly On Over is an equestrian lifestyle blog devoted to connecting horse lovers around the world. By providing equestrians with practical tips and tricks related to horse ownership, discussing training techniques for horse and rider, as well as covering industry news.

18 thoughts to “Strength of Aids”

  1. My trainer and I were talking about that on Friday during my last lesson. The horse I ride needs to be halted a lot if she gets too hyped up. It’s pretty cool what those little aids will do.

  2. She’s so cute! So great you were able to have a breakthrough moment. I used to get told to just halt, stop, sit and count to 10 when I would get too frazzled because it would work Lucy up. Amazing what it will do!

  3. ha i love revelations like that – like, ‘oh huh if i just do this, suddenly the horse understands!’ glad it works so well for Moiya! a few trainers have been very explicit about my aids: they should *make a difference*, otherwise it’s just noise. for some reason, that wording made sense. actually – one trainer had me count my half halts out loud while riding, and it made me realize that sometimes i wasn’t actually doing what i thought i was doing…

  4. I needed to hear this! I’ve been doing the “casual ammy thing” with Pearl while we were toodling around rehabbing. Now that we’re *hopefully* back in Real Work aka lessons, I need to call the shots, not the mare.

  5. She’s such a great teacher! And I’m glad that it worked so well!
    I always like to ask nicely. But when they don’t listen, and you just keep asking nicely, what you’re really doing is nagging. Sometimes you have to just TELL them what you want. And be done with it. It’s easy to forget that! I sure do.
    One of my quarter horse friends said it the best one day when talking about training on horses.
    “You want to get in and get out. Don’t hang around nit picking.” Makes sense!

  6. I love her, she’s so cute!

    I had this discussion with a client recently. She rides a hot, somewhat emotional little horse that I’ve worked with for years. I’ll ask her to do something and she DOES it but not to the level that she needs to so she can get his attention. So he ignores her. I told her that on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the lightest aid you have and 10 being the hardest aid, her version of a 10 is his 5. So she’s half halting what she thinks is the hardest, most effective half halt, and he’s feeling what he perceives as a small tug on the reins that he can ignore. So then she thinks she’s doing it wrong and changes what she’s doing, which teaches him further that he can just ignore her. Once as she really cracked down on him a few times, he was so awesome for her! Definitely an interesting concept, especially for instructors because it’s easy to just bark out “half halt!” and not really dig into what exactly is happening and why.

    Glad you found out what works and she’s being better for you!

  7. Always good to have a horse who will teach you new skills! I struggle with this too sometimes, mostly because I don’t want to make Gina angry or make Moe upset and confused!

  8. My half halts with Izzy are sometimes so strong that he comes to a screeching halt at the and then canters off. My trainer calls it “cantering in place for two or three strides.” One thing she stresses for dressage is that your half halt can only be as strong as your leg. In dressage, half halts are done ALL. THE. TIME. :0)

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