Core muscles, meet the half-halt

We had another nice ride last night, and another incremental improvement. In my lesson, I worked on getting Derby’s hind legs more active and pushing, rather than pulling himself along on the forehand. To do this, Christy introduced my core to my half-halt, and pretty quickly I was able to get the feel of rebalancing the horse.  It was one of those lightbulb moments in which you consciously do something, and feel the results.  Cause and effect – it’s powerful stuff.

Compare to yesterdsy's effort

Last night



Here’s a still from last night’s ride (pink t-shirt).  There’s a big difference in hind end engagement when compared to my ride the night before (blue saddle pad.)

The differences are subtle but clear visually – Derby is more up, off his forehand in the picture from last night, and he’s pushing more with his hind legs – you can see he’s stepping more forwardly with his hind legs, rather than trailing them behind (as he does when he’s on the forehand.)

The difference in feeling between the trots is more stark.  The connected trot last night feels so powerful.  The less-connected trot from last night just feels fast.

Christy had me work on channeling our forward energy and controlling it with my seat, core and half-halts.  One thing I have to work on is using the half halt correctly – to rebalance – rather than slow down.  I generally allow Derby to lose energy in the half halt.  And I remember what Robert Dover said about half-halts – they’re additive, you gather and coil the energy in the half halt.  Now, to put that into practice and make it a habit.

Screen Shot 2013-05-08 at 11.25.50 PMWith Christy coaching me about every other step of the way, I worked on half-halting with my core and then immediately putting my leg on to say “Go!” while increasing my post to get a bigger (not faster) stride.  And we were able to start to generate more of a trot – one that someday could be suspended and fancy.  We have a long way to go, though, in terms of fitness and muscling of both horse and rider.  Still, it will be fun to put a dressage neck on Derbs – he’s pretty burly as TBs go already and tends to carry heavy muscle. He’s a big handsome critter already but with good dressage muscling, my plain bay will be a standout!

About Sarah Skerik
Sarah Skerik is an experienced digital business executive and strategist with a long track record of success in team leadership, employee development, marketing and business development.

6 Responses to Core muscles, meet the half-halt

  1. Net says:

    Bless you for posting a couple of pictures in which your horse is more engaged when his neck is not as round. It’s not about head position, people!!!!! 🙂 I’m so glad to see someone demonstrating that with photos!
    To me the difference is most stark if you compare height of his withers to his haunches, or shape of his back behind the saddle. He’s just taking longer strides in the most recent photos, too. Good job!

    If you ever get out this way, you’ve got to make time for me to arrange a lesson for you. 😀

  2. Sarah Skerik says:

    Good point about the back, Annette, I missed that entirely, but it sure tells the story. I should have also added that there was a big difference in the contact. The night before contact was steady but not following. Last night he was really stretching out to the end of the reins. Good stuff!

    And believe me, when I do visit the relatives in Phoenix, I will be tacking on a visit to Tuscon. When I start planning the trip I will be in touch. Though I don’t know a lesson. I might spend all of my time making goo-goo eyes at Tuscon and feeding him cookies.

    • Net says:

      Well, he would definitely love you if you fed him cookies…. 😀

      You’d be welcome to stay with us down in Tucson as needed, too. And you could ride Bella so you could have a relaxing ride with no fear of aerial maneuvers. 🙂

  3. Nice post! The not hollow back behind the saddle tells the story.

    Having Christy as a trainer is super – that she takes pictures for you is such a bo-nus!

    I still feel so random with the use of my core when attempting to half halt. I’m (theoretically) getting a lesson this weekend, the first one in almost two years. The trainer studies with Mary Wanless, so I’m hoping she’ll get my position sorted out. 😀

  4. Sarah Skerik says:

    Christy is very adept at teaching while holding my flip cam. It’s so helpful to see what we’re doing – and re-watching my lesson when I get home helps it all sink in. I’ve been working on core strength out of the saddle – fact is, I should have my core engaged a lot more than I do, especially when riding.

    Enjoy your lesson! I think Mary Wanless has some really interesting things to say, and my own meager experience has made me a believer in the importance of biomechanics. Looking forward to hearing about it!

  5. Your horse is lovely. I rode thoroughbreds as a Junior rider….then the influx of the Warmbloods. I do have a Warmblood and recently got an OTTB. What a joy! Love them both. As a Junior, riding the straightforward thoroughbred was so much fun. Happy to see them returning to the show ring. Again, your horse looks super….love the trot pictures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: