There are a few things judges look for when they’re watching a rider come into the arena and halt before continuing on with their test. The first thing they want to see is a nice confident horse that doesn’t look overtrained. They look for straightness in a horse’s gait, and from where they’re judging, they want to see two legs standing, and two legs tracking. That tells them the horse is straight and square and in a balanced position.
Another thing judges look for in the halt is whether you’re in line with X.
To begin, I set up four cones in the arena. These cones are set to be about a horse-length distance apart. They’ll help me learn how to hit X because if I’m going to stop directly where my marker is, I have to stop my horse in the center of these cones.
Now that I have my cones set up, I’m going to come down the center of the arena. It’s important to note that in the first introductory test, you don’t have to halt your horse at the beginning of the test. In the second test, you come into the arena at a working walk before halting. We are going to practice the third test, where you enter at a working jog, halt through the working walk, salute, and then develop the working jog through the working walk.
During the working jog, I’m keeping my eyes up, so I know where I am in the arena. I’m focused on keeping my horse tracking straight, keeping her in the bridle, and having a nice, cadenced trot throughout the maneuver.
I’m approaching my cones, which means I need to start thinking about transitioning down to my working walk. This is where my cones come into play. I don’t want to have too long of a working walk, only three or four steps. These cones help me judge where I am in the arena and how many strides I have until I’m even at X, so that I slow my horse down to the walk at the correct time.
I ask for the walk as I approach my stop, focusing on having a nice fluid transition. I don’t want her to hesitate or stop before going into the walk. During this time, she continues to stay in the bridle and tracking straight so the judge only sees two sets of legs.
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I’ve finally reached X, so now I halt and then go into a salute. My horse should be standing straight and square underneath herself. She should continue to stay in frame and not get distracted by everything that’s going on around her. At this time, I can look over to see if I’ve nailed X. If I overshot or undershot it, I’ll keep that in mind to help me with my halt the next time I go through center.
Now that I’ve completed my salute, I’m going to develop a working jog through the walk, go straight, and then track left or right to go back to the beginning and practice my halt again. If I notice my horse wanting to lean one way or the other, I’m going to turn the opposite way, so that she doesn’t begin to lean even more.
Once I can accurately stop my horse at X with the help of my four cones, I can increase the difficulty by removing the cones and testing my accuracy without them.