Lasting impressions – pull off a winning halt in your dressage test


In all dressage tests there is at least one halt on the centre line – and sometimes up to three. Often this comes at the end of the test, and will be the last thing the judge sees. Therefore it’s important to make it count, and give a good lasting impression. 

Alex Gingell, British Dressage list four judge and trainer says, “I like to see halts that are straight and square, with the hindlegs under the horse. Your horse should be relaxed, ready to move.”

Typical halt errors

  • Not halting square

  • Halting crooked

  • Moving in halt

  • Resting a hind leg

  • Horse inattentive

  • Horse resting

  • Being above the bit

  • Losing connection

Training for a winning halt

Practice halting both on the outer track as well as off the track on either rein, to train your horse to keep his quarters straight. 

Ask someone to watch and tell you if your halt is square behind each time, then try to remember the ‘feel’ when your horse is square. You should also be able to tell by glancing down at his shoulders.

It’s easier to get a square halt if your horse is engaged and well connected coming into it. Practice halting from walk, trot and canter; think about riding his hind legs into the halt and use your seat and upper body to ask for a halt rather than relying on your hands. 

There should be an elastic contact at halt, and your horse should be prepared to move backwards or forwards as you give the aid.

Put your halt to the test

Consider where the judge is sitting and what he can see when you halt. If the judge is at C and your halt is on the centre line they won’t be able to see if your horse is square – but will see if you’re not straight. 

If you’re halting sideways onto the judge, whether your halt is square will be very visible.

If you can feel that the halt is not square, either in front or behind in a test, allow your horse half a forward stride to square off and if possible straighten at the same time.

Finally, remember test riding is all about accuracy. If the movement says halt for four seconds, make sure it’s for the full four seconds, and practice counting so you don’t lose valuable marks.

Find out more about perfecting your halt and upping your dressage marks in the full article in issue 448, available here.

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