The secret to a successful square halt is to focus on your horse’s way of going first, so they’re responsive to your aids, light on their forehand, engaged and supple. Then the halt is easy.

To help you get it right, dressage trainer and rider Elizabeth Allen shares the exercises she uses to teach her horses to halt square.

Exercise 1: Going straight

First things first, you have to be able to ride your horse straight before you can expect them to halt square.

The exercise

To begin with, practise riding straight lines using the edge of the arena to help you.

  1. Maintain an even feel down both reins.
  2. Rest your legs gently against your horse’s sides, creating a tunnel to keep them straight.
  3. Look straight ahead, keeping their head and neck straight and ears level.

Now ride off the track and see if you can maintain their straightness.

  1. Turn up the three-quarter line or centre line and notice what your horse feels like. Does it feel as if you’re drifting back to the track? If so, correct them using your outside leg to keep them straight.
  2. Look up ahead at where you’re going, and keep your horse’s head and neck straight.
  3. Change the rein and see if it feels easier to keep straight on one rein or the other.

Exercise 2: Collect the paces

Riding transitions within the pace keeps their hindlegs active, which will improve how they halt.

The exercise

  1. In working trot, collect the trot for three or four strides and then ride forwards again.
  2. Repeat this around your arena at every other marker.
  3. Your horse should remain responsive and light on your aids as you collect them and ride forwards.

The next level

Combine this exercise and the previous one by riding collected paces on the three-quarter or centre line, to see if you can maintain straightness as you collect the pace.

Exercise 3: Check your own position

It’s important that you’re balanced when you ask for a halt. If your legs are too far forwards or back it could confuse your horse and may cause them to fidget.

The exercise

As you’re riding around the arena, ask yourself the following:

  1. Am I sitting equally on both seat bones?
  2. Am I looking up and ahead to where I’m going?
  3. Do I have equal weight in both stirrups?
  4. Are my shoulders level?
  5. Is my contact even down both reins?

Exercise 4: Coming to a halt

If the previous exercises have worked, you should now be able to achieve a square halt.

The exercise

  1. In trot, turn onto the centre line and pick a point where you want to halt.
  2. Look up and ahead, with your shoulders back and sit deeper into the saddle.
  3. Ride the hind legs into the halt and ask for the transition from your seat rather than your hand.
  4. To encourage softness and relaxation through their neck, play down the reins a little.
  5. As you ask for halt, move your leg back a fraction to channel your horse into the halt and control the position of their body.
  6. If the halt is square, it should feel as if your horse’s weight is evenly distributed and as though their hind legs are underneath your seat.

Meet the expert: Elizabeth Allen is a BHSI and UKCC3 coach. She rides at grand prix level and is part of Collective Equestrian.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now.

Find out what’s inside the latest issue of Your Horse

Get the latest issue

Check out our Christmas subscription offer – the perfect gift for a horse lover!