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Bel Joeor Sale and Giveaway!

Amanda from Bel Joeor is hosting a big sale on her Etsy site and a giveaway on her blog!  She makes beautiful saddle covers and bags.  I highly recommend checking out her shop and entering her contest.  

Half Halts are Life

Ellie and I squeaked out a weekly dressage lesson every week this summer, including two weeks where we are able to get a jumping lesson in as well.  This was one of my biggest goals this year, to spend time and money on our education.  I feel fairly confident that I can bring along a horse myself, having successfully started three Standardbreds under saddle on my own, but I also fully admit and embrace that I am an adult amateur and have my own weaknesses that can negatively influence my horse.

Knowing that this mare is potentially more talented than any other horse I have owned, I definitely wanted help.  I wanted to have eyes on the ground.  I wanted to have someone who would push us but also make it fun.  To this end, I am super happy with my choice to lesson with Beth, as she has been EXACTLY what I need as a rider.  We have had really awesome lessons, and I always leave feeling as though I have learned something, possibly added a tool to my toolbox, and she always give us homework and exercises.  Not all the rides are "perfect" which is nice, because I ride alone at home all the time and it is good to ride through issues we have at home at lessons with Beth.  We spent one entire lesson in the spring at the walk because that is where Ellie was at.  We have practiced our dressage tests in a real ring.  We have made huge breakthroughs in rhythm, connection, and the canter transitions.

But the biggest thing we are currently struggling with is HALF HALTS.  Oh lord.  This mare has some serious feelings about how life should work, and she isn't totally into taking my input.  She is a sassy pants with an engine, and it only takes a teeny amount of tension to make her super tight through her neck and back.  Sometimes this tension is justified (a group of turkeys popped out of the woods near the ring) and sometimes she just has a hair across her bum and is REVVED up because she can be.  She is a redhead after all haha.

Our last few lessons have focused quite a bit on our half halts.  Or more accurately, our lack thereof.  I often allow Ellie to cheat and not fully listen to my half halt cues.  It is not going to get us anywhere is life if I am constantly "holding her back" through the reins obviously because all we are going to do is either get into a pulling match or create a situation where she is leaning on me to support her.  Not good.  This is not how dressage works haha.  Sometimes we have to do ten gazillion half halts on a trot circle as a way to tell her to wait for me and keep the tempo.  Sometimes I have to do a HUGE sit-her-on-her-butt half halt in order to get her to listen.  Sometimes I still have to do an actual walk transition as a half halt.  
Sure is pretty at 6:15 am
Right now, she is fine at the walk.  She is much better at trotting and cantering to the right, as she is willing to come into the left (outside) rein.  She is much stiffer through her right side, therefore going to the left and stepping into the right rein is a struggle.  We are working through it, but between our half halts not yet confirmed at all times and her resistance to going into the right (outside) rein, I feel really stuck in our training.  

We had a few dressage rides last week where she tried to suck me into fighting with her and allowing her to hang on me instead of maintaining the tempo I set for the gait.  It was exhausting but I am proud that I did not give in and just kept asking, asking, asking until she finally sighed and did what I asked.  LOL!  I jumped her and we hacked out one day as well, as I need to break up the dressage work for her.  Then we had THE BEST RIDE EVER on Saturday in preparation for our show on Sunday.  It was awesome because it finally felt like all of the half halt work was actually STICKING and we were on the same page.  I asked for a half halt, and she listening and actually slowed her tempo and BALANCED HERSELF.  We had slight head tossing in the canter the first time I asked, but I just threw the reins at her so she had to balance herself (and it gave her nothing to lean on or fuss about).  Every single canter transition afterwards was prompt with no head tossing AND WE GOT THE CORRECT LEADS.  I literally rode for 30 minutes, included a few test movements, and called it good.  

Half halts are most definitely where it's at.


Nadia Novik said…
yay! It's so the best thing ever when something clicks!! She seems like a really cool mare. Willing, but a little sass to go along with it...
emma said…
oh man.... that's awesome that she's really figuring it out!! my relationship with half halts is.... spotty lol, but maybe one day i'll figure out how to train them properly!!
Liz Stout said…
Hell yeah self-balancing Ellie with correct leads!!! Huge gains for you two. Yay!
That's a good reminder: I should do more half halts. You guys look great in that last picture.
Oh, she's got plenty of sass to go around, that's for sure haha! ;-)
It's so lovely to start having them become an actual aid that works 95% of the time, because Ellie has such a little engine that without them we will never get beyond where we are at now lol!
I thought I would never see the day LOL! Well, I knew I would eventually, but there were moments this summer when I thought WHAT AM I EVEN DOING haha!
Thank you! Yes, half halts are my new best friend. I was able to half ass them for years with both Snappy and Dreamy, but Ellie needs to fully understand them. She's too strong for me to hold her together all her life haha. And Beth reminds me I cannot ride FEI without proper half halts, so I guess I ought to listen to her! ;-)
L.Williams said…
Beth sounds awesome and I really hope that I can get someone like her to work with in the future (and I really credit you with helping to change my mindset about my current situation )
I really lucked out to be able to ride with her for sure. It is worth every minute of the 50 min (one way!) drive to lesson with her.

And I am so glad to have helped. <3 You are a wonderful horsewoman and we all need to support each other to remember that you are! ;-)