If you’ve read Prepare to Improve Your Score you’ll have read all about the importance of your centre line at the start of a dressage test. It’s the most important part of any test. It sets the standard in the judge’s eye for the rest of your marks.
A straight centre line is a great start. An accurately ridden test will score you some high marks. There’s one thing, however, which can make or break those all important double-scoring collective marks at the end. Your final halt.
A sloppy, crooked halt isn’t the best way to finish. It leaves the judge feeling disappointed rather than inspired. If you were about to score sixes or sevens in those final boxes you could well end up with fives and sixes. A bad halt can cost you as many as eight marks. That’s the difference between winning and losing.
A good square halt is easily achievable with any horse. As with all downwards transitions it’s the energy of the previous pace which is important. In a test horses often anticipate the halt and slow down. The rider panics and pushes on which makes the horse jolt forwards. Result? A less than tidy finish.
Practice riding the centre line in trot and not halting. Get straight and push on in the fastest trot you can get without cantering. Sit up and push on round the turn at the end.
If you have trouble in tests with your halts never practice on the centre line. Instead practice on the ¾ line in the opposite direction. Leave your halt at G for show days.
Once you’ve established a straight line practice halting as you get level with D (Between F and K). Ride forward until you reach the marker. Squeeze as hard as you can with your knee and thigh to bring him to a standstill. (See The Other Way of Stopping – popular posts) Don’t stop pushing with your lower leg until you move off.
Your horse will stop if you keep your knees clamped in. The less you rely on your reins the less chance of him tipping his head up and hollowing. The more you practice the sharper the halt will become. If you sit back and keep your lower leg on you’ll keep his hocks underneath him and the halt will be straight and square.
A straight centre line always make a great first impression but a good final halt will be the last thing the judge remembers. Good luck.