Every dressage test ends with a final halt, and whilst it’s not quite the last bit of your test (that’s your salute – and there’s a post to come on that next week) it’s the last real chance you have to make a good impression and pick up some relatively easy marks.
In all Demi Dressage tests, we mark the halt and salute as a completely separate movement. It is not included in the final turn onto the centre line, or even the final centre line itself. Our tests break all the movements down as much as possible to give young riders the best chances of picking up marks. So even if you don’t quite make it onto the centre line at A (or X in some tests), if you can correct it before your halt, you can still get a really good final mark!
At all levels, we’re looking for the pony to end up in a straight and square halt on the centre line. At the lower levels, we want to see the rider using correct aids and positively riding the pony into the halt (this is particularly the case in the lead rein sections, where all riders will score higher if they are showing attempts at riding independently and not just relying on their leader to do everything for them!) At the higher levels, we want to see those aids refined and soft, riding forwards into the halt rather than collapsing in a heap at the end of the test. The final halt should have a degree of panache to it – a confident, positive transition that highlights the pony’s obedience and straightness.
Over the time Demi Dressage has been running, I have probably seen the biggest range of marks in those given for the final halt – we’ve had riders score as high as a 9! And as low as a 6. When placings in many classes are split by as little as half or one mark, that 3-mark disparity just for one movement could mean all the difference between a placing or not!
So how can you score highly for your halt? First of all, you need to be on the centre line. This is harder than it sounds, especially for the younger riders, but you can make use of poles and cones to help guide them (see our Centre Lines training tip: https://www.demidressage.co.uk/post/trainingtip-centre-lines) How many times over the course of the month between test riding does your rider practise halting, or even riding on the centre line? (I’m going to guess not many, but feel free to surprise me! Tag me @demidressageonline in your Instagram posts, or you can share training videos and tips in our Facebook Riders Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/demidressage/)
Online dressage tip – when filming, make sure the person holding the camera is perfectly lined up on the centre line A to C… Having ridden online dressage tests myself I know you tend to ride to your camera (judge) but if they are standing a foot to the left of the centre line, your centre line will also be to the left, and when judging although you might be straight to the camera, if we can see the letter A to the side of you instead of it being blocked by you being dead in front of it, we know you’re not on the centre line! And if you ride directly on the centre line, but your camera person is standing to the left, you will still not appear straight as you’ll be to the right! Remember: we can only judge what we can see, and good or bad filming can and does make a difference!
So, you’re on the centre line. Next, your halt needs to be as square as possible. To do this, you need to ride with even aids on both sides. Many ponies will sidestep with their shoulders or quarters into a halt, and this will lose marks. Obviously you can’t use poles as guides when actually filming your test, but they can be a great training aid when schooling to help control wayward pony parts! Make sure your rider is riding forwards into their halts with their legs, and using both hands evenly on the reins. If the pony doesn’t stay straight, try to think about why. Our veteran pony Maisie (photo below) often steps to the right in halt – her riders are all right-handed, and probably using a stronger rein aid with their right hand – it might be subtle, but as a schoolmistress, she responds to it!
Practice obedience in the halt – the pony should stand still until asked to walk on again. The rider also needs to practice this – they need to be able to sit still and not inadvertently give any aids to move whilst they carry out their salute. Remember part of the mark is 'immobility'!
Another online dressage tip – keep filming until AFTER the rider has moved off again after their salute. If you cut the film as soon as the rider has come to a halt (usually rushing through their salute – more on that next week) then we can’t fairly judge their immobility. It’s also an indication of how straight the pony was in their halt if they move off straight when asked to walk on again. Cutting the film short might only cost them half a mark – but why throw any marks away?
Remember many ponies can get stale and ‘backwards thinking’ if you spend too much time halting – this is particularly the case for ponies ridden by very young or novice riders who lack finesse with their aids. So keep your pony active and happy in his work – mix up your halt with plenty of other transitions – but don’t neglect this important movement. Happy halting!