7 easy steps to starting in hand work – Part 6, how to square a halt

Now you have become accustomed to moving your horse around in hand, it’s time to add a little precision. For the serious in hand trainer, this is where things start to move towards that final goal: piaffe in hand.

We aren’t going that far in this series, but all these techniques will give you the basics preparatory to taking that ultimate step, if that is your goal.

Reasons to teach squaring the halt

  1. The first step here is to teach the horse to lift each leg individually to the light touch of the whip – this will enable you first to square up the halt, and later to activate each leg in turn to produce half steps (Part 7 of this series), and eventually, piaffe.
  2. This work helps form the habit of halting square, helping to keep even loading (weight bearing) on both hind legs at halt, and also necessary for a good mark in ridden dressage.
  3. Once under saddle, you can use the same technique to halt square, and to influence each leg individually to move forward with more activity – useful in all gaits as well as eventually in half steps, and then piaffe under saddle. This can be done at first with an unmounted helper with the ground work whip while you are in the saddle, and then transferring (with your ground help) the whip aid to your leg aids.
  4. If a horse has a ‘lazy’ hind leg – one that he always leaves trailing because of a reluctance to weight bear on that limb – you can use this technique to correct this poor, and possibly damaging habit, and strengthen that leg until he is comfortable with keeping weight on it.


You do not need to be aiming to teach your horse piaffe to benefit from this work!

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