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Posts Tagged ‘Jane Savoie’s Dressage 101’

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No one can give us the skinny on how to do an honest-to-goodness half-halt like motivational speaker and dressage rider Jane Savoie. She gets that this integral part of, well, basically EVERY riding activity, can be difficult to understand and tough to put into practice in a way that it actually (really and truly) works.

Here’s Savoie’s no-fuss guide to understanding half-halts, from her bestselling book DRESSAGE 101:

Let’s break down the half-halt—or if you prefer, the “half-go”—into its parts. The half-halt itself is the combination of the driving aids (both legs and seat), the outside rein, and the bending aids (both legs and the inside rein), maintained for about three seconds.

During those three seconds, close both legs and push with your seat as if asking for that 100-percent, wholeheartedly forward response that you practiced when you put the horse in front of the leg. This is the “go” part of your half-go. But, instead of allowing the horse to go more forward as you did then, receive and contain this energy almost immediately by closing your outside hand in a fist. This becomes the rein of opposition. Make sure you feel the energy surge forward into the rein just before you actually close this outside hand.

By using your driving aids a fraction of a second before you use your rein aids, you ride your horse from back to front. This is your goal no matter what type of riding you do, because it’s the only way you can honestly connect your horse and make him more athletic and obedient. If you’re preoccupied with creating an artificial “headset” by fiddling with your hands, you’ll be riding your horse from front to back, and you’ll never truly be in charge. Remember, she who controls the hind legs—the “engine”—controls the horse. Always ride from back to front by directing the power from the hind legs forward into your hands.

To the naked eye, it will appear that you use all of these aids simultaneously. However, freeze-frame photography should show you using your driving aids first, then closing your outside hand, and finally, if necessary, vibrating your inside rein to keep the horse straight. (Remember, “straight” means straight on a line and bent along the arc on a curve.)

It is absolutely necessary for you to send your horse forward with your driving aids a fraction of a second before you close your outside hand. If you close your outside hand before you use your driving aids (or even exactly at the same time, for that matter), it’s like picking up the telephone before it rings—no one is there!

To help you imagine this concept, think about a balloon. Your driving aids blow up the balloon, and closing your outside hand in a fist puts the knot at the end of it to keep it full of air. So, to give a good half-halt, use your seat and legs first, and then close your outside hand, just as you’d inflate a balloon first and then tie the knot.

Quick Reference: The Aids for a Half-Halt (on a Circle to the Left)

Seat: Stretch up and use your seat in a driving way, as if pushing the back of the saddle toward the front of the saddle. Be sure to stay sitting in a vertical position when you push with your seat. Leaning behind the vertical can cause the horse to stiffen or hollow his back, and his head and neck will probably go up in the air as well.

Legs: Close your legs steadily, as if squeezing toothpaste out of a tube.

Outside rein (right rein): Close your hand in a fist.

Inside rein (left rein): Vibrate, if necessary, to keep the horse’s neck straight.

The aids are applied almost simultaneously, but basically they should be thought of in this order:

1  Driving aids first to create energy.

2  Outside rein second to contain energy.

3  Inside rein third, if necessary, to keep the neck straight.

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Apply these aids for about three seconds by increasing the pressure of your legs and reins so it is slightly more than the maintenance pressure you have when your legs are softly draped around your horse’s sides and your hands have a firm but gentle feel of his mouth. After you give the half-halt, relax. This relaxing—the finish of the aid—is as important as the aid itself, because it is the horse’s reward. When you relax, let your legs rest lightly on your horse’s sides again, keep correct contact with his mouth, and continue riding your circle.

For more of Jane Savoie’s terrific teaching, check out DRESSAGE 101 from Trafalgar Square Books (www.horseandriderbooks.com), where shipping in the US is FREE.

CLICK HERE to order now

Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVDs, is a small business based on a farm in rural Vermont.

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TSB caught up with international dressage star, trainer, motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur Jane Savoie this month as we celebrate the release of her new book JANE SAVOIE’S DRESSAGE 101 (on sale all this month at the TSB bookstore!) We got to talk about what’s new with her line of Eq-Equisense “sensor-enhanced” tack, which made a splash with international audiences at WEG in 2010. Plus, we got to find out what’s in her refrigerator…or rather, what’s not.

TSB: You always manage to have a multitude of interesting projects going at once. For example, your Eq-Equisense “sensor-enhanced” tack seems to offer riders a legitimate way to “measure” their body position and correct it in real time. What’s up with Equisense in 2011? Are there new developments or special promotions we should know about in the months ahead?

JS: We are opening Training Centers throughout the country. The first one is opening this month (May) at Mistover Farm in Pawling, New York.

TSB: You have established a distinct online presence over the last few years, and much of your work is particularly well-suited to digital forums. What role do you see social media such as Facebook playing in the development of the horse industry in coming years?

JS: Our country is huge, and Social Media allows us to connect with riders not only in this country but all over the world. Yesterday, I heard from three of my Dressage Mentor members (from South Africa, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, respectively) about the success they’ve had using the techniques they’re learning about on my membership site.

TSB author Jane Savoie on her Grand Prix horse Moshi. "He's amazing!" she says.

TSB: What are your personal riding goals for 2011 and beyond?

JS: Continuing to ride Moshi at Grand Prix. He gets better all the time. We’ve finally mastered the one-tempi’s and he does piaffe, passage, and the transitions between the two on a thought. He’s amazing!

TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with a horse and a book, what breed of horse would it be and which book would you choose?

JS: Probably a Friesian because they’re so affectionate. Moshi is like a black lab in a horse suit. If I took a horse book it would be Complete Training of Horse and Rider by Alois Podhajsky, and if I took a “fun” book I’d choose Knight in Shining Armor by Jude Devereaux.

TSB: What’s in your refrigerator at all times?

JS: It’s usually pretty empty. (And I’ve gone as long as two years without an oven!) Don’t cook. Don’t miss it.

TSB: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

JS: Patting my dog, Indiana Jones Savoie.

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember sitting on a horse.

JS: I was eight. I rode a 26-year-old horse named “Old Lady.”

TSB: Tell us about the first time you remember falling off a horse.

JS: My third ride. I got run away with on a trail ride. All I remember is the trees going by really fast as I hung on my horse’s neck—until I couldn’t hang on any more.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a friend?

JS: Loyalty.

TSB: What is the quality you most like in a horse?

JS:  Good work ethic.

TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?

JS: Ride in the 2012 London Olympics.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?

JS: Lobster and a baked potato.

TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?

JS: I haven’t been on one for so long, I really have to think about this. Maybe visit places that fascinate me—Italy, Hawaii, England, France, Africa.

TSB: If you could have a conversation with one famous person, alive or dead, who would it be?

JS: Tony Robbins.

TSB: What is your motto?

JS: “Those who say it can’t be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”— Chinese Proverb

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