Standing square

Posted in Flatwork

It can be tricky to ride a perfect square halt every time and you can easily lose marks in a dressage test for a bad halt. But don’t worry, read our guide and you’ll be a pro before you know it!

How to ride a square halt

  1. Make sure your pony is walking forward, then use a half-halt to balance him a few strides before you plan to halt, to let him know a transition is coming.
  2. Stretch up tall through your body, lower your shoulders and push your hips forwards. Close your fingers around the reins, keeping an even contact. Keep your legs wrapped around your pony.
  3. Once you’ve halted, maintain a contact, but soften your fingers.


Feel, don’t look!

Try to learn to feel if your pony has halted square, rather than bending down to look. If you can feel it, you can correct him much more quickly if he isn’t completely square.

To develop a feel, it can help to close your eyes. Do you feel like you’re tilted to one side? For example, if you feel slightly lower towards the left and back, your pony is probably dragging or resting his left hindleg. Move your left leg back slightly and give him a squeeze. This will encourage him to pick up his left hind and stand square.

Practise a few times and see if you can feel which leg isn’t square. It helps to have someone on the ground so they can let you know if you’re right without you having to look. Once he’s square, give him a scratch on his withers to praise him.

Problem busting

  • Stepping back
    If your pony moves backwards after you’ve halted, it’s likely your rein contact is too strong. This makes him want to move backwards to get away from the pressure on the bit. Keep your hands soft and sympathetic, and he’ll be happier to stand quietly.
  • Not halting when you ask
    If your pony rushes through the transition, make sure you prepare well in advance, so he knows to expect a transition. Half-halt at least three strides before you want to halt, so he’s ready for what you’re about to ask.
  • Not standing square
    If your pony halts, but doesn’t stand with his legs square, it’s likely he wasn’t balanced in the transition. Before you ask him to halt, make sure he’s in an active walk and not dawdling or rushing. This will keep him balanced and make it easier for him to halt square. If he halts with just one leg out, it’s likely your legs weren’t even when you asked him to halt. Keep both your legs on equally as you halt to encourage him to keep square.
  • Fidgeting
    Although a halt should be stationary, if you take your legs off your pony’s side, he’ll become unsure of what’s being asked and might decide to walk on. Keeping your legs wrapped around him and a gentle contact will help reassure him that you’re there, and keep him listening for your next aid.
  • Wonky halt
    If your pony isn’t halting in a straight line or drifts sideways, your contact and leg pressure probably aren’t even. When you ask for a halt, remember to keep your contact the same across both hands and close your legs firmly around your pony. This will stop him from drifting over.

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September 2020

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