Western Dressage Exercise: Adjusting Strides to Halt

The introductory level Western Dressage tests intentionally require transitions to the halt on the center line through the walk. When writing this movement in these tests, we on the advisory committee wanted to ensure that riders did not attempt abrupt stops at the expense of the horse’s correct balance and alignment. A horse should learn to stop correctly by drawing his hind legs forward under his body, slightly lowering his pelvis to the ground, and then standing balanced over all four legs. The most straightforward way to help him learn this is to prepare the halt transition with preceding steps of a correctly engaged walk. Otherwise, when riders try prematurely to ride directly from jog or lope to a standstill, their horses most often learn to stop with their pelvis tilted out behind them. This dis-engages their critical abdominal muscles, hollows their spines, and teaches them poor mechanics for all future downward transitions.


Dan Marcum riding Davinchi at the 2013 WDAA World Show

The ability to control the number and amplitude of walk steps leading up to a square halt comprises a large part of a rider’s skill at collected movements in the future. As an example, when a horse “falls” in to the halt transition by leaning forward on his forehand and either slamming on the brakes abruptly or adding far more walk steps than planned, the rider lacks sufficient influence to shift his balance in a positive way. Left to his own, the horse will continue to leave his hindquarters trailing in the downward transition. A careful integration of forward energy along with restraining energy will lead to successful halt transitions in dressage, which form cornerstones of higher levels of collection further down the road. Try the following exercise to test your control of your horse’s stride and to gain more positive influence over his downward transitions.

Adjusting Strides to Halt

  1. At a working jog, turn down the center line at A towards X.
  2. Ten meters before X, transition to a walk, count four strides (as each front foot lands, count one stride), then stop. (Count One-Two-Three-Four- STOP)
  3. After a calm halt, proceed in working jog, proceed around your arena and then at A again turn down center line.
  4. This time as you approach X, transition to the walk, count TWO strides, and then stop. Count One-Two-Stop.
  5. Continue riding your center lines. Alternate between riding FOUR strides and TWO strides before each one.


Western Dressage Weekly Exercise – authored by Jec Ballou | Copyright © 2014

One Response to “Western Dressage Exercise: Adjusting Strides to Halt

  • Jennie Johannesen
    3 years ago

    I am so glad to see the exercize of the week.I am still retraining my horse to stop without protecting himself. He was treated rudely handled before I bought him. Western dressage will help alot of horses.