Riding exercise of the month: halt to trot

As the spring/summer competition season starts to get closer and closer, I've been working on several exercises to polish up to the look of our tests and to make sure we get the best possible marks. As halt to trot transitions are asked for at the beginning of most dressage tests, it's the first movement to get marked and you really want to make a good first impression to the judge! If you ride a good halt which is followed by a smooth and straight transition into trot, you set yourself up to get good marks in the rest of the test. And even if you're not competing, halt to trot transitions are useful as a riding exercise to make your horse sharper to your leg aids and to encourage them to step underneath more! 
When I start riding direct halt to trot transitions, I find it very helpful to position my horses along the fence line rather than on the centre line as this makes it easier for me to keep them straight during the halt and the transition to trot. Apply both legs on the girth with a small squeeze to ask your horse to move directly into trot - at first you might have to use a sharper kick or a tap with your whip if you don’t get a reaction, but remember to praise lots when the horse does what you want. Positive praise gets you quicker results that negativity! ❤️ Obviously the strength of the leg aid depends on the horse - a sharp horse will need less leg than a lazy one, but after training this exercise your horse should move into trot from the smallest of aids 💪🏻

To help you to effectively train your horse to get it right as quickly as possible remember to ease your hand slightly forwards to allow the horse to also move forwards. I don’t worry too much if they lose the frame during the transition because this is easily fixed once you're in trot. For me the most important thing when training these is for the horse to move directly forwards from the leg aid straight into trot. NOTE: don't scare your horse into trot from a sleepy halt. If your downward transition was good, your horse should remain attentive and be waiting for the next aid. If the downward transition wasn't good, I just walk around and try again! 
Obviously not on the center line, but I like to train these all over the arena!
When you and your horse are confident and consistency getting good transitions to trot on the fence line, then ride the transition on the centre line. The most important consideration here is the straightness of both the halt and the transition to trot. If your horse is likely to wobble into halt or during the transition to trot, try placing two poles parallel to each other around the centre line.  This gives you a guide to where to ride the halt and makes it easier for the horse to remain straight! It's made a massive difference in Erik's halts. He's not one for standing straight and still for too long, but with the poles it means he doesn't wobble too much and then during the transitions upwards to trot he also goes straight! ⬆️

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