The long term goal of Straightness Training is achieving flexibility, gaining strength, build muscle and improving your horse's overall health and maintaining it for a lifetime. This goal is achieved through a logical system of progressive exercises.
When doing a half-pass, the horse moves diagonally in a lateral bending, in a forward-sideward manner and looks in the direction it is going. During the half-pass, the horse steps under with its inside and outside hind legs alternated. The outside legs step in front and over the inside legs.
Connection shoulder-in, haunches-in and half-pass
In the half-pass the outside hind leg should also step towards the center of mass. So doing a half-pass is in a way the same as haunches-in, except that the exercise is not done along the wall but on the diagonal.
This requires that the horse carries itself, as the wall no longer supports the horse.
Imagine that the wall is on the diagonal and ride haunches-in along that imaginary wall.
This will result in the half-pass.
In the half-pass you want to go forward and sideways to develop the hind legs and both hind legs need to connect with the center of mass. Therefore the shoulders should always lead, meaning they are always in front of the hindquarter. (If the shoulders don't lead the hind legs will step next to the center of mass, which means they won't take weight).
To test if the shoulders are leading you should during every moment of the half-pass be able to continue on a straight line in shoulder-in. Then you are sure the horse has had the right shape during the half-pass.
For horses that still lack some strength and lose their balance quickly, it is recommended to alternate half-pass with shoulder-in on a straight line.
So here we should really think in the 'essence' of the exercise: that both hind legs step towards the center of mass. And if you 'loose' a certain leg, or you lose the connection between the center of mass and one of the hind legs, you either correct with the traversal aids ('haunches-in' correction) or the versal aids ('shoulder-in' correction).
So don't think in 'shoulder-in' or 'haunches-in', don't do the 'names' but think about the 'essence. YSo therefore the shoulders should always lead.
Teaching the exercise to the horse
One can only start with half-pass when the exercises shoulder-in and haunches-in are properly taught to the horse.
Half pass is first taught in hand, and then in riding. At the beginning, a few steps should be enough. When the horse gets stronger, this can be built up towards an entire diagonal. The exercise can be done in walk, trot and finally also in collected canter.
- The ¼ half-pass leads to the middle of the short side and the horse is less bended in this exercise. The horse goes more forwards than sideward.
- In the ½ half-pass the horse has a similar bending as on a 10 meter circle. The horse goes as much forward as it goes sideward, thus having equal pushing and carrying capacity in his hind legs.
- In the ¾ half-pass the horse is more bended and moves to the centre of the long side. The horse goes more sideward than forwards.
- In a complete half-pass the horse has maximum bending and steps sideward. A little bit of forwards should be maintained so that the outer legs can continue to step in front of the inside legs.
It is recommended to practice all variations and not to limit yourself to just 1 variation.
Training component variations:
Most of the time you will start half pass:
- out of the haunches-in circle in groundwork,
- out of shoulder-in in riding
- out of shoulder-in work in hand
But in groundwork or riding you can start both from shoulder-in, and from the haunches-in circle/pirouette and in both cases you must make sure the shoulders are leading.
In work in hand you need to rebend the horse first to the outside, and then when the horses shoulders are leading, you can continue on the diagonal with the half pass.
In work in hand you can also make a small circle right before the end of the short side, than stop the horse when the horse reaches the diagonal, move over to the other side (convex side) yourself, and continue in half pass on the diagonal.
In work in hand you can also make a normal big circle first and on X you can rebend the horse and change to a renvers circle or piroutte and out of this renversal exercise you can continue with half pass on a diagonal.