Does Your Life Need a Half-Halt?


Recently, I’ve been able to take up horseback riding lessons again, reuniting with my childhood passion of dressage.[1] As an adult, I look at the sport a little differently – if dressage is based on the partnership of horse and rider, shouldn’t those same principles relate also to the human-to-human interaction of the workplace and beyond? Enter the half-halt.

What is it?

If done correctly, the half-halt will result in the horse’s movement being cut in half, but with no tempo change. The logic behind a half-halt is that the horse may be given the command to halt or may be given the command to change a movement.

The half-halt is the Holy Grail of all dressage riders. It is meant to act as advance notice to the horse from the rider that something is going to happen; serving as a safe space before any movement, big or small. It’s gone in the blink of an eye, and is more of a feeling than a learned skill.

Why is it Useful?

I’m still chasing the legend of the half-halt on top of the patient horses during our lessons, but I find myself half-halting now during my daily activities: driving and caught in traffic, feeling stressed and overwhelmed with my to do list at work, or getting ready to pump out my last repetition at the gym. It’s a headspace of sorts; a deep breath in and out and it’s gone; my heart rate has slowed yet has no tempo change.

The mental half-halt as described above takes a lot of practice and heaps of self-awareness. It’s so important to regularly check in with yourself and note where you are in the day. How’s your water intake? Are you tired? Overwhelmed? Have you been outside today?

It’s so easy to become attached and addicted to the busy schedules and bloated to do lists, but it’s more valuable to focus on the person doing those to do list tasks and making the busy schedule. Mindfulness has seemingly become the buzzword of the century, but it doesn’t need to be full of “om” and yoga pants. A simple check-in and flutter to your trusted headspace can do the work of a full-blown yoga or meditation session in half the time, leaving you more able to be the most efficient form of yourself.

If we work so hard to take care of our bosses and companies, our friends and family, and our bodies, shouldn’t we also work hard to take care of our minds?

[1] Dressage: a mounted sport between horse and rider that focuses on grace and the relationship between horse and mount within a “test”, or series of movements, performed alone in a large arena in front of at least one judge. (Author’s definition)