Training your horse: What’s in a walk?


Photo by Bob Haarmans

I’ve been reprimanded by my coach on more than more than one occasion for not walking on my horse correctly. ‘You are not walking with purpose from the stable to the arena’. ‘You walk round thinking about work’. ‘Remember walk is one of the paces’. Well, I have to say, at first I thought I just wanted to be left alone. I quite like walking around on my horse – dreaming and relaxing if you like. She was quite correct. My dressage score reflected a weakness in my walk. But now, well, something has changed. If you have to use Oprah’s language – I’ve had “a light bulb moment”. I can’t say quite when and how the light came on. But I can say that my view regarding walking has shifted. The following motivates me to take the walk more seriously:

  • If you don’t have control in the walk you won’t have it in the trot and canter.
  • It’s a bit easier to master other challenges at the walk because you are not dealing with suspension and it’s slower.
  • If you don’t have your horse working through its back at the walk and taking the contact, it won’t in the trot and canter. You have to be able to show that the rider gives and horse understands the correct aids at the walk.
  •  You show the horse that your require activity and obedience at all times and with no exception. The horse should go where you want it to go in an active and relaxed manner as a matter of course. Requiring an active walk helps build trust, partnership and a work ethic.
  • Lastly, it reminds me that as the rider, I can be relaxed but I must still be the leader in the partnership. I must still be mindful of what I am doing for both my and my horse’s safety. And that riding is always a learning experience. We can reinforce bad habits or good habits if we are not careful.  If I’m just walking along to the arena – I’d rather enforce the good.

“The blog is the personal opinion and views of the author. It contains general information and may contain inaccuracies. You should always seek the advice of a professional horse riding instructor on your own specific situation and circumstances.”

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