Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Fundamental, Wonderful, Walk

I've had occasion over the past week to do some work at the walk with all my horses.  The footing in our indoor arena was replaced last week, and it's still too deep for my taste - it's like walking on a beach above the high tide line.  No work above the walk for us in that footing.  We have been able to manage some rides in the outdoor arena - it has a sand track around the outside which I rarely use - but a nice grassy area in the middle that's firm footing.  Since all four of my horses are barefoot, firm footing is just fine - they've got good, shock-absorbing feet - their frogs and heels absorb the concussion instead of their hoof walls (shod horses) transmitting concussion up the leg.  Too soft footing, however, is an invitation for soft tissue injuries.  The footing in the indoor will settle down in a bit, and we're mostly riding outside except when there's rain or mud between the barn and the outdoor.

The walk is so fundamental, and is so neglected.  Everybody is in a hurry to trot and canter, but trust me, if it's not working just right at the walk, it won't be any better at the trot and canter and is likely to be worse.  If you haven't got a good walk, you've got nothing.  There is also so much to be done at the walk - so much that is beneficial to the horse and builds a foundation for later work.

Have you got automatic forward, no nagging, from the first step?

Have you got straightness?

Is your horse soft and engaged with almost a zero pressure in your hand?

Have you got bend in both directions, with the inside hind stepping under?

Can you do walk/halt/walk transitions without bracing or abruptness?

If you ask for back from halt, is the response a brace or soft, relaxed backing?

Can you get lengthening/shortening at the walk, with appropriate changes in posture and stride length?

And you can add other things, for fun - spiral in/out and lateral work.

I've been having a lot of fun at the walk, and all the horses have really been excelling.

5 comments:

  1. I agree. I spend so much time getting everything right at the walk because it is worth it in the larger scheme of things.

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  2. I just really wish blogs had 'like' buttons so I could show that I'm reading and nodding my head, but don't have anything intelligent to add. :)

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  3. I am definitely guilty of the "just go canter" mindset sometimes. But lately I've been trying to set the tone of my ride right from the get-go, which means working at the walk and not just using that gait as rest time

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  4. I like walk work, that's about all I can do on Beamer now. My fave is the trot, but I probably do most of my current riding at the walk.

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  5. My horse has never had a very good walk, although it's much improved (bought as mid-3 year old, now 6). I admit I don't school it as much as I should. I have been doing a lot more at the walk lately because I moved to a new barn May 1st and walking helps get him used to things without up-ing adrenaline but I also still need him to be working while we do that or he will be totally squirrley, I like your questions and will use them when I do my extended walk warm ups (and all the time, actually).
    Regarding new footing. The barn I just moved to is in its 4th summer. They had started from scratch and put in 6 massive A level sand rings, plus a couple others, plus the indoor arena. They had some footing issues the first couple years (mostly first), mainly in that it was too deep. Although they did remove some of the top layer of sand, a lot of it was that it needed to settle and be worked on by horses and harrow. I showed at this venue every year since it opened and have to say the footing has improved every year. Now that I'm here in it's 4th year, the footing in every one of the massive A level rings is awesome. All that to say, it takes time for it to work in, and horses working on it.

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