View Full Version : How to encourage stretching down at free walk?
Apr. 30, 2012, 06:19 PM
Hello, I don't come on this forum as I'm usually on the eventing/off course but I do have a dressage question. My horse's free walk needs some help. Invarioubly I get the comment "could show more stretch." How do I get her to stretch down into the contact? I feed the reins out slowly to give her the chance to follow them down and she does a little but evidently not enough. She's normally busy with her head anyway and will flip it a little in the free walk. How do I correct that and get her to reach into the stretch? Thanks for any tips!
Apr. 30, 2012, 06:22 PM
video of your current free walk would really help.
a horse in front of your leg will stretch appropriately to seek the bit.
Apr. 30, 2012, 06:29 PM
Keeping connection and leg aids :) I keep outside rein alwAys.
Apr. 30, 2012, 06:33 PM
Don't have any video available. I'll see what I can do. Yes, it is work to keep her in front of my leg during dressage which she hates with a passion.
Apr. 30, 2012, 09:20 PM
When I free walk it helps me to think of stretching very taaaaaallll and pick up the horse's barrel with my calves. I stretch both downward into my stirrups, and upwards into the sky. I transfer weight from my butt into my stirrups so I almost feel as if I am "Standing" around my horse. I think about reaching up with my rib cage.
During trot, canter, etc it is easy to get discombobulated and fall into bad/subpar riding habits. Slouching, tension, getting out of alignment, etc. creep in. The walk/free walk is a chance during the middle of the test to reset and re-center myself and my horse.
When I am tense or curled up on my horse, her free walk is hollow and lacking impulsion. When I am straight and centered, she stretches and swings underneath me.
Hope that helps.
Apr. 30, 2012, 10:34 PM
Hmmmm, in addition to the advice given, I'd recommend the following:
Think of not giving the reins for your horse to follow, but giving the reins so you can follow your horse. You want your horse to be actively marching forward in a relaxed frame. That means YOUR hips need to be relaxed and swinging, too, to allow your horse to swing his his/her hips, yet you have to make sure that your horse doesn't lose energy.
In the ring, you can try laying ground poles that match your horse's working walk stride and then slightly get longer. Your homework is to ride the poles so that the rhythm and forwardness doesn't change, your horse just steps longer. Your horse will likely stretch down to look at the rails, too. What does it take for you to keep your horse marching over the rails without changing the rhythm? You then have to bring the horse back into a working walk without losing the rhythm.
I think the key is to keep your horse marching forward with your legs and your hips without impeding the movement with your hips.
On the trail, you can definitely feel a good stretchy walk on your way back to the barn unless your horse gets too antsy.
Her head will flip less when she's marching forward and over her back. The head movements are characteristing of an unconnected horse. When she's using her back, she won't be thinking about her head.
Good luck and walk forward!