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Improving the free walk

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  • Improving the free walk

    Need some help, pointers, exercises, etc. Horse has nice lengthenings through his back in all other gaits. The walk? Not so much.

    Thanks for any help.


  • #2
    Well, the walk often is what it is, but you can start with a massage. My new mare's walk was just right in the track until she got a massage. Her shoulders were very tight from pawing a lot, so she literally couldn't get her front feet out of the way. Now she has a clear overstep (as long as she's properly motivated).
    Also getting out on the trail and really walking out can somewhat help. How old is your horse?
    "Reite dein Pferd vorwärts und richte es gerade.” Gustav Steinbrecht


    • #3
      What's the horse like with no rider?

      I'm guessing this is an OTTB? As you know better than I, they can be super tense at the walk just because that's how they are. On top of that, to some extent it just has to naturally be there. If the horse has a decent walk out in a field/turnout when it wants to get somewhere, I'd work on riding some sort of relaxing loop either before or after riding every day. Routine and learning that the expectation is to stretch out, move forward, but not worry about head position or anything else, helps teach a horse who is probably trying too hard to just go with it. Getting out, and relaxing at the walk, is improving my horse's under saddle free walk to get closer to his riderless walk. It's all about encouraging what's naturally there, and to me seems hardest on a horse who wants to try really hard, as they don't get the "relax and swing" aspect of it as easily.
      If Kim Kardashian wants to set up a gofundme to purchase the Wu Tang album from Martin Shkreli, guess what people you DON'T HAVE TO DONATE.


      • Original Poster

        He's an OTTB. He thinks the walk is a "break" if you will, in the ring, where he can amble around. It's not an issue of tense, it is more of an issue of lack of connection/forward in that gait. I am missing something.

        He conditions twice a week and/or hacks so tonight I'll take him out and see what the walk is like out in the woods. Usually we're dive bombing greenheads/B52s so have not been walking much out there. Good idea.



        • #5
          You can also try"picking up the stride". Just as the right hind comes off the ground, close your right leg, then just as the left hind comes off the ground, close your left leg. Keep your hips steady, moving enough to go with the gait. Make sure that your arms and hands are not restricting but following, but don't over ride him with your hips or arms.

          You can try this both on the trail, or in the arena.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


          • #6
            Ditto merrygoround. You want to relax your hips and go with the horse. Alternating closing your legs as your horse moves (when the right leg comes off the ground you will close your right leg). So really focusing on relaxing and going with the horse. I have an OTTB as well who sometimes thinks walking is break time - nope, sorry! He has a really nice walk with a large overstep when you get him in front of the leg. Good luck with your OTTB.
            Originally posted by RugBug
            Don't throw away opportunities because they aren't coming in exactly the form you want them to.


            • #7
              Some things you can do;

              --always keep the horse on contact so you can stretch him out and down and back again. Don't drop the contact but encourage the horse to take the connection down and forward while engaed from behind.

              Make sure the horse is working from behind and stepping well under.

              Depending on the level, use shoulderfore and leg yields or, if more advanced, use shoulder in and other lateral work to engage from behind with suppleness.

              Use cavaletti but always with connection not hollow and disconnected

              use transitions.

              IMHO You have to have the horse well and solidly connected longitudinally back to front then supple laterally to improve the walk.


              • #8
                I second the cavaletti. Space them for the walk. If you can, look at your horse's normal stride on the ground and measure it (easy on damp ground or a freshly groomed arena). Place the cavaletti so you get an elongated stride and a nice overtrack. Play with the distance until you've got it right (it can help to have a ground person with a good eye).

                Combing the reins is another great technique. If you're not familiar with it, it's best to learn or at least see it in person, but here's a pretty good description: http://www.dharmahorse.com/Articles/...0Sept%2088.pdf There are illustrations and descriptions in some of the French dressage books. Best to have flat reins for this.

                You say you think you might be missing something -- a lack of forward and connection. A lot of OTTBs have great walks but if you don't offer a connection, they'll accept that and just amble around. Make sure your seat is sensitive and not stiff (nor too active) to prevent hollowing and use your legs to urge him to lengthen his stride, step underneath himself and and swing from the shoulder. Drive him into your hand but remember that the horse seeks the contact and you accept it. Be sure to follow the motion of your horse's head at the walk with your arms, keeping the reins taut but with a light contact.

                Hope some of the suggestions you've gotten help and good luck!
                The aids are the legs, the hands, the weight of the rider, the whip, the caress, the voice and the use of extraneous circumstances. ~ General Decarpentry


                • #9
                  I agree with egg.

                  Also - my FW has graduated when my trainer wroked with both the horse and I to learn how to carry herself on a long (looped) rein. This means at W, T, and C when the rein is loose she can NOT fall on her forehand but must step underneath herself and carry her front end without rushing.

                  Always an arch in her neck even on loose rein.
                  Now in Kentucky


                  • #10
                    Dittos Merrygoround and eggy.

                    One clinician recommended miles of trail riding at the walk for my guy. It worked. You hve to insiste he picks up the pace, not just lollygag. Trail riding encourages a more forward, swingy walk.


                    • Original Poster

                      Ok I owe you all. Last night I went on a trail ride and insisted on a better walk, on contact. At first there was some resistance to go forward, then a nice acceptance. I have been throwing away the contact in the free walk.

                      Next step is to make sure I am consistent in the aids in the walk, and consistent when we are taking a break. I do not think I was clear enough.

                      Thank you!!


                      • #12
                        Hit the trails with the horse who has a good walk. Walk for 1-2 hours several times per month. No trot or canter, only walk on the longer rein but with constant contact with following elbows and breathing hands.