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How much walking do you do in your routine?

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  • How much walking do you do in your routine?

    I just read the new Denny Emerson book, and the thing that struck me the most was his emphasis on walking as the foundation for fitness. I typically try to walk for at least 5 minutes at the start and end of the ride, as well as several walk breaks, and I would say I ride a total of 40 minutes at a time 6 days a week

    He says that before he even starts trotting horses, he will walk them for weeks at a time, everyday, for 50-60 minutes, if not more.

    I know that some of my mare's issues are fitness related right now, and I was going to, for example, start cantering for longer periods of time (with walk breaks of course), but now I'm thinking that maybe I should just go back to basics and walk for a month and just see what it does?

    I'm a cyclist, and I know that slow base miles in the winter are a necessity to having a strong summer of riding, but I guess I always thought of trotting as the base gait for a horse, not walking.

    He does make a point of saying it's an "active" walk. Thoughts on this approach?

  • #2
    I do a ton of walking when bringing my horse back or when getting a new horse off the track and follow a plan similar to Denny’s. I also do lots of walk on the flat even when my horse is fit. I have always been told the walk is the most neglected gait.

    By active walk he means a marching walk. Not putzing around the arena on a long rein.


    • #3
      I agree with Denny and Denali. Walk is muy importante. My mare is in excellent fitness, but still one of our six rides per week is an hour walk. That doesn't mean you can't do stuff in the walk - we do poles, hills, turn on the haunches, turn on the forehand, leg yield, shoulder-in, free walk, the-biggest-walk-i-can-before-she'll-trot, collected walk, all the things.
      During a "training ride" or "conditioning ride," I usually warm up with 10-15 minutes of walk and cool down with 10 mins of walk, and will have a couple 1-3 minute walk breaks during the more intense work.
      Mine are out 24/7, I still think walking under saddle is imperative.
      Last edited by mmeqcenter; Jul. 4, 2019, 02:02 PM.
      Custom tack racks!


      • #4
        I sometimes spend entire rides in the walk.

        I agree with Denny that it's a valuable and often overlooked gait. Arguably one of the harder ones to truly ride correctly, since so few people pay proper attention to it or develop it. My typical ride spends about 10-15 minutes in the walk starting off. I take my time and use it as a thorough warm up. If the horse is tense or it's a busy environment, or the training plan that day is just to walk, then that's what I do. It's a good time to introduce concepts and reinforce them. I focus on lateral work, impulsion, maybe work hills if necessary, or on hacking days go out on long walks. You can install so many "buttons" in the walk that translate up through the trot and canter and, in my opinion, save you a lot of work later.

        But people in your barn will look at you crazy.

        In terms of fitness, it needs to be a longer ride (50-60 minutes as he described) and it cannot be a mosey, it must be forward and active walk. If done right you can get a horse pretty darn fit with that model.
        War Horse Blog
        Blogging for The Chronicle of the Horse


        • #5
          I spend a lot less time walking, honestly, but my horses are out 24/7 and walk a lot in everyday life. I walk around a few times, have walk breaks, and walk to cool out. My horses maintain good fitness being horses and with our rides.

          I think stalled horses need a lot more walking to not have injuries.

          i also think people who jump often trot too much and don’t canter enough. Canter is the jump gait, I focus on a strong and adjustable canter.


          • #6
            I walk for 10-15 minutes before each ride, and about 5-10 minutes at the end of each ride. My warm up includes about 5 minutes of loose rein walk, then 5-10 minutes of "working walk" where we practice bending, circles, forward and back, leg yields, etc. My horse is older so this really helps loosen him up, but I think it would be a great idea for any horse!


            • #7
              I do a lot of walking. There is a working walk and there is a walk break, and these are not the same. I do the most walking with rehabs and young horses, but with all horses I will sometimes spend an entire ride at the walk. Have I done as much walking hacks as Denny? No. I wish I had more of the land available to do that. The trot does not build fitness for the back to hind end the way the walk does. The walk is a less efficient gait and has more skeletal movement to it than the trot. In that way it is more like the canter. The hard part is to get and maintain a quality walk.


              • #8
                Admittedly, I walk less than I probably should. But unlike Denny, I have a full time non-horse job, and no working students. So with 3-4 riding horses at any given time, I'd only have time to ride 1, maybe 2, if I spent an hour walking on each. I do a lot of cross training though, so some rides are dressage/flat only, some are regular jumping schools, but I also take the horses out on trails quite frequently. And some of those trail rides are all walking, or mostly walking. The hills and varied terrain keep us active and interested, while frankly I find walking circles in the ring quite boring, even if I am incorporating some lateral, poles, etc. Also my horses are out for a minimum of 12 hours a day, usually more, and they do walk a lot in their large(ish) group turnout.
                A good man can make you feel sexy, strong, and able to take on the world.... oh, sorry.... that's does that...



                • #9
                  With the weather lately, a lot.

                  I am a dressage rider turned eventer turned jumper now boarding at a primarily hunter barn. It amazes me the amount of riders who spend just about zero time at the walk unless they themselves are taking a break. I was always told a good walk is the foundation to just about everything else. I will often still be walking and working on things at a walk long after other riders have moved on to cantering and jumping.


                  • #10
                    Another reason I walk a lot on some days is when my horse just doesn’t want to at trot or canter. The days when nothing is going to get done. We do lots of lateral work at the walk, free walk, and walk/halt transitions to get her moving from the halt into the walk by pushing off with her hind end first.


                    • #11
                      I am a huge believer in the power of the working walk and it is the linchpin of my horse's summer and winter fitness. He has a hard time in the heat, and I don't work him when the ambient air temperature is below 20- but in either situation, he can spend 20-40 minutes at a swinging walk to loosen his body, whether that is walking up and down hills in the shady woods or doing lateral work in the back field. Any time I can't figure out whether I've forgotten how to ride or my horse has forgotten how to be ridden, we just walk that day, and the next day is better.

                      On a daily basis, I spend at least 10 minutes on a walking warm up and 10 minutes on cool down.
                      "I'm not always sarcastic. Sometimes I'm asleep." - Harry Dresden


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rhymes_with_orange View Post
                        With the weather lately, a lot.

                        I am a dressage rider turned eventer turned jumper now boarding at a primarily hunter barn. It amazes me the amount of riders who spend just about zero time at the walk unless they themselves are taking a break. I was always told a good walk is the foundation to just about everything else. I will often still be walking and working on things at a walk long after other riders have moved on to cantering and jumping.
                        I grew up doing hunters, but my coach also had a lovely property where we could trail ride. I think this had a lasting influence, as you are so right about the number of riders who barely walk at all! Many of them don't even walk a lap around the ring before trotting. I've definitely noticed that I walk more than many riders at the barn I'm at (a mix of disciplines). I also hit the trails at least once a week when footing is good, and walk at a good clip for about an hour.

                        Even if you think you walk a lot, put a timer on for 10 minutes at the beginning of your ride, and I guarantee you will feel like you've walked *forever* long before that 10 minutes is up!
                        I've spent most of my life riding horses. The rest I've just wasted.


                        • #13
                          When I had horses stalled, I would either but them on the hot walker for 20 minutes before my ride or tack walk 20 minutes before my ride. I had a semi lame horse who needed all the walking he could get.

                          I was told it takes 20 minutes to get blood flowing to the hoofs.

                          Two years ago I bought a 3 year old off the track, horse arrived off the trailer dead lame. I have videos of this horse basically walking on two legs. Vet really couldn’t find anything.

                          Its taken about 2 years, but that horse has never lived in a stall since. He’s more sound than most around here. He does need front shoes. We still do a ton of walking. I’ve done 14 mile ride on him in mountains etc.

                          Having a hot walker was a gift, horses at the training barn would go on once or twice a day depending. Ridden 6 days a week, hand walked at least 1x a day and some had some turn out. We always had sound horses.


                          • #14
                            I walk the first and last 10 minutes. It helps that it is about a 10 minute walk from my barn to (my sister's) ring.

                            Also, once we start working, Belle would far rather jig than walk, so we spend a LOT of time re-establish the flat footed walk between trot and canter exercises.

                            chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2017.


                            • #15
                              I noticed this so much in the last year after retiring my horse. For 3 years he had been in various states of rehab and was always quite fit before I finally threw in the towel last fall. When I retired him I figured he'd become the whale he always dreamed of being, but since I trail/road ride 3-ish days a week he's barely lost any condition or fitness far as I can tell.

                              I'm not trotting or cantering him at all, so I don't know how some of it would translate if we were to go back to work but he looks about as show ring ready as he ever did. Now, as mentioned, at least 80% of our 1 hour+ walks are spent at a proper working walk because he's a bit of dragon, so this isn't some ambling wander.


                              • #16
                                Seven years ago I picked up this book used "The Equine Athlete--New Horizons in Racehorse Conditioning" by Gary L. Wilson DVM and Martha Mueller, trainer.

                                Chapter 7 of this book is titled "The Value of Walking".

                                I recommend everyone read this chapter. The authors REALLY VALUE walking for getting ALL horses into condition, especially since it saves the horses' legs.

                                When I read this chapter I lost all feelings of uselessness because of my MS leaving me walking the horse the vast majority of the time I'm in the saddle.

                                They note that introducing the newly saddle broke horse to mostly walking strengthened its legs, built up its endurance, and basically got it just as fit as mostly trotting or galloping, as a function of distance--it takes about the same amount of energy for the horse to walk a mile as the horse uses to gallop the horse a mile, it was not so much the speed of the horse but the distance covered.

                                This book is available used on Amazon. Chapter 7 is worth the cost of the entire book!


                                • #17
                                  I think Denny says "you can never hurt them at the walk" When I went to Florida this winter we did a few weeks of just walking for 30 then 45 minutes - only walk. We had our healthiest season yet. I can't live without my I-watch. I set the timer and after ten of walking, I start the trot - and follow Denny's advice of trotting without asking for much - long rein. I think lots of people forget to do the lateral, core work.


                                  • #18
                                    I don't do nearly the walking that Denny describes, but I do value it as a gait.

                                    My horse lives out 24/7 in a 10acre field, with a long sloping hill, he has to walk up the hill at least a couple times per day to get to the water.

                                    My routine is typically only 3-5 minutes of walking followed by 5 minutes of a forward trot on a loopy rein. After this my horse is forward and focused enough to actually work.
                                    We them come back to a walk for another few minutes to do some lateral work, turn on the haunches, etc. Then back to the trot for some collection, transitions, lateral work, etc.
                                    I always come back to the walk for a few more minutes to make sure that the hind end is active and the front end is soft before I start my canter work. If I'm not happy with the canter I'll come back to the walk, repackage, and canter again.
                                    I always finish my ride with an active walk, a couple walk-halt-walk transitions, and then I'll drop my reins and my stirrups and he knows we're done.

                                    If it's hot and humid, or a winter deep freeze we'll do more walking. Or if I'm in a hurry I'll just hop on bareback and walk for 20 minutes.

                                    I once had a clinician tell the group that it's easy to ruin a good walk. My old guy (now my mom's steady eddie) has always had a great walk. We try not to mess with it too much. Current horse is lazy, especially with the hind end, he's a textbook example of getting it done first at the walk so that it's easier at the canter.


                                    • #19
                                      I can tell you exactly how much I walk, because I use the free app Equilab! Kind of an eye-opener...

                                      In the last 30 days my guy has had 22 training sessions (and one show). My average training session in the arena is 15-25 minutes of walk, 10-15 minutes of trot, and 5-8 minutes of canter. On the trail we go an hour or two at the walk - once a week or so.

                                      This year we did do rehab which involved building up to an hour a day of walk, adding trot at 10 mins/week up to 30 mins, then starting canter. Vet wanted me doing 20 mins a day of canter but that's been hard to attain!


                                      • #20
                                        Thanks for the Equilab tip. I am going to look into it. And thanks for the book recommendation! I went to Amazon and ordered it. I love the Forums!