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Free walk/jog help for the marcher?

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  • Free walk/jog help for the marcher?

    I have a 16-year-old Lippitt Morgan gelding that I do western dressage with. He's great, and done very well, but consistently get remarks on our free walk and free jog needing more stretch and reach and relaxation over the back. This horse is a marcher at the walk, especially a more forward walk. Always has been and it was actually commented on one of his last tests. I can get him to stretch his head down, but relaxing and getting a swinging walk have been a challenge - at best. It's gotten a hair better, but I would love ideas on how to work with him to relax more in that stride. It wasn't so much of an issue in Basic, but I think will be more so as we get into the levels.

    Personality wise, he's a very business-like horse. Super, super work ethic, but work is work, no time to chill. (His attitude, not mine).

  • #2
    Can you work more at the working walk on contact to engage his rear then slowly loosen tne reins so he doesn't lose the engagement? He might be a hair short in the step department and not be stepping up and under enough to get that come from behind walk and jog.

    You want fewer bigger steps, not more smaller ones, that will give you the stretch and relaxation. If he can conformationally do it, hip and shoulder angles may not make it easy for him. Had great luck loosening them up walking them over ground poles, those help with straightness too. Does he track up straight or trail a hip in or out? Easy to see, have somebody stand behind while you ride away in a straight line. Or rake the ground smooth and ride him in a straight line then hop off and look at the hoof prints. Back should print right on top ir slightly ahead of the front. If it prints behind, he's not reachng up and under to properly push off. If he's not in line but crooked, he's not going to be able to properly engage.

    Also, at 16 he is going to be experiencing some arthritic changes. Would be a good time to look at his joints behind, especially hocks. Hocks generate that push off when they are properly engaged. If they are stiff or sore they can't step up to push off and often go crooked to protect the joint. Body work can help with stiffness but it's totally unregulated , you need a vet to take a look at those aging joints anyway.

    He may just not ever be very good at extending his stride due to conformation but you can certainly improve where you are now. It's a new thing, be patient and make sure he can comfortably do what you are asking before drilling it extensively.

    ETA he might also just not know he can move forward more freely, most tend to go too slow and constantly correct and slow if the horse makes at extending stride. Think about that too, he might be assuming he'll get pulled up for taking bigger steps if most of his riders over the last 15 years or so checked him up for stepping out. Step out more at ALL gaits, let him extend, then collect keeping the impulsion.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.


    • #3
      Walking up hills (if you have access) will teach/encourage him to push forward and under himself from behind, the same action you're looking for in a free walk. If you can space the ground poles exactly right for his stride, so he has to reach and can't sewing machine over them with steps in between, those are helpful too, as Findeight said. You might need a ground person to move them around by inches.

      Also when he actually HAS a more forward swinging walk at his disposal, you can cue that you want that swing, not speed not elevation, by cuing with alternating legs. Think of helping his belly swing out farther side to side as he walks (his belly moves out of the way for the driving hind so keeping in time cues the particular leg you want to reach further under him).

      Last, look at his feet and talk to your farrier. If he has long toes it makes it harder for the foot to roll over, encouraging a short marching way of going.


      • #4
        Curious if you use a curb or a snaffle (or bitless)? When judging, it seems more difficult for riders to achieve a relaxed stretch in a curb, as many curbs self correct the head position (don't encourage the nose to stretch out), and/or riders aren't giving enough for the curb to not be in action.

        I also see riders that try too hard. Their stretch walk leaving is MUCH better than the one in the ring, because they are now relaxed! Try just relaxing like on a trail ride and see what happens.
        Freeing worms from cans everywhere!