I’ve been drawing attention to the quality of the walk to several clients recently, which reminded me of a phrase my old riding instructor used to say.
“Jolly walking!” She would cry as we dawdled around the arena. This was our cue to kick our ponies forwards.
Now of course I understand what we were supposed to be aiming for, and in a way having a catchphrase can be useful in light heartedly chivving your riders on – it brings a smile and they don’t feel that they are being told off.
So when I’ve told my riders to jollify their walk, I want them to apply the leg to encourage the hindquarters, or engine, to engage and start propelling the horse forwards. The stride wants to become more purposeful. To the kids I aliken it to how they walk out of maths class as opposed to when they walk into maths.
You don’t want the horse to feel like they’re running away from the rider and almost running in their walk, so you want to keep the four beat rhythm and still feel in balance. To help, half halt with rein and seat so that the energy is contained within the horse.
So how does “jolly walking” help with your schooling? Well if your horse has a more active walk then upwards transitions are more achievable and correct, with the hind legs pushing into the trot or canter. Transitions feel more uphill and the new gait begins in a more balanced way and of a better quality. Halt transitions are more likely to result in square halts, and a better transition from the halt because it is more attentive.
I may be making “jolly walking” a catchphrase to nudge clients into activating the walk so that their horse is switched on to work and moving correctly so that they are less likely to injure themselves and subsequent work is easier.