Walking Lessons

I taught an unusual lesson during the summer with a new client.

She had previously told me that she was buying a horse and that she would like regular lessons with me to help retrain her ex racer. 

Unfortunately within a fortnight, the mare had an accident in the fence and badly cut the front of her hock. Although not lame in anyway, she had to have a significant period of box rest to reduce movement and promote healing.

When the mare could come into work again she had to have a period of walk only, again to limit moving until the large wound had healed.

Regardless of the fact they could only walk, I was asked to teach a thirty minute lesson. I agreed, and after thinking about it, I realised that it is actually an excellent idea.

Walk is so often neglected, so it’s great to have time to focus on it, and if you have to spend a lot of time in walk only it can be boring unless you have a focus. As the mare wasn’t carrying a weakness, such as an injured tendon, the walk work didn’t need to be too limiting.

Anyway, I started the lesson by assessing the walk. It was big striding and had a tendency to rush. 

We looked at the different gears in the walk to help her rider find the mare’s natural rhythm and to improve her balance. This was difficult initially, but the mare soon began to maintain her better gait for longer, and could regain it quicker, on straight lines and on circles.

Then we worked on circles to help improve the mare’s suppleness and ensuring she is more even on both reins. The pair can work on decreasing the size of the circles as the mare gets more balanced.

Time seemed to be flying past, but I wanted to look at the walk-halt transitions; getting the mare to push forwards in the upwards transition, and not fall onto the forehand in the downwards transition. Making the transitions slower, and focusing on the seat being the prominent aid really helped improve them.

When I next taught the pair they were back to trotting, but you could see the improvement in the walk which rubbed off in the trot, which just goes to show how important it is to focus on the walk.

So perhaps next time you are bringing a horse back into work you shouldn’t be afraid of booking a walk only lesson!