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!

7 thoughts on “Walking Lessons

  1. firnhyde Sep 21, 2015 / 4:04 am

    Down here in Africa, we have to give our horses a mandatory annual vaccination against African horse sickness. The shot works well, but it’s pretty hard on their immune systems, so to avoid a reaction the horses have to have three weeks of walking only after each of the two injections. This is nice for one or two sessions, but on a horse whose walk work is already very well established, six weeks of it becomes quite the bore! I would expect South African horses to be among the best walkers in the world, LOL!

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 24, 2015 / 4:41 pm

      Oh I’ve heard of AHS – it’s nasty isn’t it?
      I remember having to walk a riding school horse coming into work after a tendon injury … SO BORING!! a good skive tho 😉

      • firnhyde Sep 24, 2015 / 5:58 pm

        AHS is HORRIBLE – but you Brits are better prepared than we are. I’ve heard you’re already developing a vaccine because the disease is slowly creeping up Africa! It’s an extremely nasty virus, although the vaccine does give good protection against the most violent strain (which kills 90% of the horses it infects), there are still a lot of vaccinated horses that get the milder strain (50% mortality).

  2. Sparrowgrass Sep 21, 2015 / 5:50 am

    Also useful when bringing a human back into work- I had a walk only lesson last year because I wasn’t strong enough to trot yet. It was really interesting and I was really glad I’d asked for it. I had new mental challenges from it despite my physical restrictions.

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 24, 2015 / 4:42 pm

      True 🙂 I have a client who doesn’t canter as she feels there’s so much to learn in trot… But it makes you think if we should even be trotting as there’s so much to do in walk!

  3. horse and human Sep 21, 2015 / 9:39 am

    I had a walk only lesson when I started my youngster. She had been backed six months at the time and her first ever lesson was in walk.
    I still longrein as I enjoy it and that’s mostly in walk unless I jog to.

    • therubbercurrycomb Sep 24, 2015 / 4:43 pm

      Long rein is good fun 🙂 if Otis has had his back tweaked and needs a day of walking to follow I like to long rein if possible 🙂

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