I recently challenged one of my clients to do a particular task every time she rode, and I decided it would be a good challenge for everyone, bloggers and clients alike.
Let me give you some background. This client`s horse doesn`t have the best walk in the world; he tends to amble along slowly, forget about his hindquarters, and in general just falls apart in his walk, which means that it`s really hard to pick up the work again.
My challenge to her is that every time she walks in the school she is going to make sure she has a good walk – active, with a rein contact, four beats, not on the forehand – before doing anything else.
When you have a poor area it`s easier to skip past and get onto more exciting things that make you feel positive about your abilities. It`s the same in all areas of life. So this rider and pony are going to spend an extra five minutes at the beginning of every ride they have, including hacks, to create this lovely walk, and then progress into more exciting things like trot work. Then if they should have a breather, they will aim to ride into the lovely walk and if not, then regenerate it, for a couple of minutes, before having a long rein. When they pick up the work she must make sure the walk is good before picking up trot or canter. Even when jumping, if she can set off with a good walk then the trot, canter, and jumps comes beautifully.
Basically I want her and her horse to get into the habit of having a good walk so that transitions in dressage tests, such as “transition to walk for one horses length” are not difficult to achieve and don`t affect the following movements. Hopefully by decreasing the time spent dawdling along will mean the horse forgets how to dawdle and his walk improves at the beginning of his schooling sessions.
So this challenge of spending an extra five minutes focusing on the walk does not only apply to those whose horse`s have a poor walk (which incidentally is the hardest gait to improve) but for those who`s horse tends to anticipate and jog. For example, when riding simple changes it`s easy to rush the walk strides, but time spent ensuring you have a walk not a jog will pay off in future dressage tests. As I said earlier, the walk is the hardest gait to improve, but it is also the easiest to ruin.
So readers, my challenge for you guys in February is to spent a little extra time on your walk; be it walking on the road, your walk at the beginning of the schooling session, your walk elements in your more complicated school movements, or your walk at the end of a session. Don`t rush through your warm up walk, or collapse in a heap in your cool down walk, but create a walk that you are happy with before moving onto the next thing.