Dressage for the Non-Horsey Boyfriend - Part 2: The Walk

Leave arena at A in walk on a long rein

In the first post of this series we talked about the halt (and why it is important, why it is that difficult...read it again here in case you missed it:  http://www.dressagehafl.com/2014/09/dressage-for-non-horsey-boyfriend-part.html).

As usual, let us read first what the FEI Rule Book has to say about the walk:

Not yet in the rule book of the FEI: the walk in hand

1. The walk is a marching pace in a regular and well-marked four (4) times beat with equal intervals between each beat. This regularity combined with full relaxation must be
maintained throughout all walk movements.

2. When the foreleg and the hind leg on the same side move almost on the same beat, the walk tends to become an almost lateral movement. This irregularity, which might become an ambling movement, is a serious deterioration of the pace.

3. The following walks are recognized: Medium walk, Collected walk, Extended walk and Free walk. There should always be a clear difference in the attitude and overtracking in these variations.

3.1. Medium walk. A clear, regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. The Horse, remaining “on the bit”, walks energetically but relaxed with even and determined steps, the hind feet touching the ground in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The Athlete maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth, allowing the natural movement of the Horse’s head and neck.
3.2. Collected walk. The Horse, remains “on the bit”, moves resolutely forward, with its neck raised and arched and showing a clear self-carriage. The head approaches the vertical position and a light contact is maintained with the mouth. The hind legs are engaged with good hock action. The pace should remain marching and vigorous, the feet being placed in regular sequence. The steps cover less ground and are higher than at the medium walk, because all the joints bend more markedly. The Collected walk is shorter than the Medium walk, although showing greater activity.
3.3. Extended walk. The Horse covers as much ground as possible, without haste and without losing the regularity of the steps. The hind feet touch the ground clearly in front of the hoof prints of the fore feet. The Athlete allows the Horse to stretch out the head and neck

Here is the corresponding graphical overview of the phases in walk:

For beginners, the walk is seemingly the easiest pace. The movement is three dimensional and is similar when we are walking - this is also the reason why the walk is used in equine assisted therapy. The more you climb up the dressage ladder, the more difficult the walk turns out to be. This is due to the fact, that most of the time the rider is hindering the horse from using it's full potential by doing too much. The other difficulty lies in the pace itself. Not all horses have a good walk! Unlike the canter (and even more the trot), the walk can hardly be imporoved. It is more likely that riders destroy the walk than improve it. The trot on the other hand is the easiest to improve (see also the post previously written on the Spanish Walk to increase shoulder freedom: http://www.dressagehafl.com/2013/12/the-spanish-walk-for-more-shoulder.html).

Walk and Talk

Just like yesterday when I started our riding session with a extra long walk portion, I once again realized that solving problems in walk help tremendously in the other gaits I had Hafl supple in walk already after doing all sorts of lateral movements in the beginning and finishing with some collecting exercises. He was peacefully chewing on his bit, his back feeling open and upwards. It was easy to halt (oh yes we got that one in a lifetime halt where he was not only square but his hind legs being very deep under his body! Not at all from a sliding stop but from a well introduced half halt sequence ...I was so happy and there was nobody to take a picture - hmpf!). Trotting and cantering was no issue at all, nor was it to ask for any lateral movement.So just think about walk sessions and how exhausting they could be when varying tempo, degree of collection, straight and bent lines, straight and lateral movements. With that being said, I do not care about the worst footing to come - winter is just around the corner. You can work your horse efficiently in walk as well - and solving problems there, will help everywhere else.

Never forget to smile!!!
PS: First srain (snow and rain) today in Carinthia - more to come....I can see myself doing a lot of walk work already now...

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