Walk it Out
Posted by Lorraine on Jun 2, 2012
This is the 100th post at School Your Horse! That’s at least 100 different things to do in the school with your horse. Now tell me it’s boring! If it’s not inspiration you’re after but advice get in touch via the forum or email email@example.com . My advice is free (what you do with it is up to you) so don’t be shy, try me
In the meantime here’s something to keep you going -
Does the thought of enforced walking exercise send you to sleep? Don’t let it! Walk may be the slowest pace but it’s actually one of the most useful. If you or your horse have had time off it’s the best pace to use to get you fitter and build up your muscles.
If your horse is unfit six twenty minute sessions a week are far better than two one hour sessions. Imagine how you feel after an hour in the gym? If he’s feeling stiff from the previous day’s exercise he’ll be less than enthusiastic about doing it again. By keeping your sessions short you can keep his attention too. There’s no end to the things you can do –
- Work on straightness http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/04/16/get-straight-to-the-point/
- sharpen up his response to your leg http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/05/05/great-expectations/
- practise free walk on a long rein http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/08/06/free-walk-on-a-long-rein-not-off-it/
- improve your leg aids by using them at the correct time - http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/03/27/perfect-timing/
- improve your contact just by changing the position of your thumb – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/25/thumbs-up-or-down/
- or your position by changing the way you think – http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2011/10/29/pull-up-to-ride-forward/
- And don’t forget about halt! http://www.schoolyourhorse.com/2012/02/04/halt-the-stationary-pace/
Walking exercise is the perfect time to tackle bad habits. They take months to form so don’t expect them to go away overnight. Be consistent so your horse knows you really mean it this time. He may have started it but only you can finish it.
There is no better way to make a horse jog than trying to avoid it. Jogging is caused by tension. That stems from you. If your horse jogs don’t tighten your contact and pull at his mouth. Hold your reins as if you were holding a child’s hand – not trying to break it! Keep your thumb clamped down on top of your reins to keep hold of your contact but keep your fingers relaxed around the reins. And never take your legs off. Your legs push his hocks under his body. If you have a steady rein contact you’ll push his quarters closer to his shoulders and encourage him to round his back not hollow it.
Many horses are lazy in walk. Some would rather jog than walk on properly. Others can barely lift one foot off the floor! Most do it because they can. If you can’t be bothered why should your horse? Get both legs on and push him forward into a steady contact. Show him that walk is a pace just like trot and canter. If he doesn’t listen tap him up with your whip. Every time. One sharp tap is more effective – and kinder – than several side-numbing kicks with your heel.
Often getting your horse back into work is just about getting ‘miles on the clock’ to strengthen an injured muscle or tendon. You may not want to school him but you know you need to walk him out for twenty minutes – or longer – and keep him busy. By using a set routine you’ll find you have something to focus on and time goes much quicker. Try this –
Start by walking large twice. Then after A turn down the ¾ line and go large. Next time round turn down the centre line and go large. Finally ride down one ¾ line and up the next. Now change the rein and do it all again on the other rein. Do that twice on each rein and call it a day. It takes longer than you think. Instead of wondering what you’re going to do for twenty minutes you’ll be surprised to find you’ve over run.
If that doesn’t appeal to you try riding a 20m circle at A, E, C and B on each rein followed by a three loop serpentine from A and C on each rein. Done once it will take you about 15 minutes. Add a figure of eight using both diagonals to make it 20.
A horse coming back into work – especially on box rest – can be a challenge. Your once calm, quiet riding club horse can turn into a highly strung ball of adrenalin when he sees the tack. Common sense is required here NOT heroics! Yes, your horse may have to stay on straight lines in walk but sometimes rules have to be bent a little. If you feel him getting tense change the rein or ride a small circle immediately to grab his attention. Whatever you do don’t give him time to stop or think! Keep both legs on to keep him moving forward and turn or circle up and down the school until you feel him relax. The odd small circle or sharp turn won’t kill him but cavorting across the school while you (hopefully) demonstrate your stickability will do nothing for his injury.
Walk exercise doesn’t have to be boring. If your horse has been off work for some time you can be sure he’ll try to liven up the experience for you. Work out a plan of action before you tack up. Get him focused on your ideas and leave the ones he has in his head for another day.
Good luck, stay safe and try to enjoy your schooling!
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