Dressage: Troubleshooting Your Horse’s Free Walk
Submitted by member: Brianna
I have two horses that need some help at the free walk. If I push too much on one of my horses, he breaks into the trot. Then after the free walk (he likes to stretch clear down to the buckle), how do I bring him back up for a medium walk without interrupting his forward movement? The other horse goes too fast at the walk, and as soon as the reins get loose, he zooms forward. How do I get him to slow down?
Answer by Verena Mahin
It’s wonderful your horse loves to stretch to the buckle, so we try not to discourage this. However, in a test when you have to go from free walk to medium walk without loss of rhythm, it’s very important to practice at home using various exercises. Towards the end of your free walk, start gathering up the reins and pay close attention that your seat does not stop moving with the rhythm of the walk. It’s easy to get tight and stop moving your hips, at which point the horse’s back tightens, and either loses energy, or scoots into the trot losing the walk. You can also try a little shoulder-fore or leg yield as you gather up the reins to keep bend and suppleness.
When a horse zooms forward as soon as the loose rein is offered, it’s important to keep contact until it’s safe to fully let go. Meaning you must practice letting the reins out one notch at a time. The moment the horse rushes forward, gather up the reins and start over until the horse learns to stay with you and not plan his/her escape. This requires loads of patience, bending lines, leg yields, and consistency until your horse learns to relax in the walk.
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Verena is the owner and trainer at the California based VS Dressage Inc. She has had many successes at FEI level, competing and coaching through Grand Prix. In 2011 she coached two riders representing Puerto Rico at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Verena clinics all over the country. Learn more about her and how to book a clinic at: www.vsdressage.com