Believe it or not, you can accomplish a lot with your horse by simply walking. And this applies to leading him around, as well as being up in the saddle. Walking can improve ground manners, your physical health (as well as your horse) and also build trust for the both of you.
And if you think walking is not really important in your riding routine, you are missing a fantastic opportunity to build your confidence and even have a better relationship with your horse. Because if you can’t do it well at the walk, it probably isn’t likely you will be successful at the faster gaits either.
So if you find yourself getting frustrated with your riding or training routine, here are 10 benefits of walking your horse.
By walking your horse you will have better control over his movements. When you are moving at a slower pace it is easier to focus on different aspects of how your horse is moving. You can feel everything, partially because you are moving slower.
If you perfect movements and communicating with your horse at the walk before you move on to trot and canter, his performance will be better. Once you have mastered everything at the walk, then you can move to the faster gaits.
We all want supple horses, right? Well it is easier for your horse to be more supple when he is walking than when he is going faster. Some of the exercises you can do to increase your horse’s suppleness at the walk are:
- Shoulder in on a circle
- Angling a leg yield
- Leg yield away from the leading leg
- Traverse on a circle
These are just a few exercises you work on to make your horse more supple.
BETTER LATERAL MOVEMENTS
In order to improve lateral work, start at the walk. It is actually pretty challenging to do lateral work, which basically means getting your horse to move sideways. The most basic lateral movement exercise is a leg yield and this is a great place to get your horse to move away from, or off of your leg.
And lateral work and suppleness go hand in hand, they work together! And that is what you are trying to do with your horse, right?
TEACHING YOUR HORSE TO STAY STRAIGHT
Have you ever tried to make your horse walk a straight line? If you haven’t you should try it. It is a lot easier to think about than actually doing it. It is easier on the rail of an arena, but if you want to challenge yourself, pick something on the opposite side of your riding arena. Now, make your horse move in a straight line to whatever it is you are looking at. It is hard! Well, at least it is for me.
But by getting your horse to move straight at the walk, it will be more natural and easier for him to stay straight at all gaits.
Walking uses less calories, and it is easier for your horse to do than any other gait. And if you are just getting your horse back to work, starting at the walk is best. Your horse (and you) will not be nearly as exhausted after walking for 15 minutes versus if you were trotting for 15 minutes. So in the beginning, or if you are trying to build your own confidence, stay at the walk.
Almost everything that you do at a trot or canter, you can perfect at the walk. And you can ride for a longer period of time if you just focus on the walk.
WALKING CREATES STRENGTH
Think about it, if you can walk your horse longer than you can work at the other gaits, he will still be working and using his muscles, but he won’t get as tired. In time you will see improvement. And if you are consistent, and walk with your horse everyday, or at least 4 to 5 times a week in a month you will see a big improvement in how he looks overall.
Walking helps to increase your horse’s stamina, power and his overall strength.
WALKING IS GOOD FOR MUSCLES
If your horse is balanced in his walk, this will not damage his ligaments, tendons or soft tissues. And walking has the added benefit of making bones stronger. This is not only true for your horse, but for you as well. Walking in most cases will not cause injury or strain to all of the above mentioned parts of you or your horse.
WALKING CREATES A BETTER STRIDE
In time you will find that when you get your horse into a forward walk, meaning an energetic walk his stride will get longer. He will also have better range of motion of all of his body parts. By walking your horse routinely he will become more adaptable, and more adjustable for you, his rider.
WALKING BUILDS CONFIDENCE
This is my favorite benefit of walking. Walking your horse will increase your comfort and confidence level. So if you find yourself being anxious about the faster gaits, don’t sweat it. Stay at the walk until you have it perfected before moving on to trot and canter. If you think about all of the things mentioned above, and master them, I promise you will be much more confident when you decide you are ready to move to the faster gaits.
I am all about taking my time and mastering something before I move up. And mastering the walk is a fantastic place to start. If you can master the walk just think how much easier it will be to move on to trot and canter.
And you can even start this walking work from the ground, and then work under saddle. Concentrate on all of your aids and how you are sitting on your horse while you are improving his walk.
I think if you start slow and build upon your little successes you will be setting yourself up to be a very confident rider.