This month I’m looking at the gait of walk, a pace that is often over looked as a training tool and frequently over ridden.
Walk is a four-beat pace, left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore with no moment of suspension. There should be 4 regular beats to the steps, 1-2-3-4, not a broken rhythm which often seen now where the beats are 1-2, 3-4.
The horse should walk slowly with activity and power. Developing this is not easy, often riders push the horse with their legs to create some impulsion, but unfortunately this usually serves to break the rhythm of the walk and some horses can now be seen making a 3-beat stride where they move a lateral pair of legs at the same time. What is most important is that the horse remains in balance and does not put weight into its shoulders.
The rider should move their back and pelvis with the horse’s back, and to extend or collect the walk, the rider must use their back and waist, not their legs which will press the horse too much and cause a break in the rhythm. Riders that move their arms in a pumping action are not correctly using their back and seat.
Although walk lacks natural impulsion, it is a good learning pace for horse and rider. Developing new exercises in walk gives the rider and horse time to understand the aids and position required for the movement. Both have the space to think and explore the movements, feeling the necessary corrections and for the horse to develop his balance.
Riding lateral movements in a steady rhythmical walk develops strength and suppleness in horses. When you are short of time, riding lateral movements in walk are far more beneficial to the horse than trotting or cantering for the same period of time.
Diane Followell Classical Dressage Trainer
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