Unless your horse is in rehab, you probably don’t ever just walk your horse anymore. I know that I certainly never did when Scottie was in full work. But after him having time off for various reasons, Scottie’s arthritis has flared up a little. It improves after a good walk so while things are still pretty busy, I am sticking to walk until I know I will have more time to do more. But do you know what I have realised? Just how valuable walking is.
Walk is one of the harder paces to improve. It’s also the most boring one. It is so easy to just let our horses walk a few laps before picking up into trot. But how many of us can admit that our walk could do with some improvement? Scottie’s walk was always on the slightly poor side of average. He wasn’t going anywhere, he didn’t want to stretch and while he wasn’t doing anything wrong, it certainly wasn’t going to wow anyone. But I never really addressed it. I just focused on his good trot and improving his canter, the area we lost the most marks.
But having spent so much time walking Scottie over the past few years, I am really starting to apprechiate how important the walk is. Currently, we are walking for 30 mins. That is our entire ride. When he was at his best after his steroid injection for arthritis and we were back cantering, I was still walking for a bare minimum of 20 mins before trotting. Because I can feel the difference in him after a good walk.
When I first get on, especially if I ride in the morning when he has been in all night, he is still. He feels a bit stilted behind. He is relucant to work over his back and to keep his hind end straight behind him. He can feel sluggish and just generally not up for it.
But after as little as 10-15 mins he can feel like a different horse. He is more willing to go forward. He is more stable in the contact. He is carrying himself in an outline without reminders from me. He is willing to bend left and right, not just go round on both reins bending left! After about 20 mins I start to feel him lift through his back, pushing the saddle up. He starts to want to stretch down in a lovely stretchy outline. We have our best free walk after 20 mins!
So I am really starting to enjoy our walking sessions as I can see that his walk is the best it has ever been. As much as I want to progress again, I am in no rush to. If we keep walking for another couple of months until things calm down again, it will still do him good. It will still keep him moving and it will still keep him using and building muscle.
I’m also thinking of entering another Walk test. Dressage Riders Online run a great Walk Only test aimed at horses in rehab. We have done this before and I think I might do it again while I am really pleased with how his walk is looking.
Do you ever just walk your horse? Or do you have agood 10+ mins of walk at the start of a ride?