Perfecting your prelim 12: mastering your free walk

Welcome to your third e-Training lesson. Here Keith Robertson shares his top tips for mastering your free walk, and we focus on prelim 12. How are you getting on so far with your e-Training? Remember to let us know how you find this week’s session in our Facebook group!

Session 1: Changing the rein in free walk

With a free walk, the braver you are, the better the mark can be. You want to allow the horse to stretch and take the contact, without throwing the reins at him.

Look to achieve rhythm in your walk and softness in the neck. Although it’s a free walk, a clear four beat rhythm is preferable, rather than one that hurries.

To try at home…

If your horse struggles to stretch, ride a circle to help keep the shape through his body and neck.

If he is inconsistent in the hand, gently hold the contact until he’s still and then try and let go a little more. 

Repetition is key — you want to teach your horse to be confident, eventually allowing him to stretch down further.

When you take up the reins the judge wants to see a smooth transition, so practise gradually picking up the contact at home, so the horse doesn’t struggle or tighten.

If he gets tense, take the contact up slowly over a period of three or four sections, rather than all in one go.

Let others know if you found this session effective in our Facebook group.

Session 2: Half 20m circles in free walk

In prelim 12 you are required to ride a half 20m circle in free walk (double score). Lots of people allow the horse to become inattentive during this movement, so don’t drop him onto the buckle of the reins. 

To try at home…

Practise riding a free walk on a curved line. It is beneficial for green horses, or those who struggle with the contact, as it encourages them to have more bend. Ensure you keep an even contact between your hands – don’t hang off the rein to get the bend. Instead, think about creating the bend with your legs as well as your hands.

When riding the half circle, be careful not to “strangle” the walk — allow the horse to continue marching forward. If the horse gets tense when returning to medium walk from free walk, wait longer to pick up your reins.

Have several walk breaks in training so that when you pick the horse up again he doesn’t necessarily anticipate he’s about to be asked to trot — you want him to expect to be asked but not predict when. 

Session 3: Practise the whole test

It’s now time to practise riding the test as a whole, but first watch this week’s test riding video with Isobel Wessels:

Although we will focus on other prelim 12 movements throughout the series, for now ensure that you’re comfortable with the following:

  • Half circle 10m diameter
  • Half circle 20m diameter in free walk (double score)
  • Transitions when changing the rein

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