The ultimate aim of this exercise is to create a regular, four time, purposeful free walk, where your horse is relaxed and soft through his back, poll, jaw and mouth.
Getting your walk right in a dressage test can help you to score the higher marks, even when your horse doesn’t have a good natural walk. On the other hand a poor walk, or breaking in the walk, can really decrease your final score.
Here are three tips to help perfect your free walk. The exercise doesn’t take a lot of time and can be done out hacking, as well as schooling.
1. Getting a longer stride
Use a shallow angle of leg yield on a circle or straight line. Encourage an inside bend by feeling down the inside rein and asking the horse to move away from the inside leg until he accepts the aids. The pace will become more relaxed, so the over-track will improve.
2. Riding the free walk
Ride the free walk as it appears in your test. Sit centrally with loose hips and soft hands and elbows. Slowly let your arms move forward while maintaining a slight inside bend. Push the walk forward gently with alternate legs until your horse is reaching for the bit.
3. Back to medium walk
Some horses predict the upward transition and jog. Make a series of halt transitions during training, then remind your horse in the test with a half-halt. Keep a soft leg contact on your horse’s side to reassure him. Gather the reins carefully, keeping a slight inside bend.
What can go wrong?
Creating leg-to-hand pressure by using too much leg and a fixed contact will cause tension. Keep an influence over your horse’s mouth, but avoid sudden changes with the contact — make changes in the length of reins progressive.
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find out more about getting the magazine delivered to your door every week.