Spanish walk. Part II.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 12:02 PM
It has been a while since my last blog on Spanish walk. And Santo is already progressed quite a bit. He understands the concept of lifting his legs high, he can execute up to 4 steps in a row. He is grasping the idea of walking forward even though his progression is minimum. This can be developed faster and better under saddle. I like that he is very willing to work on it and has enough balance to lift one leg after another. Most of the time I do not need to touch him with the whip for every step, he lifts his legs himself. His head position is not on a vertical, it is too high and nose out. However, I do not see it as an issue right now. First of all it is easier for him to lift his legs when his head is high. Second, I am nudging him forward with the reins to keep stepping forward. That pulls his nose forward. I do not want to restrict him with side-reins because when I start doing Spanish walk in the saddle it will fix itself. I feel that I have accomplished my goal for this winter and introduced Santo to the idea. He can execute a few steps and is very enthusiastic about it. It would be a good time to start working on Spanish walk under saddle. However, spring is here and show season is here. We need to focus on different goals and Spanish walk under saddle can wait until fall. I will still continue working on it in hand once a week, I do not want him to forget what he accomplished over this winter.
When your horse can strike with each leg after a brisk halt start asking for the strike without halting. You can rebalance your horse, slow him down and then touch him with the whip when he is about to move his near front leg forward to make a step. As soon as he strikes encourage him to move forward. You can do it by clicking your tongue, nudging with the reins, or quickly bringing the whip back and touching your horse on the haunches. After a few walking steps half-halt him to rebalance, slow down and ask with the whip to strike again. The timing is critical here. You may end up working on your timing to catch that perfect moment when leg is about to move forward. The better you are at catching the right moment the faster your horse learns what he is supposed to do. Be patient with yourself and your horse. If things get messy or confused stop working have a quiet walk for a minute and then ask again. Remember to work only for a short period of time and do not forget to change direction to work on the other leg. Walking, watching your horse, watching for right timing, watching where you are in relation to your horse, feeling balanced and coordinated - these things are not easy to accomplish. The less experienced you are working your horse in hand the shorter your work sessions should be and you should not expect fast progress. Look at it as a fun time, a journey into unknown...
When you start to see that your horse is willing and coordinated enough to strike with one leg without halting start asking for two steps in a row. You may need to rebalance your horse with a half-halt while you are asking the far leg to strike or you may have to encourage him to move forward. It depends on your horse. If you are touching your horse's legs on the back of cannon bones or forearms it is not that difficult with dressage whip to reach further and touch the other leg on the back. The trick is to do it quickly, gracefully and at the right moment. If you get even a slightest effort from your horse praise him lavishly. May be even give him a treat if you use them for this work. Do not ask for more than two steps for a while and work on both of your horse's sides. It is important for the symmetrical development.
Your horse will make mistakes - he will stop, he will not lift his legs high enough every time, he will give you two steps easily one day and look like he does not know what you are talking about the very next day. Do not get upset, discouraged or angry. Remember this is very much a highly coordinated movement, that requires a lot of practice from your horse to get it right. If you never done cartwheel before will you be able to perform balanced, light and straight cartwheel in couple months of practicing? Not likely! You need to develop flexibility, muscle coordination, strength in your shoulder girdle, etc. On top of that you must find a way to make your horse love this exercise, otherwise, he will never perform it with brilliance. We will return to Spanish walk in fall when I start teaching it to Santo under saddle.
Happy riding...
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My blog is about teaching, riding and training. I share what is important to me in my work with horses and riders. The writing helps me to think things over and have a better understanding of training ideas and priciples.
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