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
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