Spanish walk. Work under saddle.
Posted by Irina Yastrebova on Saturday, February 9, 2013 04:11 PM
This is the third blog on Spanish walk. I started teaching Santo Spanish walk last winter and wrote two blogs on the subject. I strongly recommend reading them first. Please click here for the part I and here for the part II
During the show season I stopped working on Spanish walk except asking for couple steps once a week or even less frequently. During those occasional sessions I wanted him to develop more forward momentum and connect steps in a fluid and balanced way. After last show I returned to regular twice a week work in hand. I was requesting 3 and then 4 steps one after the other. I wanted him to swing his legs high and straight and keep stepping forward. By now he can do 6-8 regular, even steps with high action and good balance. He is starting to really understand the movement and all I need to do is bring the whip in front of his chest. I do tap him on a particular leg if it didn't come up high enough. As long as he is doing a good job I am not even touching him. And this is important positive reinforcement, do not keep tapping if it is not nessaccery!
In November I started working on initial training under saddle. Because I work alone and do not have a helper to make the transition from in-hand work to under saddle work I created a special procedure. The first thing I teach a horse under saddle is to strike with his front leg on command. I usually do this work at the end of the ride. I decide which leg I am going to ask to strike and have a whip on that side in my hand. I halt and then lift the rein on the same side slightly up. At the same time I lightly tap with the whip on the shoulder until the horse lifts his leg. If the horse instead of lifting his leg tries to back up or turn I will use other aids to prevent the unwanted movement and will keep tapping on the shoulder until I get a very small lift. Immediately I will stop asking, praise the horse and dismount. Working on it every other ride I will teach the horse to lift a leg immediately upon lift of the corresponding rein and touch of the whip on the same shoulder. When I feel the horse got the idea I start asking the lift of the leg every few strides of walk making my halts shorter and shorter in duration until the horse starts to lift the leg without completely halting. I work one leg at a time. Santo right now at this stage and he usually anticipates the lifting aids and gives me two steps in a row lifting each leg even though I am asking only one. I praise such enthusiasm because I want eventually exactly that. I emphasize lifting of the hand aid rather than tap with the whip. I do not tap if I don't have to. This shows the horse the better he performs the less taps will there be. Now Santo is ready to try doing two steps in a row on request. However, for this I need two whips so I can correct the leg if lifting of the rein alone does not produce desired action.
When you reach this stage it is mostly practice and polishing things up until the horse builds enough coordination, balance and understanding of aids to do several steps in a row which eventualy can be prolonged to as many steps as you want. I just received Phillipe Karl's third DVD from his "Classical Dressage: Légerèté - the Philosophy of ease" series which has work on collection including teaching a horse to do Spanish walk. He is talking about how using Spanish walk you can teach any horse to perform a decent passage. The other interesting point he makes is that you cannot beat Spanish walk out of horse or use coehrsive devices. The horse must learn it, understand it and be willing to perform. By the way, the ideas and views of Phillipe Karl influence my work with horses the most right now.
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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