The Under-Appreciated Walk
Rodney and Milton and I have done a lot of walking. At home, we are trying to keep our shit together. At new places, we are trying to keep our shit together. In the winter, we are stomping through the mud. So, I’ve been thinking about the walk lately.
In bad weather, we try to make it interesting [Rain] or do what work we can. Both Milton and Rodney have a tendency to shorten their front ends. Milton telescopes his neck. Rodney curls up like a shrimp. Recently, we used the walk time to work on getting both horses to stretch their necks out. When a horse sucks back, it is almost automatic to adjust the reins to reestablish a connection. Instead, I kept my reins the same length, repeated the request to move forward, and gritted my teeth to ignore any telescoping, inverting or shrimping.
Since Milton is green, I kept him on big circles and booted him forward. I wanted to trot. How I wanted to trot. But then I started to wonder, would trotting help or would I simply be making the same mistake faster? Instead of trying to squeeze in a few steps of trot, we staying in walk and keep at it.
With Rodney, I added figure 8s to give him something to focus on. He would want to trot off, but trotting on a tight turn was too much work. Similarly, rounding the front end and going forward from the back end was too much like dressage. Out came the neck.
After a few repetitions of the exercise, both horses had made what felt like real progress. All three of us were certainly tired. I felt that going slowly had helped me be clear in my own mind, which enabled me to be clear to the horses.
To work at the walk properly, you need a ground person, or at least I do. The changes are so small, I needed someone telling me, ‘Yes, you got a response. Reward it.’ Or, ‘Nope, not yet. Keep trying.’
Have I discovered a fundamental truth of flat work?
Am I fabricating a theoretical silk purse out of the sow’s ear that is our footing?
Thank you for reading,