Working the Walk

I had a fantastic, super productive, we-made-progress, light bulb moments and all ride last night on Liam… and it was all done at the walk!

He came in from turn out Tuesday with a small scrape on his knee and his knee was a little puffy. I gave him the day off, and yesterday his knee looked mostly better, just a little bit of puffiness remained. I put him on a lunge line just to be sure, and he trotted sound and the knee didn’t seem to bug him a bit. I wanted to do just an easy ride, to be really sure, so I got him all tacked up and after walking on a loose rein for a few minutes, I started to work at the walk… and before I knew it, almost 40 minutes had gone by and we were still walking!

I was working on lateral work, and more specifically, on changing his bend and moving either his shoulders or his haunches to change the bend or reposition his body, and staying off the rail while doing it.  Then once I felt like I had good control of his shoulders and haunches separately, I did the two together.

It was interesting, because usually I just jump right in to the hard stuff, but we’ve always found it more difficult to do a haunches in or half pass with left bend. When I started just by moving his shoulders around (think like neck reining a really big turn on the haunches), he moved easily to the right, but was more resistant to the left. So I turned back and forth making a weird sorta serpentine shape until I could move his shoulders back and forth without resistance. Then I tightened it up and did an actual turn on the haunches until he moved easily both directions. Then I went right to a step of turn on the forehand each way, just to be sure my leg was moving his back end around, and it was. I don’t like to do much turn on the forehand with him because I worry that he will strain his ankle (old racing injury there, don’t want him to accidentally twist that joint!), but just getting a step is enough to know if I am getting the response I am looking for or not.

Once I could easily move his shoulders or his haunches separately, I started putting together combinations of aids. I went up the centerline asking for a shoulder in then a haunches out, then I used a turn on the haunches to turn back to the centerline, where I leg yielded to the quarter line and then half passed back to the centerline. Then I came up the quarterline again, riding two steps forward, two steps of leg yield, two steps forward, two steps of leg yield. The combinations are endless, and the exercises kept me making constant little adjustments and placing each of his hooves in a specific place. It kept him really focused and paying attention to all my aids, and really thinking about coordinating his legs.

It’s not a ride I would have planned, but I think it was really beneficial for both of us. Slowing things down and breaking up the aids and responses really helped us to put movements back together with an improved clarity and understanding. I think I will run back through this in our warmup today, and then try the same sort of stuff at the trot!

An additional benefit is that now my focus is totally changed when I get back on Remy. His week of hand walks is almost over (thank goodness!) and the bump on his tendon is almost completely gone, but the vet still wants him on stall rest for 2 more weeks. For the last two weeks, I can ride him, but only at a walk for 20 minutes a day. When I was first given those instructions, I must admit, I kinda thought “Why bother riding then?”, thinking only about how lovely his canter felt the last time I rode him. Now, the situation hasn’t changed, but my attitude has. I can walk for 2 weeks, and I only get 20 minutes a day. This is my opportunity to put an awesome foundation on him, that will help all of our trot and canter work, all the way up the levels for the rest of our lives!  I will make each walk productive, and use the time to break down all my aids and explain to him the responses I am looking for. I will teach him how to coordinate his body to hold together different positions in lateral work.  I can work on getting the perfect halt every time, and practice a free walk. It’s actually a lot to accomplish in only 2 weeks of 20 minute walks.   All of this, of course, also assumes that he continues to handle the stall rest as well as he has been 🙂

6 thoughts on “Working the Walk

  1. Funny – yesterday was almost entirely walk work with Tucson, too.

    He’s been figuring out “sit” – and with his big TB heart, he thinks that means even long and stretchy must be done with very bent hocks, no matter how I tell him to relax and take it easy on himself. He then continues to practice lateral work and transitions in and out of his biggest medium trot in turnout. And so, he’s had sore muscles. Yesterday was a massage for him, and while he was relaxed and ready to work HARD, I decided we needed to RELAX for the ride. I rode about 40 minutes, and about 5 of that was at a trot and canter. We may take more rides like that one, because it was good for him to move and make it easy on himself – his walk is by FAR his best gait, without any help. Huge overstep, swinging back, naturally uphill.

    I think out lateral work on the buckle is starting to get him finally really understanding listening to my body instead of trying to rely on reins for steering, as well. I’ve started trying to incorporate more and more walk work to start every ride. The corresponding positive to this is that it gets my hips loose and removes any back stiffness, so I can ride him better.

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