Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Speeding Up a Slowing Walking Horse

James wrote to describe his slow walking horse and ask what he can do to get his horse to move out quicker,...."I have a 9 year old gelding who I've been riding lately. He's got a good head and pretty stout, but that dang horse walks slower than any horse I've ever had. Doesn't matter if he's in a group or if I'm riding him by myself. If I'm riding with someone he always falls behind and when I urge him to go faster he always goes into a trot. I'm looking for any recommendations on how to get him to walk faster."

Hey James, sounds like your horse is not barn or buddy sour at least - that's a good thing. But that ain't much comfort when your on a aggravatingly slow walking horse. Nor it is fun to ask your horse to step out at the walk and then he breaks into a trot all the time.  I don't spend much time correcting a slow walk, nor have I been very successful at changing a slow walking horse into a faster one. I've had a couple horses who were naturally faster walkers, but on the slower ones if I need to get someplace I'll be going at the trot or canter anyway. But I would try these things:

Eliminating any chance that you are contact with the horse's mouth and inadvertently giving him a signal that causes him to slow his momentum. I think it's actually common for riders to think they are riding with a loose rein but as the horse steps out with a front leg, the rein tightens and they get a signal, however slight, that slows their momentum. So make sure you aren't doing this.

The horse at a walk moves in a four beat gait. If the rear left foot is moving forward and is placed on the ground, the front left, then rear right, then front right in that order. You can try getting your horse to walk faster by squeezing with your same side leg as the horse's front leg is moving forward and being placed on the ground. You would squeeze in the forward position behind the elbow rather than squeezing or rolling your heel into the horse's barrel. The idea is the horse will bring that extended foot back quicker. This is pretty awkward, especially if you try to squeeze on both sides alternatively in rhythm with the front feet.   I would suggest just using one leg.  The picture at right shows where I would use my leg in a forward position to squeeze as that front leg is being placed.  Again, a little awkward and I don't get consistent results this way.  

You will likely have the best results using your seat moving in rhythm with your horse then increasing the tempo and therefore the horse's walking pace. You can add a squeeze with your legs and with your seat. What work best for me is increasing the tempo with my seat and squeezing three quick times in rhythm with his foot placement.  If my horse breaks into a trot, I don't immediately correct it, nor do I get all worked up about it.  I'll let him go a few paces then ask for the walk again and start over.    

Whatever you do that helps your horse move out a a little quicker at the walk, you have to repeat often in the beginning and hopefully less often as your horse better understands what you are asking for.  What I think would be frustrating for the horse, and you as well, is to go out on the trail and work on a faster walk for a lot miles.   I would try asking for a faster walk for a shorter period of time then build on that.    

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