Friday, March 19, 2010

The Working Walk

Many, many years ago, back when I fancied myself a potential show horse trainer, I worked for a crotchety old man. My job was starting all of the young horses that came to the barn and training his WP prospects.

Boy, looking back, I really thought I knew something about training horses. Starting colts was easy. I had been doing that since I was barely in my teens. I had advanced a lot over the years. But I was eager to learn the magic training tricks that produced a finished WP horse. I just knew there had to be a secret to it.

So I rode and rode and watched and watched this old man. Hoping to gleen some of that magic for myself. I finally had to break down and ask him, "What's the trick to finishing a WP horse?"

That old man looked at me like I was crazy.

Tipping his chin down, he looked at me very sternly and replied, "There are NO tricks to finishing a horse. It's just more of the same until they are finished."

Needless to say, I had no idea what he was saying.

He started to walk out of the barn, but turned around and added, "But I'll tell you one thing...You need to walk your horses more."


Hearing that sounded just like my mom and step-dad.

It's not like I was allowed to spend my life charging around on my horses. I walked them.

Just not very successfully, apparently.

When I was even younger than when I was working at this barn, I used to hate riding with my mom. She could get on any horse and they just magically walked out. They also walked home very nicely.

My horses?

Dance, dance, jig, jig.

I blamed it on the horse.

Mom proved me wrong by switching horses with me several times.

My dancing, jigging fool would soon, if not immediately drop into a nice, long-strided walk.

The horse she had been riding?

A dancing, jigging fool under me.

To this day, I have never figured out exactly what I did that caused that particular phenomina. The only thing I can figure is that my brain was telling my body that it didn't particularly care for this slow gait and the horse's picked up on the vibe.

After having my bubble burst by a trainer I thought knew quite a bit, I did spend more time walking my horses. Not that I spent any actual training time at it at first. But eventually I did start doing more.

Fast-forward in time and I have come to use 'the walk' as the valuable conditioning and training tool it is.

Classical dressage riders have known this for how many eons? LOL

To be continued...


GoLightly said...

Brilliant, and perfectly true.

Walking is the beginning, I'm still not sure why we skip over it so quick.
Starting at the beginning.

OH, and ya know, I'm still ruminating your last comment. Thanks, it really helped a lot!

More of the same, until they are finished.

Vaquerogirl said...

Its funny how a horse will pick up on the slightest cues. When Lil Mama rides my gelding Desi, he's a different horse, all scooty and pissed off. She rides with a kink in her butt and he feels it I guess!

fernvalley01 said...

I think that might be an age/experience thing. I used to make my horses a little hotter just in the way I rode , now I have a deeper more settled seat , and generaly it translates into a nice ground covering walk from the horse

fernvalley01 said...

I love the comment from your trainer
"just more of the same until they are finished"

fernvalley01 said...

hope that didn't come off as condescending. Just meant that the way you posted this was an issue in the past that you have overcome. I just think when we start out we are in such a hrry , and as wse progress with horses the more settled we become

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Fern-That's exactly it. I remember thinking I was pretty smart and knew so much more than my 'elders' ever had when I was younger. The older I get, the more I realize just how much they really did know and I'm more and more like them all the time. LOL

More than once, when I have been working with my daughter, I have opened my mouth and my mom fell out-LMAO.

Mrs Mom said...

Amen sista!

lol @ your mom falling out.... ;)

Andrea said...

Oh, if I had a penny for every time I said that to a young kid! One of the things that drives me the most nuts is when a young kids gets on a horse and the first thing they do is lope around. They just run the horse everywhere. I am a walking fool!! LOL

My husband is like you when you where younger. He and I ride this same horse, Lady. She is a nut job. When he is on her she bucks, trots like a MF, and hand gallops everywhere. When I get on her, the same day, she drops her head and walks, trots, and lopes, like a WP horse. I don't do anything but sit there. So, I don't know what to tell my husband but "just relax"!! LOL It's amazing what some walking will do. Great post!

Merri said...

I believe the Walk is one of THE most important training and conditioning tools. Maybe the Secret Tool!

I visited some top endurance trainers in Australia and Europe with fast horses, and was astonished at how much walking they did. I thought they would be out cantering and galloping every day. Nope.

Walking is good for the body, and so good for the mind, for any kind of riding.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

Rising Rainbow said...

You gotta love a trainer who doesn't believe in tricks and puts in the time. Not enough of them around!!

I love the walk but I don't work enough on it either. I do lots of flexing and bending at the walk but never any just plain walking. Seems to always be an after thought. Then it's time to show and, guess what, we have to walk!! My horse always walks fine but I'm always sweating whether he's going to stay in the bridle or stick that pretty little muzzle of his out. LOL

Kristen said...

growing up my horses always got jittery and I just blamed it on the horse. My trainer always would correct me and tell me it was me. Of course as I child I KNEW that he was wrong and just didn't understand the horse! It's amazing the lessons we learn over years!

City girl turned Country Girl said...

And that's what makes you so good with horses!! The ability to "overcome" yourself so to speak! Great post! And I too LOL'd at "your mom fell out"!!

cdncowgirl said...

I've read many times that to get a GOOD walk is one of the toughest things to achieve

~The South Dakota Cowgirl~ said...

I actually believe that you can get a horse broke at the walk alone. Crazy I know. But we all have to walk before we run. So it makes sense for our horses. I've always been one that follows the dressage rider's bible when it comes to walking. We do lots and lots of walking. I have to slow down on my colts, b/c frankly I haven't ridden a lot of colts; mostly blown up or on the verge of being blown up cutters/reiners/barrel horses that needed the walking and backing and feet placement exercise of the one rein stop, disengaging the hindquarters or moving their shoulders. Walking is good for your horse. Maybe you rode more tense than your mom? Or maybe your mom believed they could walk and you didn't like that, and the horse sensed it? it's funny to be sure!