What’s Important About a Flat Footed Walk?
I have been riding a lot lately and truly enjoy working with many horses as well as my own. You learn so much when you get the chance to work with other horses..and other seasoned riders!
Though the years I have had the opportunity to ride many disciplines and have learned from both lessons and ‘trial and error’ (although I tried not to be on the side of error often). It seems that I have found, just when you think you ‘have it’, sometimes, you don’t! There is always so much to learn, it amazes me. And maybe it’s because I continually look for better, easier or, if you will, a simpler way to ride. ~ Which leads me to one of the most fundamental and basic principles…the walk.
The simple walk can profoundly be one of the most over looked gates that riders ‘skip’ learning. As Steve, a family friend and trainer from Ultra Morgans says, “The flat-footed walk is one of the most important gates to attain with your horse.” And why? Because when you have a flat-footed walk, you have gained the horses complete ‘trust’!
Think about it ~ have you watched other riders with their horses ‘dancing’ at the walk, only to see them completely uncollected at the trot and worse at the canter? Have you ever watched one rider work a horse with ease while , yet another rider, on the same horse, has issues. It all starts at the walk. Accomplishing that 4 beat even walk can be one of the hardest things you do with your horse. The practice to gain it may seem long and repetitious but the reward of your horses trust is the basis for every other gate you ask him to give you.
How would your horse do when put into a situation that asks more from him? For example, when you go out on a trail, in an area he is not familiar with or when you trailer to another area? What if you were in a touchy situation by a road or in an open field -(one step further….), with the wind blowing in a large open field? See what I mean?
Establishing the simple flat footed walk will be one of the safest things you can do for both you and your horse. Gather your reigns so you feel slight contact. Start by asking your horse for to ‘walk’. That voice cue needs to ‘tell’ your horse what you want and sound confident. A tone that indicates a question or worry will do just that – and your horse will not look to you as his ‘leader’ but rather loose confidence. Use your lower leg and briefly squeeze. A small forward seat motion will give encouragement, if needed. Always, as soon as your horse does what you ask, reward him by removing pressure. (This does not mean throw the reigns to your horse, but rather, give to the pressure). That is a huge reward that many people don’t realize. Horses that are not rewarded will once again try to do what the rider is asking…he may back up, dance, throw his head or lock his jaw. ~ Allow your hands to follow your horses head with slight contact. Look in the direction you want to go and keep your head up. Keep your eyes soft rather than looking directly on a spot. Relax and breath.. it makes a difference at any gate. Practice the ‘Whoa’ cue while pulling on the reigns and releasing as soon as your horse indicates a stop. Once again, the reward is released pressure.
If you are having any behavior problems at the walk, seek out a seasoned rider or trainer to help you establish good habits before bad ones set in. Often it only takes a few tips that will make all the difference in your ride and your horses ‘trust’ in your requests.
So get your ‘flat footed walk’ with your horse and you will be able to ride places you never have – outside of an indoor, through the woods, down the road and even in a parade! (Ever wondered if you could?? :). Heres to you and your horse! Wishing you the best rides of your life!