Horse Riding Lessons Blog

Improving a Short Striding Walk

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We’ve talked about how to correct a horse which rushes in walk. Another walking problem a horse can develop is taking overly short strides. If your horse does this, include following corrective work in your riding lesson plans.

Short Strides: Why They Are a Fault

When a horse is walking properly, his hind hooves land ahead of the imprint of his front feet. This is achieved when the horse is relaxed and allowed to stride out.

The walk is a very important and much ignored gait. If you plan to compete in dressage shows, you’ll quickly discover how much emphasis is placed on a correct walk. Even at the basic walk-trot test level (Introductory Level) the marks given to the walk phase are doubled. This continues throughout the levels.

Why Short Strides Happen

Many riders take their horses out on the trails or wander around the arena with their horses walking painfully slowly on too short a rein, while their jockeys chat to their friends.

There’s nothing wrong with chatting to your friends as you ride: it’s one of the fun parts of riding with others. But don’t restrict your horse’s natural, flowing walk rhythm at the same time. Encourage him step out on a longer rein. That way his walk stays pure and he gets proper exercise!

Your riding lesson plans should include giving your horse a break during work sessions in the arena: use these to keep a good length of walk stride.

By getting into the habit of treating walk as a gait which requires as much if not more attention than trot and canter, you’ll be sure to maintain or even improve your horse’s walk. This will later pay huge dividends in the show ring!

Add Smooth Trot Transitions to Your Riding Lesson Plans

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We’ve established the importance of good transitions, and examined how to move well from halt to walk and back to halt. Now let’s introduce smoothness from walk to trot into your riding lesson plans.

(If you’re not sure how to move between the gaits, my ebook Horse Riding Lessons: Teaching Yourself to Ride explains everything you need to know about learning to ride.)

Prepare Your Horse

Learn to give a warning half-halt (outside rein squeeze) to your horse before all transitions. Apply it here before you ask for trot then keep a good, even rein contact.

In addition, develop an active walk. This makes moving into trot an easy progression for your horse.

Active Walk to Active Trot

If you’ve developed an energetic walk, you probably won’t need more than slight pressure to ask for trot. With your hands quiet, your horse should go into it without jerking his head. If he does do this, prepare him better – with maybe several half-halts – and give him firm, but not sudden, leg aids.

Once your horse is in trot, don’t let him shuffle along but keep it active.

Going Back to Walk

When you’re ready to walk again, use that half-halt (or more than one if he’s not listening) then ask for the downward transition. If your aids are quiet but firm, your horse will come back to walk without resenting you. You can let out the reins a little to reward him, but keep that walk active!

When making your riding lesson plans, be sure they include practicing how to warn your horse that you want a change of gait, while riding him forwards into good hand contact. That way you’ll make it easy for him to comply.

Your smooth transitions will prove you’re on the correct path to becoming a good rider.