Walking. The boring pace, right? Wrong! Here’s why the walk is awesome…
Walking is great in so many ways and I feel it’s just so underestimated. Why? I hear you ask…
Well, my friends. The walk is great for fitness, first off. It may be slow and it may be humble, but walking is fabulous for fittening and a really low impact workout too.
I’ve recently been putting Cyryl on the walker for about 20 minutes per day, every day and boy can I tell the difference! I didn’t actually intend it for fitness; he was coming in early from the field as the grass is so bad and I thought it would be nice to break up his afternoon with some activity. But now I have a fit, lean horse on my hands and I haven’t increased my riding.
Walking has been a really gentle way to build fitness, especially as I have to be so careful with his arthritic hocks now. Trotting is good, but so much more wearing on the joints and the ground has been far too wet for proper cantering.
The walk is also really hard to get right. I think many (non-horsey) people would assume that you just “sit there” in the walk and let the horse do the work. Alas, if it was as easy as being a passenger!
Getting a good dressage mark for the walk can be really tricky. It can be hard to get an even and forward rhythm, but without rushing. I personally find it difficult to encourage Cyryl to stretch down, but also maintain a forward pace when attempting a free walk on a long rein. I find this even more so when at a competition and there are so many exciting things to look at and keeping him long and low takes all of my concentration.
I sometimes also think that dressage judges can be most critical at the walk because they have so much more time to watch and scrutinise.
Walking is a tonic. Sometimes we go for a walk to clear our heads, to relax, or to think about things. I like to walk with Cyryl to do the same for both him and me. Nothing beats a walk in the countryside. No pressure on him to work hard or do anything fancy. Just time for us to both chill out and enjoy life and each other’s company. I take plenty of hacks where all I do is walk and in no way do I ever get bored of it.
Big up the walk and let me know why you think it’s an underrated pace!