New Jersey 18 year old  Missouri Foxtrotter ridden in MULLEN MOUTH SNAFFLE AND MULLEN MOUTH CURB in Western and sometimes English saddle in indoor & outdoor ring and on trails by intermediate rider

Question: What is the best way to train for a flat foot walk? My mare has a wonderful foxtrot, but has a very lazy slow walk. If I keep my legs on her side, she walks fairly
well, but as soon as I take them off her sides, she slows down.  Also, I am curious as to why gaited horses cannot gait well on small circles.

 



From Panelist Lee

To energize a horse that is reluctant in the flat foot walk , you have to
teach the "lesson of the leg" and practice "legs without hands, hands
without legs".   From a stop or a slow walk,  press with both legs (calves)
once, strongly to get her moving forward, then take them off (don't let her
"lean" on the leg to keep going.)  Do NOT try to maintain strong contact
with her mouth as you do this.  Lighten your contact when you press with
your legs, take it up again only if she starts to go too fast. She will, of
course, slow down the second you take your legs off her, even with the
lighter contact, because she is in that habit.  Repeat, only this time
follow the leg pressure with a single, strong (but not too strong)  tap from
a dressage whip behind your leg ( don't use a crop, they are too short and
to use one you have to disarrange your hands, or else hit on the shoulder,
which is not a "forward" location.)  She will move forward with more energy.
When she slows (and she will!) again press lightly with the leg, and follow
through instantly with the dressage whip. This will again motivate her to
move out.  Practice this a few times, until she speeds up the instant you
close your legs on her, and does not slow down when you take them off.  Do
your part, and lighten contact whenever you ask for speed in the walk, don't
 try to ride her with both the "accelerator" and the "brakes" on at the same
time.  In a couple of lessons, she will understand that leg pressure/release
means go forward at the speed you set, and that she does not need to rely on
the legs to keep her going.  You can then discontinue the use of the
dressage whip, although you may want to carry it for a while as a reminder.

Gaited horses can gait in small circles ( 15 meters being my idea of small,
anything smaller being a volte). But to do so they must be made supple and
laterally flexible, and many of them are not.  Practice bends, circles,
serpentines, shoulder-in, haunches-in, semi-collection and work on the bit,
in a walk  or flat walk.  You will find that as the horse develops more
lateral flexibility, he can gait on a circle without losing form, if not at
top speed. (heck, trotting horses don't do extended trots in small circles,
either!)

Good luck.
 
 

Lee Ziegler

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