The benefits of a good brisk walk

Walking on a loose rein is not only relaxing for your horse, but makes it easier to chat!
Walking on a loose rein is not only relaxing for your horse, but makes it easier to chat!

We’ve had rain here for the past two weeks. Lots of rain. For those of us with no indoor, that means one thing: riding in mud.

When the sun peeks out for brief periods I’ve tried to get on my horse and get him moving and thinking. He doesn’t have the personality type to hang out for a week with nothing to do. He gets grouchy and skittish. He likes having a job.

Of course the footing right now stinks. It’s a combination of shoe-sucking mud with slick areas that make it impossible to do anything except walk.

But that’s not such a bad thing. There are some real benefits to going out for a good forward marching walk with your horse. I used to ride with a dressage trainer who recommended that I take my horse out every week for a walk of at least an hour and that I concentrate on establishing a good forward rhythm. No ambling along! I could hear her (German) accented voice in my ear.

Here are the benefits that I’ve always found from walking.

  • It’s relaxing. Even at a brisk pace when I walk my TB he never gets riled up. If he’s had a few days off it’s usually better not to let him get excited. It’s no fun to ride a head flipping jigging maniac that needs only the slightest excuse to gallop off.  Set out at a brisk walk on a loose rein and he stays relaxed and happy.
  • It’s low impact conditioning. I’m lucky enough to have some hills nearby so when I go out for a walk I make sure to incorporate them into the ride. When I used to take my Trakehner to Vermont I was amazed by how fit he got doing just two weeks of hill work — mostly at the walk!
  • I can ride on a loose rein. I like to give my horse a day off from riding on the bit. I think it provides a good mental break to ride on the buckle. I know my horse enjoys it. I like him to stretch down and loosen up his back (provided he doesn’t take the opportunity to snack).
  • I can watch the birds. Sometimes I don’t want to drill or school or do much of anything except commune with my horse.

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