Natural DORmanship: riding the walk

Okay, now it is time to take your DOR out for a ride at the walk. The easiest way for me to help you train your DOR at this stage is to give directions to the DOR and then helpful hints to you in parenthesis. The picture is of me teaching the DOR to ride a walk without micro-managing, she is getting better every time we work on this lesson-I call this lesson "passive passenger walking". So let us take a walk, shall we…
Cue for the Walk:
Gather your reins so that you feel a light contact between your hands and the bit (If your DOR has the reins too short, try tossing your head up and down in order to pull out some slack. If this does not work, back up just as fast as you can…they will loosen the reins rapidly). Use both lower legs to squeeze the horse lightly behind the girth area (If your DOR taps too hard, make a small leap forward-that way they will understand just how sensitive you are). Your leg above the knee should remain motionless. At the same time as you cue with your legs, cue with your seat by pushing forward slightly with your seat muscles (yep that is right, natural horsemanship has the DORs riding you using butt cues. I still do not know what it means if they break wind, not that my DOR has ever done that but Dakota has).
Some horses are less willing to move forward than others. If your horse does not begin to walk nudge with your lower leg. If that does not work, urge the horse forward with your heels (Okay, if your DOR has to use their heels you are just being a bad teacher…give your DOR a break).
Your hands should follow your horse's head as the neck naturally extends to move forward (You may need to stretch your neck out far if they do not give you your head). Stop cueing as soon as the horse responds. You will find there is a slight rocking motion to the walk. Allow your body to relax and follow the movement of the horse (You will have to put up with your DOR fluctuating between being stiff and being a rag doll until they get the hang of this aspect of riding). If your horse starts to fade, cue lightly (If they cue you too vigorously break into a trot and the slow to a walk, this will force your DOR to be more gentle in the future) before the horse has decelerated to a complete stop.
Riding the Walk:
Head: Look forward in the direction you want to go (There is no telling where your DOR will look. Mine gets to rubbernecking which can be a challenge to keep up with. I do need to caution you that you need to watch out for your DOR’s and your own safety-I don’t care if the DOR is looking across a busy highway DO NOT FOLLOW THEIR GAZE!) . Don't look down as that stiffens your spine (My DOR is terrible about looking down, I am curing her of that by stopping and touching the dirt with my nose every time she looks down). You want to remain relaxed and supple (Soft and supple, soft and supple…sounds like Clinton Anderson doesn’t it).
Shoulders: Maintain good posture. Carry your shoulders evenly. A crooked rider will influence the horse, making it harder for it to understand some of your commands (Sometimes my DOR rides cockeyed, leaning a bit to one side. I just drift the way she is leaning and that reminds her to sit up straight).
Seat and Back: Make sure you are sitting square in the saddle, and that your balance is not shifted to one side. Again, a crooked rider will make a crooked horse (See the comment above).
Legs: Keep your lower leg quiet unless you are actively cueing the horse. Do not let your feet slide forward so that you are sitting 'chair seat' (If your DOR does this STOP. Feet forward causes their butt to sink down in the saddle. Too much of this will start to bother your back), or let your legs swing (If your DOR is swinging their legs while they are riding a walk they must be a bit bored, so trot-that will entertain them. If they keep this up you may want to convince them to take up bicycle riding). Looking downwards you should not see your toes. Do not let your thighs, knees or feet turn outwards as this weakens your seat and makes cueing more difficult. Even at the walk you should be working at keeping proper position.
Hands For Western Riders Using Two Hands To Ride (this is what your DOR should be doing during this initial stage of riding): Your hands should be steady with very light direct contact on the bit. As the horse walks, its head will move slightly with each step, your reins should be loose enough to allow the horse this movement without the reins pulling on the bit (I have the DOR hold the reins so that there is at least four feet of rein between her hands and the end of the slobber strap on both sides. Sometimes she forgets so I just get a bit “rammy” until she lets out some slack).
Tomorrow we will cover stopping...until then you can just keep packing your DOR around until they have had enough.
Enjoy your day and don't forget to hug your DOR


Amanda said...

Ahh the walk, my personal favorite gait.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Very amusing, thank goodness for the insight of this wonderful horse and how he is teaching his DOR to ride correctly. In my opinion the walk is one of the hardest gaits to ride correctly. It is the foundation for everything else to come. Great post.

Unknown said...

I just love the colouring of this horse - how very unusual. Absolutely spectacular - I hope that you never part with him. If he were mine I would keep him forever - he's special - Gentleman Jack, I raise my glass to you!! I just love your spots. :)

Rambling Woods said...

I didn't know that you entire body is acting as a cue for the horse. From your toes to the top of your head. Jack..makes me want to find a horse to try this out. The instructions are superb....

Andrea said...

I love the tight reins and the flying backwards!! LOL!! I also love the squeeze with your legs and the leaping forwards!! LOL!! I love it!! Great description of the walk.


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