Free walk on a loose rein is to the buckle, free wall on a long rein is maintaining a smidge of contact.
When I was showing Ro and still had free walks I would let him stretch and just open my hands and grab the buckle. Insta8. Ro has a great walk, but incorrect execution of a movement regardless of gait quality will not get an 8 from an FEI judge. There are some tests, like the FEI 4 year old test, which specifically say "on a long rein" or "maintaining contact". Otherwise its loose reins. Hell my coach even gets after me in the PSG about not giving enough rein in the extended walk, and when I give more I get higher scores.
The point of the movement is to show complete relaxation, not that you still need to have a grip on the face to steer and keep the horse walking. Try giving to the buckle, heck its only a couple points to try.
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