Free walk, making him reconnect
In the small amount of dressage tests that I've done, my horse stays quite connected with me (we're not fantastic at dressage by the way) but when we get to free walk in the middle of our test, afterwards when I have to collect him back up again, it either turns into a huge ungraceful fight or he stays hollow with his nose up in the air for the remainder of the test. Any tips to help stop this? Much appreciated (:
I think the goal would be to stay connected, even through the free walk. It isn't about just loosening the reins until they droop and letting the horse walk "freely", but more about having a freer walk that is still enhanced with a connection to the rider.
Also, when take up your reins try to take them up with the same rhythm as the walk.
This is one of the biggest issues I see at the lower levels. The medium-Free-medium walk is very difficult to do well and FEW takes it seriously enough to school it....a LOT! Remember, it has a "double" score, so a good walk is a good walk X 2 and a bad walk is a bad walk x 2. It must be SCHOOLED constantly.
See, what too many people do is walk around. Then, when they are about to go faster, they gather up the reins and GO. After a lot of this, the horse learns to anticipate going fast the minute a person gathers up the reins. It is a conditioned response.
EVERY time I walk a horse on a loose rein, I bring them forward (the operative word) and put them back in the bridle for at least a dozen strides before I ask for any transition.
As Caroline said, the free to medium walk is not pulling in the reins after letting the horse go all heavy on the forehand. The medium walk is forward. So is the free walk. the transition back to medium is also forward, bringing the horse forward back into the bridle with a consistent and sympathetic contact.
Quit sending your horse that old message that gathering up the reins is just prior to going faster. Be disciplined in your approach to this transition and school it constantly.
The opposite also happens. people release the contact, after coming to a halt, and the horse thinks that he should now walk forward out of the halt, since the hand brake just got released. he should walk forward only from a leg or seat aid, not a loosening or tightening of the rein.
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