Have you ever wondered if there are any benefits and value in working your horse by simply walking or leading him around? This article looks at ways walking exercises benefits your horse; let’s find out what they are.
Walking is ideal for a horse; it improves balance, develops muscles without strain on the joints, builds trust, and is a great strengthening exercise when walking up a hill. Walking creates suppleness, releases tension, and stimulates postural muscle fibers that stabilize the skeleton.
Many classical dressage teachers recommend working a horse at a walk for a good reason. The exercises we list in this article are designed to improve a horse’s fitness during times of reduced movement. A lot can be accomplished in a 25-minute walk workout with your horse. Read on to find out how they help.
Is Walking Good for a Horse?
Walking exercises are incredibly beneficial to horses. When a horse is exercised at a walk, it releases tension in the horse’s back and promotes entire movement in the joints.
The benefits of walking your horse are better control, enhanced performance, suppleness, increased lateral movements. It keeps a horse straight, create strength, builds trust and confidence, and lengthens strides.
Walking your horse gives a rider better control when moving at a slower pace. Walking allows a rider to focus on different aspects of the horse’s movements.
Walking exercises creates enhanced performance for your horse and yourself. When a rider focuses on communication during the walking workouts, it helps them transition to faster gaits.
Makes a Horse Supple
Walking your horse creates suppleness there are many exercises you can do with your horse to increase his suppleness. These are some exercises you can do with your horse to improve its suppleness.
- Traverse on a circle.
- Angling a leg yield.
- Shoulder in on a circle.
- Leg yield away from the leading leg.
Creates Better Lateral Movement
Walking exercises creates better lateral movements. To improve lateral work, it is best to start at the walk. Lateral work can be challenging. It means a horse is moving sideways. The most accessible lateral movement exercise is a leg yield; it teaches a horse to move away from a rider’s leg.
Suppleness and lateral work go hand in hand and works together. All riders want a supple horse that can move laterally with ease. Doing these exercises at a walk significantly improves a horse’s ability to move laterally.
Walking Keeps a Horse Straight and Co-ordinated
Walking horses teach them to stay straight. Making a horse move directly is not that easy, and it needs practice. Walking exercises helps to keep a horse going straight. Focus on walking your horse on the rail of an arena keeping it straight.
The next challenge is to choose a target on the opposite side of the arena. Get your horse to move in a straight line to the opposite target in the arena. It is not that easy to accomplish without training and walking exercises. Teaching your horse to move straight at the walk improves its ability to stay straight at all gaits.
Some riders prefer to complete walking exercises in squares rather than in circles. It is helpful for testing accuracy and getting a horse into the outside hand while improving contact. Teaching a horse how to turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches is easier in a walk.
Walking is Energy Saving
Walking exercises is less strenuous than at a trot or canter and use fewer calories. Horses that have not had training due to weather or an injury will benefit from walking.
Walking your horse for 25 minutes takes less work than a 25-minute trotting exercise. Focus on walking a recovering horse rather than pushing too hard with a trot or canter.
Build your horse’s confidence slowly by staying at walking exercises until he is ready to return to a regular work routine. Every exercise done at a trot or canter can be done at a walk.
Walk your horse with several slow steps in a row, then increase the rolling movements of your hips to transition your horse to walk more forward.
Walking strengthens muscles and joints. Your horse can exercise longer at a walk than a canter before tiring. Results take time, so be patient with your horse. Consistent daily or four times a week walking exercises will significantly improve a horse in a month. Walking is good for horses because the exercises increase power, strength, and stamina.
Improve Balance and Muscle Building
A horse that is regularly exercised at a walk is balanced. Balanced horses are less likely to get ligament, soft tissue, and tendon injuries. Walking builds the small postural muscles that stabilize the horse’s spine.
Walking is good for horses because it makes their bones stronger. Not only is it beneficial to the horse but also the rider. Walking does not cause any injuries as a trot or canter typically does.
Regular 25-minute walking practices at least three times per week will maintain most of the tone in your horse’s postural muscle system. This matters more than keeping up cardiovascular gains from a fitness standpoint.
Walking is excellent for horses because it teaches them to lengthen their strides. With regular walking exercises, you will notice your horse’s stride getting longer and moving forward over time. He will also have better movement throughout his body.
Routine walking exercises make a horse more adaptable and focused. Walking lets the long back muscles fully contract with the pulsating and swinging motion that prevents tension during a walk.
Perfecting the walk usually improves other gaits as well. If you are riding in dressage discipline, improving the walk will earn you extra points.
Walking Exercises Builds Confidence and Trust
Walking exercises build trust and confidence between you and your horse. Even when extremely busy, make time for 25 minutes of walking activities. To build trust and confidence, a rider should be consistent and predictable.
Walking slowly allows the horse to relax and focus on your emotions, energy level, and emotions. Repeated walking exercises helps you stay consistent while building trust and confidence with your horse developing s stronger bond and closer relationship.
How Long Should You Walk a Horse?
A 20-to-25-minute daily walking exercise is good for your horse. Before you mount your horse, warm him up for 10 minutes by walking with a loose, relaxed rein.
How Far Should You Walk a Horse?
Most horses can maintain a steady walking pace for 6 to 8 hours and cover 32 miles. However, most riders will not stay in the saddle for that many hours. Walk your horse as far as you can without tiring and as far as your horse feels comfortable. Of course, walking exercises that require work in a riding ring do not require any traveling distances.
How Often Should You Walk a Horse?
Regular walking exercises are beneficial for horses when they are done at least 4 or 5 times a week. Not every walking exercise session needs to occur in a riding arena.
For those who don’t have an arena, a short trail is always an ideal option to exercise your horse and give it a change of scenery. If you don’t have a trail near you to ride, you could always do the walking exercises in a paddock or field.
When doing these exercises with your horse, focus on creating the best movements for the full 25 minutes it takes to complete the exercise. Concentrate on the exercise the same way you would during a test or show.
The exercises below are designed to help your horse achieve all the goals of muscle building, coordination, and suppleness and get your horse to use his back correctly with minimal stress on joints.
It’s also easier to correct movement patterns and retrain muscle memory as the large muscles don’t overpower the gait when walking.
With each exercise, stick to two minutes and continue to go through the set until the 25 minutes are up. Generally, it is more beneficial to do multiple shorter walking exercises a couple of times a week rather than a once-a-week strenuous workout.
Postural and muscle building is more important than cardiovascular fitness because a lack of muscle building can cause problems later. Cardiovascular fitness can always be done after muscle building is done.
Below are a few simple walking exercises that include spiral in and out, accordion topline, ground poles, and snowman.
The Accordion Topline Exercise
To complete the accordion topline walking exercise, have your horse walk in an energetic forward walk around the arena while practicing shortening and lengthening the reins and aide him to change from a shorter to longer frame.
The Spiral in and Out Exercise
This exercise is excellent to improve suppleness and help find a connection between the inside leg and outside rein as a rider moves his horse between the larger and smaller circles.
To complete the spiral in and out walking exercise, begin from a 20-meter circle and start walking the circle gradually smaller using outside aids spiraling into an 8 or 10-meter smaller circle and at the same time, keeping the inside bend, using your leg to yield back out to the 20-meter circle while not losing momentum.
It is vital to keep the horse balanced and in rhythm throughout the entire exercise. A young or green horse would benefit from a 15-meter circle, while experienced riders and horses can keep the circle 8-10 meters small if rhythm and balance are maintained.
The Snowman Exercise
To complete the snowman exercise, walk a 20-meter circle to the left; at the top, change bend and complete a 10-meter right circle. Start to the right and complete the 20-meter circle; the completed figure should resemble a snowman with a small head and a round body. Ensure the horse walks forward actively and bends correctly at each turn.
Simple Ground Poles Exercise
If a horse is unwilling to stretch forward in a walk, using ground poles during a walking exercise will help. Walking exercises done over ground poles helps a horse stay balanced and promote hindquarter use.
To complete the ground pole walking exercise, set up several poles randomly around the riding arena. Lay the poles flat or raise them depending on your horse’s experience and strength. Start walking over the poles with energetic turns and loops while maintaining a relaxed posture.
Ground poles add variety to any walking exercise and help your horse engage his hindquarters, lift his back more, and develop cadence that allows a horse to bend and flex his leg joints. Try not to pull back with your hands over the poles because this will cause the horse to hollow his back. The horse should stretch into the contact, maintain thoroughness over the poles, and not hollow his back.
Complete the exercise and start again from the top with the accordion topline exercise. Continue going through the exercises until the 25-minute training session is done.
Walking exercises is good for horses and an excellent way to bond with your horse. They are perfect for young horses, old horses, and horses recovering from injuries. Walking exercises with your horse helps build trust and form strong bonds with your horse.
Walking is good for horses because it improves core strength, builds muscle, increases suppleness, improves lateral movements, and gets horses connected, responsive, and engaged. Taking your horse on a walking exercise on a hill is an idea of strengthening exercise that teaches balance and builds muscle.
Walking is also great for horses that need help with weight management. If you don’t have time to ride, or your horse is recovering from an injury, a walking exercise is great to keep him fit or change up a horse’s routine.
Walking exercises are like Pilates for horses; they activate postural muscle fibers with slow, controlled movements developing strength. The correct development of these muscles prevents back pain tendon and joint injuries. Walking is excellent for horses!