When did riding at a walking become boring?
Many non-equestrians imagine horse riding to be all about chasing cows, jumping logs and galloping up gloriously green hills towards the sunset. Many equestrians love the idea also, whether they are ready to ride at that level or just dream of the day. It’s the thrilling of the horse exerting powerful bouts of energy under you, the feel of the wind across your face, the sensation of working together.
Considering that, it can be easy to see why riding at a walking pace is less ‘fun’ in some peoples eyes. Here are 7 reasons why walking is better than galloping:
1. Your horse can maintain a walk for longer
Imagine you have to carry a 15kg brick strapped to your back. Now imagine running with it for 20 minutes. If you are anything like me, you would have dropped that brick or dropped the run within 2 minutes.
This is exactly what our horses face. It takes more energy to run, so our horses can maintain more exercise at a walking pace, and this will help build their fitness and tolerance to exercise.
2. It is easier to learn at a walk
Funny story: I discovered I could write on a clipboard while walking around. So I immediately assumed I could do some work on the treadmill. Three almost-falls later, I decided it was one of the stupidest ideas I’d had - ever.
It is harder to do ANYTHING at a faster pace, until you have it well established at the walk. This goes for our horses and ourselves. As a rider is developing new skills, it is next to impossible to start that skill at a trot, canter or gallop, and much easier in a walk (unless we have an amazing horse that has been schooled to know which buttons we are trying to push, has enough insight to guess what we are trying to tell them, and is enthusiastic enough about work not to try to pull one over us - and how many of us can say we have that horse?).
3. Walking is safer to ride in mixed groups
It is a great lot of fun to spend time riding with other equine enthusiasts. But not all riders, nor or horses, develop equally.
In any group ride that I have ever been in, there always seems to be a mix of green riders, green horses, experienced riders, experienced horses, nervous riders, nervous horses, riders that have never left the arena, horses that are on their first trial ride, horses dealing with herd bonding issues, or people that have never ridden.
It literally meant that some horses and some riders where not suited to going faster than a walk, and the more experienced horses and riders are better suited to be in charge - which means not galloping off into the sunset.
4. We can begin redeveloping our horse at a walking pace
The training scale, and the way our horses learn and develop, insists that we spend more time learning and strengthening exercises in a walk. A green horse, or a horse that is being redeveloped, will find all the aids applied confusing or frustrating if they are not first well established at lower paces. It is why the training scale spends so much time on groundwork, then walk, then trot, before canter.
Interested in learning how to use the training scale to develop your horse? Register for our online training course Green to Self Carriage here.
5. More leisure time with your horse
I don’t know about you, but if I can personally spend more time on a ride with more horse, the more I love it!
Simply put, a bit of walking, which can be intermittently broken up with a few trots and canters, is a much more leisurely way to ride than a ride that is full of a faster pace - which will only get me to my end destination much quicker anyway!
6. We can help avoid soundness issues
When our horses lack development at any stage in the walk, they cannot progress with it in the trot or canter. If we try to push it, we can end up damaging our horses, either physically, mentally or emotionally.
7. Our horses will thank us for it
When we give our horses a chance to learn, let them spend some more relaxing time with them, not force them to always work harder and avoid injuring them, I can guarantee your horse will love you more.