The different Walk definitions in a Dressage Test

The walk is a four beat gait, which means you should hear the four feet hitting the gound ("footfall") in four regular beats.  That pattern is left-hind, left-fore, right-hind, right-fore.  A walk is a difficult gait to 'fix' on a horse, you can increase the forward action and get the back feet reaching through a little better, but if both legs on one side tend to move at the same time the horse is never going to have a great walk.  


There are four flavors of walk in dressage:


Medium Walk ~ The horse is "on the bit" with light rein contact and walks energetically foward with even marching steps.  The hind feet step slightly ahead of the prints of the front feet.


 Free Walk ~ This walk demonstrates long strides, a relaxed back and a lowering and stretching of the head toward the ground.  The body should swing through the barrel with relaxed strides, the hind feet stepping clearly in front of the footprings of the forefeet.  If a test calls for loose rein, the reins are slack.  If a test calls for a long rein, use the lightests contact possible.   It can be ridden with little or no contact. Rigidness in the back or raising the head mean the horse is not relaxed.


Extended Walk ~ The horse will cover as much ground as possible with the find feet touching the ground clearly in front of the prints of the hind feet.  The head is in front of contact, but maintains contact on the bit. 


Collected Walk ~ The horse, remaining "on the bit", moves forward with his neck raised and arched, and showing clear self carriage. The head approaches the vertical position, the light contact with the mouth being maintained. The hind legs are engaged with good hock action. The pace should remain marching and vigourous, the feet being placed in regular sequence. Each step covers less ground and is higher than at the medium walk, because all the joints bend more markedly. In order not to become hurried or irregular the collected walk is shorter than the medium walk, although showing greater activity.

How to do it ~

To start working on the walk, squeeze both your calves against the horse just behind the girth to ask him to move forward. (This is your cue.)  When you feel response from the hind legs, stop squeezing and give a little with the reins to allow him to march forward.  While maintaining your straight line from ear to shoulder to hip, let your hands move forward and back with the horse's mouth/head so that you are not pulling on his mouth with every step. 

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