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February 25, 2020 4 Comments
"I just want him to not walk so darn slow!" She exclaimed, with a serious expression on her face.
"He walks like a turtle and I don't like it. Is there anything I can do?"
I answered, "I'm sorry, NO! You're stuck, you'll never be allowed to carry mail on the pony express."
JUST KIDDING... I never said that, because there is something you can do! A great deal, in fact! Here it is:
Follow this sequence exactly and your horse will become Speedy Gonzales at the walk or any other speed you choose.
Rules of the game:
Never beg, demand, or tell, until you've asked nicely for three full seconds.
At the walk...
Step 1: While walking ask for a step of trot. ONLY ONE STEP. Then immediately release your leg pressure and allow the walk. If your horse doesn't come back to the walk, ask him to come back kindly with your reins, because you don't want to trot. ONLY ONE STEP of trot is all you need.
Step 2: Repeat step one, over and over and over, until your horse becomes extremely sensitive to the "one step of trot" game. So sensitive in fact that when you squeeze with your legs (I recommend squeezing not kicking), your horse speeds up at the slightest suggestion. Now, all you have to do is keep him from trotting and you have a fast walking horse at the lightest touch of your legs.
We call the game "Steal a step."
It's called that because you steal one step of trot to encourage an energy uptick. Only one step because you don't want to confuse him to think you truly want him trotting for the long run. If you trot for longer than 2-3 seconds he thinks you actually want him to trot instead of simply provide more energy.
"Steal a step" works in every gait. If you want your horse to be faster at trotting. Steal a step of canter. Just one. Repeat the game until he's more sensitive to your leg cues and you'll find he's willing to do anything you ask and go any variable of speed within the trot gait.
See how it works the other way too. If your horse is too fast, practice stealing a step from the gait below. Slow the trot down by asking for one step of walk and allowing the trot immediately after. Repeat until his response to your hands is so subtle that people around you don't even see you ask, and notice how slow his trot will become. For walking, steal a step of halt. For cantering, steal a step of trot.
To speed up, steal a step from the gait above, to slow down, do the opposite. It's fun, it's easy, it's simple. Of course, it takes feel and timing and a little practice but with patience, you will notice just how quick your horse is at learning to go your desired speed.
It's extremely useful for your horse to go your speed. Imagine determining the speed on the trail instead of being subject to the fast, slow, drag and fly, experience of most group trail rides. Imagine determining the speed inside a jump course as you approach a jump grid, or inside a judged dressage competition where speed is a huge part of your score. Imagine being able to rate your horses speed on an endurance race or in a wide open gallop. Imagine trusting your horse enough to take off the bridle and canter around, knowing you're always in control and going the speed you want the whole time.
Speed control is important and fun to train, you just have to decide to begin training it. The "steal a step" game is a great way to start. Be safe and have some fun.
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