Updated: Nov 30, 2022
In the first part of this series of blogs about paces we highlight the biomechanical effects and benefits of walk and share tips on how to observe and assess different qualities in the walk.
You can learn so much more about this topic in the horse movement video course Anatomy in Action.
Compared to trot and canter, walk is the gait that uses the most thoracolumbar rotation and lateral flexion - SO it is great for mobilising the back. The larger the steps the bigger the movement. Watch for the swing of the tail and symmetrical head and neck movement as an indicator of good back movement. Spending plenty of time in walk, particularly at the beginning of a session, is really beneficial for loosening up the joints, back and muscles. This is particularly useful over the winter months when your horse may spend more time in the stable.
It's a good idea to walk your horse around in-hand before mounting. If you're planning an arena session walk at least two circuits in both directions before getting on. When hacking walk the first and last mile.
Why walking is so good for your horse
Walk is slow with no moment of suspension, this means:-
🐴 It is a low impact gait so exercises can be practised in walk many more times compared to faster gaits.
🐴 The joints, fascia, tendons and ligaments are loaded gradually. This is good for reducing the risk of injury particularly with weak, tired and older horses, as well as those coming back from injury.
🐴 There is time to think, react and for both horse and rider to consolidate a movement, particularly if it involves learning a new skill.
🐴 The muscles are used differently.
🐴There is less stretch and elastic recoil compared to the faster gaits. Instead slow controlled contractions are required. This makes walk an excellent gait for enhancing strengthening exercises.
If you'd like to learn more about the biomechanics of the walk and other gaits you'd love Anatomy in Action
The different walks
This video gives the opportunity to compare different horses walking, ridden and loose, both in slow motion and at normal speed. With the skeleton painted on the sides of the horse it helps to visualise what is happening biomechanically.
We will be studying the biomechanics of all the gaits in the online lecture demonstration: The Principles of Movement.
You can also learn a lot more about this topic in the horse movement video course Anatomy in Action.