The walk is a gait with four beats. When a horse walks, trots or canters he moves his legs one or two at a time. When a horse moves a leg it is called a step. A stride is the distance a horse covers with all 4 legs, which is approx. 12 feet. Within each stride pattern there are different beats.
The animated sequence shows it to be:
Freedom and Regularity of the Walk
Understanding the sequence and correctness of the gaits will help the rider recognise when things are starting to go awry. The following definitions are taken from the Dressage Rule Book. Study them closely. Is what is being ridden in dressage arenas around the world truly representative of what is written here?
1. The walk is a marching pace in which the footfalls of the horse's feet follow one another in ‘four-time’, well marked and maintained in all work at the walk.
2. When the foreleg and the hind leg on the same side move almost on the same beat the walk tends to become an almost lateral movement. This irregularity, which might become an ambling movement, is a serious deterioration of the gait.
3. It is at the pace of walk that the imperfections of Dressage are most evident. This is also the reason why a horse should not be asked to walk on the bit at the early stages of his training. A too precipitated collection will not only spoil the collected walk but the medium and the extended walk as well.
4. The following walks are recognised: collected walk, medium walk, extended walk and free walk.
( n.b. In classical dressage the School Walk is also recognised. It is a very collected gait beyond collected walk, almost passage like.)
4.1 Collected walk. The horse, remaining ‘on the bit’, moves resolutely 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 vigorous, 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.
4.2 Medium walk. A clear, regular and unconstrained walk of moderate lengthening. The horse, remaining on the bit, walks energetically but calmly with even and determined steps, the hind feet touching the ground in front of the footprints of the forefeet. The rider maintains a light, soft and steady contact with the mouth.
4.3 Extended Walk. The horse covers as much ground as possible without haste and without losing the regularity of his steps, the hind feet touching the ground clearly in front of the footprints of the forefeet. The rider allows the horse to stretch out his head and neck without, however, losing contact with the mouth.
4.4 Free Walk. The free walk is a pace of relaxation in which the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch out his head and neck.
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Classical Dressage Notebook