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2: Spanish Walk and Polka + VIDEO

All the exercises that can form the basis of your interaction with your horse, and those that can be used to train for natural collection at liberty.
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Miriam

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2: Spanish Walk and Polka + VIDEO

PostSun May 27, 2007 1:50 pm

Level II: The Spanish walk and the Polka


When your horse can stretch a frontleg on your voice cue or touch on both sides, you can teach him to do this in movement, creating the Polka and the Spanish walk:

* Polka: The horse walks two steps, stretches the left frontleg, takes two regular (collected) walk steps, stretches the right frontleg, takes two regular collected steps etc.

* Spanish walk: The horse stretches the frontleg forwards in every step he takes.

Teaching the horse to lift his leg in movement
Learning the Polka and the Spanish walk is essentially really simple, but it can take some time before your horse understands that he can consciously lift a frontleg when walking. Teaching the Spanish walk from the jambette (stretched frontleg in halt) consists of three fases :

1. walk a few steps with your horse next to you and then ask him to halt when he was about to lift the frontleg on your side. While he is halting, you ask him to stretch that frontleg in standstill. That way he learns that he can stretch a frontleg when coming out of the walk.
2. If that goes well on both sides, you ask for a stretched leg in halt, and when his leg goes up, immediately ask for walk: ask him to follow your hand forwards, give your voicecue or touch his hindquarters with your whip. As soon as he takes a step forward, you reward him! This way he learns that he can start walking from stretching a leg at halt.
3. Now you actually have both parts of the movement: your horse can walk, stretch a leg while slowing down to a halt - and then walk away again straight from the stretched leg. So now you can ask for a walk, tell your horse to slow down to nearly halt and stretch a leg, and then walk forward again without having really stopped.

Teaching the Polka and Spanish walk
You only gradually (!) have to diminish the amount of walk-steps between the stretched Spanish steps to only two walksteps between each lift, and you have the Polka. However, take your time! Your horse might feel insecure because this asks a lot of his balance, so allow him long walk pauses at first, and make sure that you collect him to a slower walk before you ask him to stretch a frontleg.

If the Polka is no problem, you can also start not asking any steps in between, and you create the Spanish walk. Some horses prefer to learn the Polka first, others do better when you begin with the Spanish walk. He's your teacher, so follow him.

Here is an instructional video of learning the Spanish walk by Becky and Shadow

Edit by Romy:
More info about the Spanish walk can be found here: Getting the legs to target and/or stretch forward
Last edited by Miriam on Wed Aug 15, 2007 4:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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danee

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PostThu Jun 07, 2007 10:23 pm

My filly has been lifting her legs nicely for a long time, and I can get her to walk forward while doing it, BUT...
She hasn't figured out how to diagonalize and walk forward. Instead I ask for the right leg, than the left, then she quick catches up with her hind feet after being parked out, then we go right left, hind legs catch up again.

We have been doing this for over a year, so time isn't fixing it :D :roll:
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Miriam

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PostThu Jun 07, 2007 10:58 pm

danee wrote:My filly has been lifting her legs nicely for a long time, and I can get her to walk forward while doing it, BUT...
She hasn't figured out how to diagonalize and walk forward. Instead I ask for the right leg, than the left, then she quick catches up with her hind feet after being parked out, then we go right left, hind legs catch up again.

We have been doing this for over a year, so time isn't fixing it :D :roll:


I think the answer is already in the description above: first teach her to really melt a leglift into the walk, for left and right seperately - only then ask them together with regular walksteps in between - and then gradually ask for less steps of walk in between.

The parking out you describe is indeed very common when you just ask left-right-left when the horse is at a standstill. With 90% of the horses that just won't get you to a real Spanish walk, so instead of focussing on the leglifts, focus on the movement from the hindlegs, the walk, and incorporating one leglift in that.

You can by the way also use the shoulder-in as 'walk' in between the leglifts. As the shoulder in is more collected, the horse could find it easier to slow down and lift a frontleg when slowing down or moving towards walk again (as then you can simply ask for the stretched leg, and then immediately for the hindquarters to move away from you for the shoulder in - so a leglift that immediately continues with engaging the hindquarters. And if the horse can lift his rightlegs several times during a shoulder in (or collected walk) after a lot of (!) training sessions, and also the same on the left, you can start to combine these leglifts in one walk/shoulder-in reprise, with a lot of regular steps in between.

But indeed: the trick is to think dressage, not tricktraining: movement doesn't come from the frontend, but from engaging the hindquarters. So apparently even we, enlightened modern thinkers, still learn things from the old Haute Ecole masters. 8)
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danee

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PostFri Jun 08, 2007 6:36 am

Thanks. As usual you hit the nail on the head. I thikn the shoulder-in and just putting a lift into the walk that is timed well with the hind legs, will do wonders.

Every other forum I've been on I am the one handing out advice. Everyone gives me the "Oh you are so good at wording whatever, and say the right thing." Miriam, write a book. You are SO good at this!!!
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Karen

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PostWed Aug 15, 2007 11:05 pm

Perhaps everyone could offer their tips and tricks they have used for Spanish Walk, and I could rest my poor brain for a little while.

With Cisco, almost right away, he offered a leg lift, outward...so his attempts at Spanish Walk are quite pretty and when the movement is more refined, it will be a soft and quiet walk with the front legs extending out horizontally. He will be a stealthy spanish walker!

Tamarack stomps. He lifts from the knee and stomps his feet down. You could hear his version of the spanish walk from a mile away. Stealth will not be his middle name! He is already stepping forward, so I need to fix this before he gets really off track.

So I need to retrain this, or do something differently.

Now, with Cisco, somewhere in his early training, I was also teaching him to put his foot on a pedestal, and I haven't done this with Tamarack...that could be the answer right there....maybe I just answered my own question...


I have two, now three ideas.

1) start from scratch and teach him to target the end of the whip with his hoof, rather than lifting his knee. This could get him quite frustrated as it would meam that I stop rewarding him for trying what has worked to this point, but it may be worth trying.

2) Keep the stompy walk we now have and attempt to refine it. So far, any touching anywhere to encourage him to extend the leg has failed. He stomps harder. So this may not be an idea at all

3) Get the pedestal exercise taught pronto!

What would you do, or what DID you do when teaching the Spanish Walk?

Miriam

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PostWed Aug 15, 2007 11:25 pm

Don't keep the stompy walk!!!

I had the same, pre-clicker, problem with Blacky, and all in all it took me two years to get it right again. Well, comparatively right, because it still isn't very good, but the stomping is almost gone.

However, it can be cured. 8) You already have him target a stick in front of him with his knee in halt? The trick is to teach him that he should touch that stick longer: if he knows now to touch the stick once with his knee, you can advance the game by asking him to touch it two seconds, or two times before you reward. Then three seconds/three times. At a certain point, if he replies by lifting his leg several times instead of more seconds, he will realise that he can lift his leg faster to target your stick if he doesn't put it down first. You really delete the stomp on the ground, because you show him that it's just a waste of energy to do that; just keeping it in the air longer saves a lot of power!

Retraining old habits can take some time (see Blacky... ), but this is a very good way to solve the problem as it aims at the cause (the fact that your horse thinks he should stomp down) and it worked with Blacky in the end too, even when with him it was a worse case because he had been stomping during the Spanish walk in walk for a year too. But in milder cases it just really works wonders! And if he's more persistent, the only thing you can do is have patience and try to make him understand that it's the keeping the leg in the air that you want like this for a longer time, untill he does. The pedestal probably won't work, as that's an ideal place to stomp a leg down on too... 8)
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Karen

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 5:17 am

YeeHaw!!! Thank you! This will work. I tried it this evening and he was trying hard to figure it out. Sometimes he would stomp, then when I didn't click for it, he would start pawing...so I would walk away and leave him. He was of course following me, and when he caught up, we would try again. I was trying to click for just a little duration, or to click for a softer lift...within about seven clicks or so, he was offering to lift the knee and hold it up for a second before setting it down!!! Jackpot (several treats and lots of lovey words), and we would take a little break and he would get lots of scratches and rubs. Then we would try again.

I don't think he understood exactly what I'm looking for, but he's actively searching for the answer, not getting TOO frustrated, and he got it right several times. I ended it on a really good one.

I am just teaching one leg...when he has it really well, I'll teach the other. I just have to decide what "really well" is...whether I should just keep working on one leg until I'm getting a higher, straighter, and softer lift? I think the answer is yes!

Thank you Miriam!!!!!

YAY!

Bianca

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 7:48 am

I teached the Spanish walk by first standing with my face turned to Evita and teached her the difference in raising the left and right leg. After this I started to ask left and right when I would walk backwards, Evita following me. The Spanish walk was easily teached this way but dangerous... when I would not walk backwards fast enough I would have a blue shin-bone...

It was hard to teach her the spanish walk when I walked next to her. Eventually I added the aid "click my fingers" and repeated that when I would walk next to her and she understood. Spanish walk is now her favourite thing to do :lol:
When starting her under the saddle she did the spanish walk before we ever even trotted :)
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Madeleine Balcer

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 12:58 pm

I had the same problem with Bravada. She would stomp and paw the ground sometimes 3 to 4 times also out of frustration because I was holding the click because she was not extending her leg.

I solved the problem the same way Bianca did. I stood facing her but quite on her side not to get kicked at. I also used the bitless bridle. I would gently lift the rein to ask for the leg to lift on the same side and use my stick to touch (initially) the leg. After I just had to point the stick to the knee I wanted her to lift. I encouraged forward movement by backing and also bending my body forward.

Once she got the movement, I moved to her side and at the beginning I mimicked the movement with my legs and used my stick to point at the knee I want her to lift.
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outriding

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 11:08 pm

I, too, am working on improving the Spanish Walk with my Arab, Cam.

I have an intersting situation in that he lifts his left and right legs completely differently! He raises his right leg more slowly, very high, extends it out and gives a little flourish when he sets it down. It is very elegant and a friend who has high level spanish walks on all his horses, said that is the style I should encourage and keep.

However, Cam raises his left foot not nearly as high and then stomps it down with very loud smack. I've done all sorts of things to try and change this, but no luck. My friend with the gorgeous and high Spanish Walks says that he did all his using target training. He showed me that his horses would hold each leg up for as long as he held the target (stick with a tennis ball) out. It was quite amazing really and led to that exercise where they pirouette with one leg extended.

So, I'm going back to more target training. I did make a recent discovery that I can get a much higher lift if I make a slight upward motion with my training twig and Cam will lift his head and neck much higher which results in the leg on that side being lifted higher. I don't usually use the cordeo for this, but I imagine an upward signal would accomplish a similar result.

We have been doing lots of stretches and that has helped loosen him up in the shoulders quite a bit.

Thanks for the discussion.
Cheryl Jones

Miriam

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 11:22 pm

Stretching is a very important point too, good to bring it up!

When a horse has 'two different legs' (well, of course, but you know what I mean 8) ), a problem might be that it's not just something in his brains, but also in his body. When he's crooked or one-sided, he will not only bend his body more to one side, but also overload the frontleg at the opposite side. That leg probably won't get such a high lift as the other, and will probably be set down earlier too. Then stretching with sideways movements like shoulder-in and travers/renvers to even out the body can work miracles. Sjors had a similar movement when doing the Spanish walk in movement: one leg wasn't lifted nearly as high - so instead of asking that lift to go higher (well, tried it at first of course but it didn't work 8) ) I asked the hindleg on that side to step under more during the Spanish walk, as only when that leg stands secure the frontleg can go further forwards. And it did. :)

I like the trainer-friend you're describing, his targetting is exactly what I did with the pony's too and it works great. His idea to make the target even clearer by putting a ball on the stick is interesting too. :idea:
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outriding

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PostThu Aug 16, 2007 11:42 pm

Like you say, Miriam, the physical component of all this is important to consider too.

Cam has one front foot smaller and more upright than the other - "high-low" syndrome. He always stands with the right foot back and the left foot forward when he is eating. I'm sure the muscle development in his shoulders is quite different.

It is certainly challenging and can be quite comical at times. When I am practicing with this, sometimes he will look at me and really exaggerate the good foot - lifting it remarkably high and flipping it way out with his classy flourish. Then he will stomp down really hard with the left and give me a look of "so that is what I think of your idea about changing things!"

I really try not to chuckle, but he really cracks me up. I am very quick to reward for the slightest improvement and I know we shall get there. Just gotta keep a sense of humor about it all! :lol:
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Kirsti

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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 8:09 am

Oh - Karen you are brilliant!!! I was just serching for some advices with my hore Vilja. She loves to lift her legs, but don't stretch them foreward - I will try you're hoof-whip-target-idea!!!
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Kirsti

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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 8:21 am

Now I got a bit confuse - the other of you talks about touching the target with the knee - my "problem" is she's lifting her knees the most (don't stretch the foot forward) so I thaught the hoof-on-target sounded good?

And you don't use the pedestal?? I have learned that in NHE - first pedestal, then spanish walk, so we have been working on pedestal now... But I do see that if it is just for the stretching maybe it's just as good to stretch them in the "old way" (holding theit foot)?
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Romy

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PostThu Sep 13, 2007 12:04 pm

About the stomping: I encouraged Summy to do exactly that, because he loved it and offered it when I asked him to make a step. So he learned to stomp as hard as he could. Titum offered a slower, higher and more forward movement, so with him I trained more correct Spanish walk. Now I read this topic and wonder if I should stop to let Summy stomp? Do you think the stomoping does any harm? Or does it only make it more difficult to train correct Spanish walk afterwards? It would be a pity if we had to stop it, because he loves it so much...
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