This month, we catch up with dressage rider and trainer Vikki Hayton who offers advice to a reader whose horse struggles to maintain his walk at a show. Find out more about Vikki at www.collegefarm.com
Q: “My horse is a five-year old gelding. At home in the school he has a very nice, forward-going walk, but when I take him to a show, he will always break into trot. Any tips on how I can improve this?”
There are two considerations here. First of all, it doesn't sound as if your horse is truly on your aids, so you might consider revisiting your ‘walk on’ aids, as they are often virtually identical to the ‘trot on’ aids.
I often suggest using alternate leg aids in the walk, so when you ask for a bigger stronger walk, the horse is not confused and thinks you're giving a 'trot on’ aid.
Secondly, it sounds as if he isn't on the aids at shows, which will no doubt be down to excitement and even apprehension, as most horses get a little anxious at shows, especially in the early days.
It sounds as if he needs more exposure, so create lots of different and varied learning opportunities. Visit more shows, but don't compete and just school, or meet friends out hacking, have some music playing in your school at the yard and ride when it's busy to get him used to the hustle and bustle of show situations.
Leave plenty of time to work your horse in when competing, doing more transitions than you would normally do at home, to get your horse truly on your aids, with lots of transitions between the paces. Make sure you as the rider are calm. Even if you're a bit anxious, it helps to take deep breaths as your horse won't realise you're worried if your breathing is under control.
Find the answer to more questions like this in the Ask the Experts section of Your Horse Magazine. If you have a question that you’d like to pose to our experts, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org