How to teach a horse to spanish walk

Written by danee rudy
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The Spanish walk is a movement where the horse walks forward lifting his front legs in large, high, proud steps. Baroque breeds like Andalusians and Lippizaners are noted for the movement, but any sound horse can learn the Spanish walk. Audiences seem to love it, and it is a relatively easy trick to train.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Dressage whip
  • Treats

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Stand the horse along a wall to keep him straight. Tap his front left leg with a whip until he lifts it--even a little bit. Quit tapping and reward. At first the horse will barely lift his leg, and that is OK. You just want him to know that tapping the leg means to lift it. If the horse does lift his leg higher, give him a treat. The bigger the response, the bigger the reward. Repeat with the front right leg. Keep sessions short--ten minutes maximum--but repeat often. Allow a couple of weeks for this step so you know the horse really understands. The longer you work on this step, the easier the following steps will be.

  2. 2

    Require better quality. If your horse is smart and food motivated, she may already be lifting her legs higher to earn those treats. If she is not, that is fine as long as she is positive that tapping the leg means she should lift it. With a treat in your hand, tap the leg. If she only lifts a little, keep tapping. She knows you have the treat, and she will be annoyed that you are not releasing. Continue asking until she gives you a big response. Horses often paw if they are frustrated, so if you see your horse getting a little confused, keep going--you are almost there. Once she gives you a bigger response, give her the treat. Heck, give her a bunch of treats. Let her know that was the right answer. Only do this once or twice with each leg before giving her a nice, long break. From now on, only big responses get praise and treats.

  3. 3

    Cue the horse to lift his leg and pull him gently forward so he does not paw in place, but puts the foot forward and steps onto it. It is OK if the horse does a normal walk with only one leg lift in it at the moment. Right now he just needs to learn to step forward onto his leg after he lifts it. Some trainers now start to teach "the polka," where a horse steps big with his left foot, then takes a small step with his right then left foot, and then another big step with his right. Every third step is a big paw. Eventually you can cue the horse to lift his leg high each time. It helps to lift his head to free his shoulder. You can also try doing this exercise with a bridle and side reins to help position the horse. The best rewards are still saved for the best efforts. You can stop here or go to the next step to teach the Spanish walk from the saddle.

  4. 4

    Ask a friend to cue the horse for a polka or Spanish walk from the ground while you ask from the saddle. To cue the front left leg, shift your weight to the right, move your left foot a little forward, and lift the left rein. Once you can get the Spanish walk with the help of your friend, have your friend stand farther away with a whip in case you need help, but try it on your own. You can also use a whip from the saddle to point toward the front legs and tap the front of the horse's shoulder. Be sure to not lean forward or you will be shifting weight onto the horse's front legs, making it hard for her to lift them. Eventually, shifting your weight back and forth while lifting the opposite hand will be enough to cue your horse for Spanish walk.

Tips and warnings

  • Stand very upright and proud when asking for Spanish walk--it will become part of your cue and get your horse prepared. You can also strike with your own legs as part of the cue so that your horse learns to mimic you. This way, you can eventually ask without the aid of the whip.
  • Horses usually like Spanish walk once they learn it--just be sure to not get struck by one of those pretty legs! If your horse ever leans or turns into you during training, correct it right away. You are the leader and the horse must respect your space.

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