Walking your dog is so good for you and your dog there are entire TV shows dedicated to it. I’m sure you’ve all heard of Cesar Millan, The Dog Whisper, and he’s just one for example.
Well walking your horse is just as good for you and your horse as it is for you and your dog. My dogs are actually feeling a little ripped off right now, because the horses have been getting all the walks. I could go on and find studies to share with you about how much hand walking helps develop the top-line creating a stronger back before you climb on them this spring. Or we could discuss how the body builds bone tissue, and what a great service you will be doing the bones and joints before you go adding your extra weight to them after a winter off. I have however decided to share with my experience as a horse owner and what I’ve noticed with my own equine partners since we’ve begun hand walking this spring.
I was recently inspired by a friend and client of mine, Marie from Handy Hay Nets, who takes extraordinary care of her horses. She was telling me about how the beginning of her horse’s best riding season was the year she had to hand walk him for a month prior to riding him. With Pan’s back issues, Tonka’s lack of doing anything for the last decade, and me not knowing Jazzie in a working relationship, this sounded like a really good idea.
For the last week now I’ve been devoted to making sure the horses are out and walking as often as possible. Unfortunately Jazzie is still snowed in so we’re doing what we can in the paddock.
This anxiety stayed with them at first making for bit of an unpleasant walk, with the odd discussion involving boundaries. During these discussions I learned that I had no clue how to effectively hold my rope. Who would have though all the clumsiness, awkward tripping over my gear, and not communicating properly with my stead during groundwork lessons, all had to do with lack of practice in effective lead rope handling.
Pan and Tonka however get to go out onto the road and away from home, and at this point individually. On the first day as we approached the neighbours place, less than a hundred feet away from the property they both decided this was a good place to stop and express their disinterest in leaving. Had I had them in harness or under saddle I never would have realized the extent of their anxiety.
This leads me to the issue of passing traffic. Traffic seems to fly past! I even gesture for people to slow down, and they wave, just stressing me out more. This doesn’t seem to bother the horses just me; however, I’m sure that if the reins were in my hand the feeling of my stress would not be so pleasant, just adding to the anxiety. Our daily walks are giving me a chance to get over it and accept the fact that people are uneducated about the proper way to share a road (more on that in the future).