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Speed Regulation

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Written by Martin Black

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.42

While visiting an 84-year-old buckaroo friend of mine recently, he made the comment that “A man is as close to heaven as he’ll ever be when his horse is walking out as fast as he can with the bridle reins real loose, swinging side to side, and some weight in the stirrups with the same life and rhythm.” I had to agree with him, and later I got to thinking about why it is such an addicting feeling to experience. 

When I see people riding along, especially when they are headed somewhere and will be awhile getting there, and their horse isn’t walking out free and going somewhere, it frustrates me. There is a lot more going on with a horse that doesn’t have life while traveling out than just not walking out. If we can’t bring the life up and maintain it in a straight line, going in a direction that the horse wants to go, it probably isn’t going to happen any other time. But if we can bring that life up and keep it right there, just short of breaking into the jog, we have refined our speed regulation. One of the most important things we can accomplish with our horses is speed regulation. If we can’t regulate the speed with our horses, it will affect our timing while working cattle, roping, and most every maneuver we would ask for: leads, stops, turns, etc.

The walk is a good place to work on speed regulation, because it is something that we do a lot of the time while riding our horses. It’s something we can work on anytime, anywhere. It may be easier on a long ride when you are miles from home, and the horse is interested in getting there. But we can develop that same feel, that same interest, while walking around in an arena or anywhere else.

The two things that make it easier for the horse are for him to feel the life or rhythm of our body slightly ahead of him and for him to feel our eyes fixed in the direction we want him to go.

What this means is that we are bringing the life to the surface, and we have a direction for him to take it. It is difficult for the horse to be motivated if he doesn’t feel through the rider like there is somewhere to go. If we maintain a direction, even if it is circles or straight lines, as long as the horse feels encouraged to go there, it will help to motivate him. If our energy is slightly ahead of the horse’s energy, he will find that rhythm and will want to be with us.

An older horse that has been callused to different riders or ridden a lot at a slow pace may take more encouragement. He may need to bring the life up into the trot, then back to the walk. After a while, he can learn to bring the life up in the walk without trotting.

When a horse learns that he has a purpose, and he feels that he is accomplishing something, he is a lot more interested and happy to go on and do other things with us. And like my friend said, it is a good feeling when you can bring that energy up, and it stays there, and that horse’s desires line up with yours.

If you haven’t experienced this, try it. Then see if it doesn’t carry over into other things you may do with your horse. Your horse will appreciate a clear direction and purpose.

This article originally appeared in Eclectic Horseman Issue No.42

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Martin Black
Martin Black is a 5th generation Idaho rancher and 4th generation rodeo competitor. He has a lifetime of experience in handling horses, cattle and roping. In his youth there was a strong influence of the California-Spanish style of horsemanship. He has earned money in stock hose events, NRCHA events, rodeo events, and more. His basic philosophy is to “build the horse’s confidence in everything he does. Learn more: www.martinblack.net