Have you ever wanted to teach your horse or pony to Spanish Walk? Here’s a few tips to get you started.

Equipment needed: Halter and lead rope. Dressage/schooling whip.

Starting Out

Start with your horse on a lead rope. You should stand off to the side, out of range of reaching hooves. If it helps you cue more accurately, you may face your horse, but do not stand directly in front of them or you may be blocking their direction of travel and may even get struck with a hoof.

First steps of Spanish Walk will involve simply lifting the knees in place.

I recommend that your horse understand basic groundwork before beginning any trick work. Although the cues for Spanish Walk are fairly simple, it will be helpful to have a horse that responds lightly and effectively to pressure from a halter and lead as well as your whip.

The First “Steps”

The first steps of teaching Spanish Walk will be to get your horse to lift their knees on a cue from your schooling whip. You can accomplish this by stimulating the horse’s natural reaction to something tickling their legs, such as a fly. In this case, the “fly” is going to be the lash of your schooling whip. I recommend using a schooling whip with a short lash for accuracy.

In these first steps, you can either tickle the horse on the knee or the fetlock, whichever produces a better response from your horse. You are going to tickle the knee or fetlock until the horse lifts that leg, and then remove the stimulus immediately and reward with your choice of positive reinforcement.

Start asking only one leg at a time, until you can repeatedly get the same reaction in a timely manner.

Rhythm and Stepping

Once your horse reliably lifts each of his legs quickly in response to your whip cue, you are ready to establish a rhythm to your cue. You now will be asking your horse to lift alternating legs in a rhythm. Do not worry if your horse is doing the “Spanish stomp” at this stage. We will work on going forward and reaching out with the legs in the next step. For now you just want your horse lifting each leg in an alternating rhythm.

At this stage, it is good to start adding a voice cue to help in the rhythm. You can use whichever sound is natural for you, an example would be a clicking noise. Make this voice cue at the same time as your whip cue. Keeping a steady tempo in your cues will help your horse predict the rhythm of the stepping.

Head Position & Weight Shifting

When training the Spanish Walk, I like to encourage a head carriage that is a bit higher than usual. This will allow room for the shoulders to be free to lift and the forelegs to reach out in the next step. Do not force your horse into an uncomfortable head position – just lifting your hand that is holding the lead rope should encourage your horse to pick up their neck slightly. Think “up and out” with the neck.

If your horse is having trouble shifting their weight from foot to foot, or they keep offering the same leg repeatedly, offer some help from your lead rope. When asking for the left foreleg to lift, push your horse’s nose slightly to the right to encourage the weight shift on to the right side, and vice versa.

Stepping and Reaching

Can your horse now lift their knees in a right, left, right, left, rhythm? Now it’s time to carry it forward.

Marengo progresses to reaching up and out with his Spanish Walk steps.

Ask your horse to lift one foreleg, and as soon as they lift the leg, ask them to walk forward. Your timing is going to be key here – you want to ask for forward as soon as the leg is lifted, rather than asking after the horse has already lowered the leg. This is going to take the upward action of the leg that we taught in the previous steps

At this stage, do not worry about getting more than one Spanish Walk step in a row. If your horse offers one step that reaches up and out, reward this quickly, even if they take one or more rebalancing steps of regular walk after.

Practice regularly, and once your horse is reliably offering a step of Spanish Walk from your cue, you can start to challenge them with more than one step in a row. You can also keep encouraging more height and reach by encouraging a high and forward neck position and more forward energy.

Making Your Horse Feel Successful

If you have achieved the steps described previously with your horse, now it is just a matter of practice and developing the quality of the steps. Do not rush this process – I find that trick training can be very beneficial mentally for a horse, but short sessions are best. Your horse will likely react positively to your first few successful asks, but often their energy will start to wane the more you ask. It is your job to recognize when your horse has reached their “peak” for the day, and ideally stop asking before your horse passes this threshold so you can end the session with your horse’s best attempt. This can take time to learn, so don’t worry if you do accidentally ask one too many times. Luckily horses are forgiving creatures!

Trick training is not the most physically demanding, but it can be mentally tiring for the horse. Often, trick training sessions only last a few minutes. Don’t get greedy – you can always do another short session with your horse later in the day.

Always remember this in your training…

Never reward your horse for offering the Spanish Walk when it has not been cued. This can lead to undesired behavior, such as pawing or even accidentally striking the handler.

A horse who has learned Spanish Walk may try to offer it while learning other tricks. Do not punish your horse for this, but do not reward the behavior either. Simply redirect your horse to another exercise to refocus them.

Stay tuned…

I plan to make a follow up post for polishing the Spanish Walk, so please subscribe and stay tuned! You can also follow my Instagram for tips and videos.

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