When you go from free walk on a long rein to medium walk on a shorter rein, you want to gradually and quietly shorten your reins without losing contact, grabbing them abruptly or unsettling your horse. Here's how to do that.
1. At this moment, I have Simba on a normal long rein, just as if we where finishing a long diagonal in free walk.
2. To shorten the left rein--and I always shorten the new inside rein first because it creates a bit of new inside flexion in my horse's jowl and indicates the direction we're going to go in--I first open my right thumb and close it again on both the right and left rein together.
3. With the left rein secured by my right hand, I slide my free left hand down the left rein to where I'll take hold of it by closing my fingers. Note that this is not the correct position for my right hand--it's a bit high so you can see how it's holding both reins.
4. Now I can shorten the left rein by bringing my closed left hand up and back to my right hand. I open my right thumb to release the newly shortened left rein and will immediately secure both reins under my left thumb and shorten the right rein an equal amount. I'll continue alternating like this until both reins are back to medium walk length.
For California dressage professional Jennifer Hoffman's complete system for boosting your test scores by enhancing your horse's walk, see "The Wonderful Walk" in the May 2007 issue of Practical Horseman.