At the end of season 2010-2011 we put in a bespoke state of the art walker or as Trevor Holliday from Monarch Equestrian said he would call it the ‘Galloper’, Briony named the walker the ‘Eleanor May’ walker in memory of her grandmother Eleanor May.
The walker holds 10 horses with a circumference of 80m, the biggest ever built according to Monarch Equestrian. The surface is of our own design and it is a fibre sand, as with natural sand there is too much drift or movement when the horses were working, the fibres added into the sand have a tightening effect on the surface.With the combination of surface and circumference one of the unique factors is the possibility to canter in the walker.
We have also developed a touch screen for saving and controlling the work programs, this would allow us to change the pick up speeds of the gates, how quickly they slow down or the delay between changing direction. The new control box runs on an inverter as opposed to a pump which gives us more control and makes the system more smooth to use and is quieter to run i.e. we could have a saved work program broken up into segments. For example 7 ½ minutes walking in each direction, followed by 5 minutes trotting in each direction and then 2½ minutes cantering in each direction. Then 5 minutes trotting, change direction 5 minutes trotting and 7 ½ minutes walking, change direction 7 ½ minutes walking. This would be quite a long period of work for a horse that’s not going to be ridden, but it is a good example to show you how diverse the walker system is, the beauty being we can change every single aspect. It is a truly magical piece of kit and at this time the only one in the world. Because of the flexibility of the walker and programs, any type of work for any job can be done i.e. eventing, racing, polo and dressage.
A walker is an aid to training and not a method of, why is it good and what are the benefits..?
- Economy of staff and scale for the number of horses worked i.e. Sundays, Bank Holidays or days were there are fewer staff in bad weather.
- Horses exercised without direct contact from human hand or touch, this means mentally and physically there are no constraints. This is about the only time you can watch a horse move in a controlled environment or situation where you are able to alter the speed without human contact. This allows you to check truly a horse’s soundness and fluentness of movement. Without having to gauge the effect of contact from riders hands or any type of weight on the horse’s mouth or back.
- The possibility to warm up and down before and after ridden work or use the walker simply just as a form of light work.
- For safety in terms of tense, difficult horses which need pre-work to settle and relax before being ridden safely. This also helps create a horse ready to concentrate on his ridden work on the gallops. In my opinion the ability to use the walker before ridden work will massively reduce accidents with fresh, difficult or tense horses in the morning. This may be its greatest single asset.
- The use of the walker for horses who have sore backs, withers or mouths who can move and work freely without tack, which allows them to be exercised thus without the loss of previous work and fitness.
- Reduces boredom as it allows the horses more time out of their box, essentially we have to remember that horses are nomadic by instinct and walking and trotting is relaxing mentally and physically. When we built the walker it was of primary importance that the horses could fully see out onto the yard, gallops and hills and that we could see in, allowing us to check the horses.