I believe that there is no other activity that can tell as much about the horse, his character, attitude, heart and body awareness as walking with him together in the forest.
If your horse is afraid, he will spook or shy behind you very often,
If your horse is not aware of his body, he will rush down the hills and trip over on the paths very often,
If your horse is connected with you, he will wait for you at the turns, and pay attention to your position and to your foot steps at all times,
If your horse is CALM, he will be simply curious, open, brave and happy to explore every path…
Your will see how the body of your horse responds to changing aspects of the environment: walking on the sand, rocks and soft paths will tell you much about the condition of the hooves. Walking up the hill, down the hill, over the fallen trees, across the ditches and little streams, will tell you much about the strength and body awareness of your horse.
You will see how much time your horse needs to cool down after the spook, and if he spooks at all in the first place. You will see what scares him, and what he pays no attention to. You will see when your horse chooses you, when he closes to communication with you and why. You will see when he is able to maintain connection, and what disturbs him, and you will learn to support him even better during all difficult moments of the hack.
And above all, you will see if you provide enough support to your horse, and if he sees having you by his side as his forte, or as a source of a potential threat (I many times saw horses who were brave to walk out with one person, and terrified of doing the same with another person).
Today, I LOVED LOVED LOVED our in-hand hack with Cour d’Alaine. I loved to see, once again, how absolutely curious, brave, bold and aware of his body he is!!! First time outside since our arrival 10 days ago, and my little boys, Leo & Cour d’Alaine, ROCKED Catalonian jungle like total pros today!!!