Proper walk-overs in Trail can be a difficul manuever but well worth the effort they take to master. Before you start though, you have to make sure the horse is comfortable walking over poles, secondly you have to be able to work with a loose rein and third, your horse must be ready to give to the bridle. Good walk-overs must be in stride. This means you also have to teach your horse proper striding (1.5 to 2 feet between poles). Remember that each individual foot must step between the poles - you can't skip over a pole. While doing this, make sure the horse doesn't rush, especially after the walk-over.
Teach your horse to drop down his head and follow the rein as it lowers (this is why the horse must give to the bridle). Good Trail horses should drop their heads and look at the ground like a hound following a scent. They should do this without poles or grain or treats, just on cue. My cue (which is standard) is to ask for the bridle, lean forward (exaggeratedly) while bringing my hand forward and dropping the rein down. Later, combine all the pieces of a walk-over you've taught your horse. I absolutely teach each part separately and then combine them when the horse is fully confident with each part.
The finished Trail horse should be able to do raised walkovers and complex turns in and overwalkovers all while his head is down and he is seeking the poles. He should stay in stride even if there is a empty space or long stretch between poles. He should be able to do all this and execute turns on the forehand within the poles as well.
A finished Trail horse should also exhibit style and expression no matter whether its his first class of the day or his last. Walk-overs are beautiful when done properly. Watch a good Trail horse at your next show and see if you don't agree! See you next week, JD.