Is there a faster speed in the walk mode? Sometimes my horse walks really slow, so I ask her to walk faster. I just say "Walk on" it gets her to walk faster. So how do other people ask their mini to walk faster, but not go into a trot?
I am working on this with one of my horses. When we first begin I let him amble out to the training area getting relaxed on a somewhat loose rein. Then while picking up and maintaining good contact I say "Walk up!" In a short up beat manner. When he increases in speed I give a little on the reins. If he starts to trot I do a little half halt to get him back to the walk. If he then goes slowly I ask him to "walk up!" again.
I have also been working with him on this in the round pen. After trotting I ask for a downward transition to a walk. If he walks slow I ask him to "walk up!" I ask with an upbeat voice and praise him when he does it. If he trots I say "waaaaalk in a low slow drawn out voice to get him back to the walk.
I was taught to start out saying walk on. But now I say my horses name and "walk" then "walk up" for a faster walk. I have another horse that is very forward and always wants to walk fast, so half halt, half halt with her!
Yes their are variations within the walk. I have also been working on this doing pretty much what Willow does. I have found with mine that teaching a forward, marching walk came much easier on a loose rein with almost no contact and once the "forward" is established then work on picking up more contact/collection. Also it is easier to teach when they are "loose" and warmed up. I worked on this ground driving and would only ask for a few very forward steps at a time before going back into a regular walk so he could build up strength. If you use an over check, maybe take it off or loosen it so it's easier for them to find their "sweet spot" going forward. Also, it helps to think "longer stride" rather than "faster". Longer strides will be faster, but less choppy than if you just concentrate on speed (I hope that makes sense).
It's so good have these discussions about driving, especially for those that are in areas without in-person resources! I highly recommend Andy Marcoux from Coachman's Delight.com You can go to his website and there are articles to read and also downloadable lessons for small fees. I made myself a binder to put all of my purchased lessons in as I get them or have a need for them, and it has been one of my greatest resources.
I had the hardest time understanding the concept of contact and when to do what, when I first started. I paid for the lesson "Connecting With Contact" which is a PDF that you print out and he is so good at explaining it. I made a rein board from his tutorial on You Tube and that gave me a feel and better understanding too. So my rein handling is still developing and it is something that changes throughout the drive, and of course from horse to horse. He also discusses what to do with the slow horse, but the whole thing is just really good!