How To Get Your Horse To Gait?
 
(In the above videos, sundance does a lateral gait (back and forth motion of rider)- flat walk, while snowball in the second video can flat walk and fox trot (looks more like chugging of rider). Can you see the difference, sorry the videos are long, just let them load then fast forward them.)
 
 
 
Gaited horses have the natural ability to gait, what makes some gait better then others and why do some horses pace and other horses trot and some gait no matter what?
 
Many things come into play, first and foremost, genetics? Does he have the ability to gait well, was he bred well, does he have decent conformation, and is he sound? If your horse was bred badly, you can help him to gait, but he will never be that head shaking, teeth clicking, glide ride, you keep watching on you tube. If he has poor conformation, he may not have the ability to carry himself well or carry the rider well and work off his back end to get the gait. If he kicks himself all the time, when he tries to gait, it will become painful and he will not want to gait.
 
Then it comes to the rider, is the rider balanced or flopping around, do you keep throwing your horse's balance off? They can feel everything you are doing up there, so are you helping him to be balanced or are you throwing him out of gait?
 
You have to ask yourself all these questions, so you have  realistic expectations of your horse. Your horse cannot change how he was made, but you can improve his gait through training. How long will this take? A long time, he has to build up his muscles, then practice over and over until he gets muscle memory, once he can hold the gait and the rider, then you can start asking for more speed, but remember even you had to learn to walk, before you learned to run, so don't expect your horse to skip that step and be successful. You still ask how long? Well how often are you riding him, is he in shape, is he still growing, how many people are riding and confusing him? Are you consistent every time you ride him or you try new things every time, remember school, you go 5 days a week, so you learn faster, and they always reviewed what you did last time and make sure you understood before you moved on, remember not paying attention and then you looked up and thought, what the hell is the teacher talking about? Well, that's probably what your horse said to you today, but in horse language, throwing head, spooking, bucking, rearing, won't go, won't stop, yup, your horse said what the hell is she talking about, you just weren't listening.  
 
The gaited horse is a mix of breeds and due to this, the breeds of gaited horses will gait differently. The ones who created the breeds picked the mix that they liked, like a recipe. They said, hey joe,  that ones real smooth, lets breed that one again, and that's what they did, but they did it in  different states, so that's why they call it a Tennessee Walker, Missouri Fox Trotter, Rocky Mountain Horse, are you with me still?
 
They will have the same foot fall, in other words a running walk will have the same foot fall as a saddle gait, but it will look different to you. Only the fox trot will look totally different, which is a diagonal gait, the other gaits besides the canter will be lateral gaits. Should you go for the diagonal or lateral, depends whats comfortable for you and the terrain you ride on. The fox trot is better for really steep, I don't mean Mt. Diablo, I mean really steep, other wise any ones will do, just test it well first. 
 
The gaits come from a spectrum and on one side, is the pace and the other end is the trot, what you want is to get your horse in between these, the trot and the pace and then you will get the gait. 
Pace---------Gait---------Trot.
 
Since most of us do not have the perfect horse, you must first figure out which end he is at, does he trot when he is loose or does he pace? There's your answer. Did he learn to canter real easy? Then he is probably more trotty, did he have a problem cantering or still won't, then he is probably more pacey. Still confused? Well video him and take it in the house and compare it to you tube or my videos. Usually people can see the lateral gaits easier, so if his legs just look all over, its probably the trotty side. 
 
If he is more trotty and you are not getting the gait, try riding on a hard surface or ride in the harder part of the arena, work on some down hills which will lengthen his stride and make him more lateral toward the pace end of the spectrum. If you let him go fast uphill, he will probably trot, unless you keep him, just under that speed. Let him have his head alittle, if he gets trotty, slow his gait down and then slowly ask for speed, you will need to do this over and over, how many times? Thousands. If it feels smooth, your not bouncing and you cannot post to it, then you are probably in gait. You can also shift your weight side to side lightly to throw off the rhythm of his trot. 
 
If he is too pacey, ride in deeper footing, grass, deep dirt, uneven terrain, this will break up the lateral footfall, go faster uphills to get him in gait, so you can feel what it should be like  and go slower downhill, as they get pacey downhill.  Now think about those horses you saw in the videos on you tube, weird, alot of sale horses are in grass and deep footing? Wonder if they will really gait when you get them home?
 
Stay at a speed that keeps him right under pacing, everytime he paces, slow down, again do this thousands of times, until he gets in shape, can hold that speed and gets muscle memory.
 
Okay, now if this is too much work for you, then what are the quick fixes? Well first of all they may work for awhile, but as soon as you stop doing them the horse will go back to pacing or trotting. Most horses that pace are inverted, head up, hollow back, so to round them out, you can use a running martingale with a snaffle, or german martingale, or draw reins, but do not ride for long periods of time with it, in the beginning, your horse needs to build up the muscles or you will make his neck and back sore. If you horse throws his head and runs away with you though, then these would also be a good idea, they keep the head down and give you more control. This is why you see the english riders, dressage riders and yes western riders all use these tools.
 
For the pacey horse, you can put a heavier shoe on the front and barefoot behind, for trotty horses, they put a heavier shoe on the back, but again, as soon as you change the shoe, since the horse never learned to stay in gait, he will go back to pacing or trotting, so it would be much better, to take the time to do it correctly then to rely on special shoes. Also, putting some funny shoes on, can make your horse lame. Your horse gives you hours of pleasure, so why would you make him lame? Then you will get the gimp gait, and that's not in the spectrum. 
 
Is there a special bit or saddle? No and don't let some gaited sales person sell you one, guaranteed to make them gait. Its a bunch of, hmm, crap, sorry people, but it is, the good horses can gait in a halter, so what does that tell you?
 
Use a snaffle or curb in the arena and a curb on the trail, reason for this? Most people are not quick thinking or good with their reaction time and by the time you pull on that snaffle, when you horse spooks on the trail, you will  be 100 feet away and galloping, so your horse will not stop until he is not scared anymore. Can you hold on that long? The curb is stronger and will cause your horse to start thinking instead of reacting, so you will stop sooner, but if you like to be run away with on your untrained horse, stick with the snaffle, it won't hurt him, but it will hurt you. 
 
Find out what your horse is comfortable in and use it, if they have their head up and they are throwing their head, I have news for you, they are not comfortable and if your horse could talk he would tell you, so pay attention and see how they react to your bit and if its not working, change it. The definition of stupid -doing the same thing over and over again, when its not working, so who's being stupid, you or your horse?
 
Saddle, just find one that fits your horse and doesn't get it his way, gaited saddles are cut back more, around the shoulder,  but if your horse is wide and you put a narrow gaited tree on him, it's not going to work and you will make him sore. If you look at his chest and its narrow, the gaited ones will probably work, but if he is wide or looks more like a quarter horse, then get a wider tree saddle. 
 
Okay,  now to big one, the rider. Do you know how to ride? Did you expect a gaited horse would just steer himself and keep the same speed, hmmm, why won't you take a lesson? Too much time, or is it more fun to pace and trot down the trail on your gaited horse and then have him act up, spook, take off etc. because you have no clue what you are doing. You may be lucky, but when will your luck wear off and you fall off and end up in the hospital? Take some lessons, learn how to steer, control your horses speed, bend him, back up, sidepass, get a balanced seat, learn how to use your hands. Gaited lessons are great, but english would be fine, or dressage, you have to start somewhere, in order to help your horse.
 
Alright, so too much work, you don't want to do it, and you want it to be easy. Well the next choice, which no one wants to do, is to buy a well gaited, well broke horse and learn how to ride it and keep it in gait. How much would you pay, $3000? In the quarter horse world this may work, but he may also go lame at 7 since he was started at 2 years old, but in the gaited world, you are asking for trouble. Anything under 3000, has something wrong with it, not broke, bad gaits, killed its owner, I think you get my drift. You may be a lucky and find one, but they are few and far between.
 
How much do you need to spend? I would say at least 4000 and up, if you are not a good rider, get one pretty expensive and make sure the seller will help you in the future. Is the seller telling you they don't know what gait it is doing, bad sign. Are you bouncing around and the seller says thats it? Wrong again. They should show you how fast to go,  what to do when it gets out of gait, how to carry your reins and body. 
 
Now be careful too, just because its expensive doesn't mean its good, you have to have a clue before you buy one of these horses, or go to a reputable seller. Will they give references, are they respected in the gaited world? Are they helpful or just pushing horses at you?
 
My favorite phone call - I don't want something expensive, I don't need a show horse, I just want a well gaited, calm trail horse for a beginner, that everyone can ride. I'm sorry people, those horses are not cheap, well gaited, means well trained, calm, means good temperament and well trained, beginner, means better be damn well trained, and years of experience.
 
Think of this way, a trip to the Emergency Room can cost $10,000 and up, so why not spend it on the horse and stay out of the ER. Now that $6,500 doesn't seem so bad, does it. 
 
In the end you need a safe well broke horse, if you ride trails, then get one that has been on trails, if you are going to show, then get a show horse, don't buy a show horse with great gaits that has never gone on trail, it will be well trained, but it may be a poor trail horse. So think, be prepared, have some knowledge and trust your instincts, if you get a bad feeling about a horse or a seller, just leave, it may just save you.
 
If you would like to get your horse to gait better, i have a dvd available, on dvd page. 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 Flat Walk- Lateral gait- below
 
 la1.jpeg
 
 Flat Walk- Lateral gait
 
 
 
epic3.JPEG
 
 
 Flat Walk- Lateral gait
 
 
sundance2.JPEG
 
 
Fox Trot- diagonal gait
 
fire1.JPEG
 
Trot - diagonal gait
 
rremwes1.JPEG 
 
 
Trot - diagonal gait
 
smokey5.JPEG 
 
 

 

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