So, what kind of groundwork should you do with a gaited horse? Should you lunge a gaited horse? How often should you do groundwork? How do you connect with a new horse? I try to answer these questions in this video. Here is the ground work video with the grey mare: https://youtu.be/WNtxAfA4-CM
I use ground poles to help break up a pacey horse’s lateral gait. Pacey means the two legs on one side swing forward together or nearly together. Many gaited horses tend to the pacey or lateral type of gaits. This is often caused by tense horses, but even relaxed horses can be pacey. Once we get a horse to relax, the next thing I do is use poles to change a lateral gait to more of an even 4 beat gait.
So what do I use for a pole? Many things can be used from PVC pipe, to fence posts, to wooden logs. However, for really pacey horses, you need something that they really need to step over, so you want something 10-12 inches high and the heavier and more solid it is, the better.
How many poles do I use? I almost always start with 1 or 2 and rarely do I go more than two. Only a couple times do I use 4 poles. Usually, if I have to use 4 poles, I only use them for a few days and only with a horse that is extremely pacey and low headed. I would recommend that you start with 1 pole and begin the pole work once you have gotten the other prerequisites down (I discuss this in my first dvd). See how your horse does with 1 pole. If there is no change, try 2 poles or a higher pole, such as a log, fence post, or cavaletti.
How far apart do I space them if I use more than 1 pole? It depends on the horse. In many ways, this isn’t a science. The goal is to get the horse to change the pattern of his footfalls. For many horses, this just means getting them to have to move their feet differently to avoid stepping on the poles. For taller horses, use poles that are farther apart. I usually start with the poles 8-10 feet apart.
How long are my sessions of pole work? It depends on the horse’s progress, but most are less than 30 minutes of actual pole work and many are less than 20 minutes. Some end up being only 5 minutes long if the horse makes progress after struggling for a while. You know your horse and you don’t want him to get frustrated. This is very easy to do, even for me. Take time to break up the pole work with relaxation training, backing up, standing still, and whatever other things your horse knows how to do.
You can put them in different parts of your work space. You can try placing them on different inclines, taking your horse uphill over them, then downhill over them, to see what helps your horse the best.
If you find a spot or direction that seems to help your horse gait better, then go over that spot as much as you can early on. Later on, we want to ask in lots of different place, but initially, we want to make it as easy for the horse as we can.
Remember that you need to have the prerequisites done before you work on the poles. Your horse MUST be able to give you vertical flexion (bringing the nose toward the chest) with light pressure and MUST be able to drop his head and relax.
When you first start training your horse with the ground poles, make sure walk over them the first few times, or more if he is afraid of them. As you progress through your training, continue taking time to walk over them rather than gait over them every time. You do not have to gait every time your horse goes over the poles. You would rather wait until he is relaxed and ready, then ask him to go forward.
Using poles is not the magic button that will make your horse gait, but it is my favorite tool to use with pacey horses to break up the pace and get a smooth gait. Some horses will become smoother in a day and some will take 3-4 weeks to really start gaiting. Every horse is different and it is your job to figure out what helps your horse the most.
A friend of mine and I were talking about how every interaction with a horse is a win or a loss. I began disagreeing with her. I said that if you make training sessions about winning or losing, black or white, then you set yourself up to fail. If it comes down to you or your horse, you can never win unless you dominate your horse to make sure you never lose.
However, after talking about it some more, we both concluded that what we really meant was that each day was an opportunity to win or lose… for you. It is all about you! You have the opportunity to win or lose in each situation. Your attitude and your response to your horse’s actions determines the outcome. Even if you seemed to make little or no progress, if you stayed focused, relaxed, and calm and kept your horse that way… you WIN!
If, however, you allow the horse’s reactions to trigger emotions of anger, frustration, and failure, you have just lost the battle, no matter what your horse does. You cannot necessarily control your horse’s actions and reactions, but you can control yours.
So, yes, horse training is about winning and losing, but it is not necessarily a contest of wills between you and your horse, but it is about your willingness to control your actions and your attitude no matter what your horse does.
Every interaction with your horse is an opportunity for you to win, an opportunity to prove to your horse that you are a trustworthy leader and a safe companion. This can only happen when you are able to be content with yourself and with your horse, no matter what happens. This is what winning is all about!
After the last video where I talked about how low I get the horses to drop their heads, there were a lot of questions. In this video, I talk about what the horses should look like when they are gaiting and why we ask for the head to be so low. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!
Hey, guys, working on making more videos each week. Here is a short intro video. Make sure you subscribe and comment below on what kinds of videos you want me to make and what topics you want me to talk about.
Okay, I admit it, there is no one bit for that works best for every gaited horse. However, I am going to list a few bits that I like and I am going to talk about why the bit doesn’t really matter too much in the end, except for the horse’s comfort.
First off, let me say that you can train any gaited horse to gait in a snaffle or bitless bridle. You do not need a shanked bit. However, they can be good reasons to ride a horse in shanked bit, but not to get a good gait.
Also, I want to mention that a snaffle is only a bit with no leverage. If the bit has any kind of shanks, it is not a snaffle.
Okay, now that I have got that off my chest… 🙂
For the last couple of years, I have been using the Gary Lane Freedom snaffle, which I liked pretty well. You could use it as a simple snaffle or get the smallest bit of leverage if you clipped it to the reins. I still use this bit on occasion, but last fall I had the opportunity to try a new bit which has totally blown me away in how well it works and how much horses seem to love it.
The Rockin’ S Raised Snaffle
I recently heard about this bit, created by Mark Rashid. Since I bought the bit in September, I have been able to use in on almost 2 dozen different horses. Most of the horses seemed to really prefer this bit over their own. Some even had dramatic changes like going from only pacing with their head high to gaiting with their head low in 5 minutes!
So, the Rockin’ S Raised (ported) Snaffle is the bit I like the best at the moment.
However, as long as your horse is comfortable with the bit you have, I am not urging you to buy a new bit. I will say that many horses do not like bits with a single joint for the mouthpiece. When you pull back on both reins, the middle of the joint can poke the top of their mouth, causing them to raise their head. This is the opposite effect of what we want.
I encourage everyone to pay attention to their horse. He may or may not actually like the bit that he has. Don’t just use a bit because that is what he was used to before. If you can borrow bits from friends or fellow boarders, try as many as you can and find one that your horse seems to like.
I have seen dramatic changes when changing from one snaffle bit to another, from a single jointed bit to a french link kind of mouthpiece.
With the Rockin’ S Snaffle, I have seen horses go from tossing their heads, to being comfortable carrying a bit, start gaiting in one session, and give vertical flexion without any resistance.