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!
Myth 1: Gaited horses just gait on their own.
This is true and not true. Gaited horses do have the ability to gait; that part is natural. However, they are not born just gaiting smoothly. Many gaited horses pace, trot, or do something in between that is not as smooth as we would want. To get that perfectly even, smooth gaits takes time and training.
Myth 2: You need a shanked bit or a “gaited horse bit” to get them to gait.
I have trained numerous gaited horses, all different breeds, to gait with a plain snaffle or with just a hackamore. The key is to train them to gait, not play at forcing them into a particular head set.
Myth 3: Gaited horses need their noses tucked in or “collected” to gait.
Once a horse learns the correct way to gait (meaning the correct footfall), many of them like their head level with their withers and their nose slightly out. They travel with a long, level gait that is super comfortable because the horse is relaxed. Horses do not need the reins held tightly once they have learned to gait naturally on a loose rein.
Myth 4: You need to know the name your horse’s gait.
Names do not mean anything to the horse or your backside if it is not smooth! You should focus on getting a gait that is smooth and easy to sit, at both a slow speed and a medium speed. Many of the breeds do the exact same gait, but they call them different names. Use your judgment and decide what your priority is.
Myth 5: You can never canter your gaited horse.
I am asked this one a lot. I always make sure the gaited horses I work with are comfortable cantering a little. However, I never ask for the canter from the gait, always from the walk. Gaited horses should be able to gait quickly without breaking to the canter. If we are always asking for the canter from the gait, they will not learn to gait quickly, but will rather break to the canter.
This is the most common question I get.
“If my horse is bred to gait, why does he pace/trot!?”
I like to think of a sports analogy. There are those few people out there who excel at sports. They do well at whatever sport they try. Then there are most people, who are like me. They aren’t very good at any sport without lots of practice, and I mean attentive practice. Without that good practice with advice and help along the way, I would never get better.
Gaited horses are the same way. A very few never need the training, but the rest need someone to train their mind and body into a good gait.
There are several specific reasons horses don’t gait well:
- Breeding – many of the gaited breeds have now been bred more toward a show ring type of gait and this is usually not smooth and very often towards the pace.
- Conformation – some horses are just not built to gait as easily as others. This doe not mean your horse will never gait, but that it will just take more work.
- Saddle fit – this is not the first thing I look at, but it probably is attributing to the problem if you have been working on the gait and it isn’t coming.
- Training – Your horse has never been trained/taught that the gait is the movement that you want. This is the most common reason.
These are reasons why your horse doesn’t gait well, not excuses to get another horse. All the gaited horses that have the conformation to gait can gait. How much training they need depends on each horse. Some horses get it very quickly and make the trainer look really good! Some horses need a lot of muscle re-conditioning. Many gaited horses have been allowed to stay bumpy and this trains their muscles to stay in that bumpy gait.
Gaited horses need to be encouraged into a smooth, correct gait and then they need their gaiting muscles built up over time. The more you let your horse be bumpy, the more they will build the wrong muscle.
So now you know that what your horse most likely lacks is training, but along with that I want to encourage you to keep a positive attitude. As you begin working with your gaited horse, you will most likely get discouraged and your horse will get discouraged too. Praise your horse when he makes progress, even if that progress is very small.
Focus on the good things that you have done and are doing and remember to enjoy the journey.