KMSHA Examiner/NASHA Gait Judge

I live in the Southeast corner of Arizona. I am an attorney and a Mountain Saddle Horse breeder. I have three stallions and three brood mares, with assorted young stock. Today there are 12 horses on the place, and I own another that is out on free lease with a friend for riding, my senior stallion, as he is a peach of a riding horse.

I have just finished writing a book Glide Rides: Through the Gait of Joy.:for the owners Gaited horses, with emphasis on Mountain Saddle Horses and Gaited Morgans, for which nothing has yet been written, on history, tacking, training and riding. What people need to remember is that the genetic basis for why horses gait is the same across all the gaited breeds. They are far more like each other than unalike, and a recognition of that fact is drawing people together in places like this,  as people come to realize that there is a third separate and distinct style of riding, which could simply be called Gaited, as distinct from the other two, English and Western, as those two disciplines are from each other. There are general principles that flow from the basic genetics of gait that also cut across all the gaited breeds, and which form the basis for the developing discipline of riding Gaited. The gaited breeds *all have alot more in common than there are differences, and the underlying genetics of how gait is produced is the same for all the gaited breeds, as are the principles of riding them that flow naturally from those genetics.

Horses can only move their feet in so many ways. It was a tremendous revelation to me the day that I realized that every intermediate 4 beat gait has identical footfalls, the only difference in the gaits being in the timing of the consecutive footfalls. I had to figure it out the hard way, puzzling out the footfalls of the foxtrot from a Foxtrotter brochure, and realizing that it was the same as the troche gait that I was familiar with from Paso Finos! I think many people both old and new to intermediate 4 beat gait get hung up on footfalls, when in fact that is not what needs attention to understand intermediate 4 beat gaits, but the timing of those footfalls. 

Too many gaited horses are  rideable but not trained, horses that someone jumps up on one day and thereafter they are described as "broke to death." Such horses are not supple and know nothing about leg aids, weight
shifts, or giving to the bit, and usually have other glaring holes in their training that makes them a wreck looking for a place to happen. The "overtrained" horse exixst in numbers in the gaited community too.. And I've had those, too, and they need to be rebitted with milder bits, or I may take them out of the bit altogether for some period of time, and put them in the jaquima, at which they rejoice. They need to relax and be allowed to do what they were meant to do without having their heads cranked back and their feet weighted, although fortunately, weighted feet is not a problem with Mountain Horses, but the traditional manner of riding with a very tight rein and 8" shanked curbs, either broken or solid, is. I do admit to using those bits, but I teach a horse to balance and collect itself without me doing it with the bit.

I like all the gaited breeds, but I strongly disagree with the Foxtrotter Associations decision to allow up to over 4 lbs of weight on the hooves, 52 ounces, and the similar kinds of weights allowed on Plantation and Big Lick Walkers, along with the chains, pads and buildups and soring.  To get the desired gait, people may do more to the horse than is humane. Ultimately, gait should be made in the breeding shed, and the gaited to non-gaited cross does not work in that direction. Breed it in, don't nail it on!

In my book, a good horse is a good horse, no matter what the label people have put on them.


Annette L. Gerhardt
191 E. Redwing Ln.
Huachuca City, AZ 85616-8246

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