Racking Horse with "bunny hop" type walk.

Missouri,  8 year old Racking Horse Gelding, ridden  in a mild gaited bite and western saddle on trails and in round pen and pasture.

Question: I can not get him to ride smoothly.  We've tried several different bits.  He has beauiful smooth looking gaits when he's out in the pasture running.  However when your ready to ride, it's a different story.  It's very hard to describe without seeing him.  He does this sort of "bunny hop"type walk.  It's very rough.  On a couple of occasions he's walked and it's been very smooth.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong or not doing right.  Any suggestions?  How do you get your horse into different gaits?  I've always been surrounded by quarter horses

From Panelists Laura

I've found with some racking horses that they can get nervous and tend to do a very tight, jittery rack which can be quite bouncy.  The easiest way to get them over this is to get them to relax and loosen up.  This is one of those, "it's gonna take some time" problems.  Try to spend most of your riding time in a fairly slow dog walk.  The dog walk is where you slide from front to back in your saddle as the horse moves.  Encourage your horse to drop his head by loosening up the reins and lowering the position of your hands.  If the horse speeds up, give a quick tug on the reins and loosen up again until he gets the idea you want him to walk slowly.  Whenever he goes faster and is smooth, verbally praise him.

If after a couple of weeks, you don't see any improvement, you could try speeding him up, raise his head by shortening your reins and raising your hands higher, pull back a little on the reins and see if he does better if you just let him go fast.  Usually a verbal cue like "Rack on" helps.  I know this sounds contradictory to what I said above about slowing him down, but horses are individuals and the same thing doesn't always work for every 
horse.  You mostly want to get him relaxed and working where he is comfortable.  You might also talk to his former owner and find out what cues they used with him and what gaits he can actually perform.


From Panelists Nancy

I'm not exactly sure what a "bunny hop" type walk is, but I'm sure that you don't want it!  I believe that you are probably asking for more speed than he can do at this time.  Slow down to a normal, flat quarterhorse walk, and gradually, over a period of time, ask for more.  Keep some contact with his mouth and ask for a slight bit of collection.  Squeeze with your legs, don't kick, while keeping soft contact with his mouth.  If you kick, I believe you are apt to get your "bunny hop" instead of a nice increase of speed at the walk.  Your aim is to start to get the swinging rhythm of the running walk, or rack if he is inclined that way.  But you must develop it from a flat walk.  Don't rush or get impatient for a lot of speed.  That will come later after he is confirmed at slower speeds.  Whenever you have a problem, go back to the flat walk.


From Panelists Christine

 He sounds like he is uncomfortable to me. The fact that he gaits well in the pasture but not when you are on his back would indicate that he might have a sore back or problems with the saddle fit. There is an intersting web site lindatellingtonjones.com that deals with horse's
physical problems and you might also look to see if there is a horse chiropractor in your area.
Good luck

Back to main page
Ask a Trainer