New York, 4 year old  Rocky Mountain Horse ridden in full cheek copper snaffle in Tennessean saddle in square pen and open pastures by medium level rider

Question: This horse is VERY lateral!  Everytime I ask for gait he gets into a hard pace.  Ouch!  I have worked him up hills alot to condition him. 

Once in awhile I can get a few strides of smooth gait, but it is short lived,and he seems to go very fast when that happens.  I saw him on video before purchase with the teen riding him (they had him shod in front) and he was gaiting beautifully.  All of my horses are barefoot.  I am much heavier than the teen (about 160 pounds). 

What am I doing wrong?

From Panelist Jonathan

First of all I wouldn't say you are doing anything wrong . The situation you describe reminds me of to things . Shoeing fronts only is a very old time honored remedy . And it will help . As weird as this may sound a pacey horse is just a little to fast on the fronts and a little weight from some standard (LITE) keg shoes will sometimes slow them up enough to get results in the right direction .  I emphasis LITE because human nature has a tendancy to think if a little is good a "LOT" is better . A "LOT" is stepping into the realm of abuse in my book and I wouldn't want anyone to think this my recomendation .

Actually you should count your blessings . A pace is so much more easy to turn into a four beat than a trot .  My solution for you comes from a different direction than you probably have been told . Cue him up from the dead walk into a slow canter with a slite pop of the reins and hold him there for a good distance . Untill he starts telling you he has had enough. 

Now let him back down and see if it is pace or gait . Play with him from this direction and see if there is any spark of hope . Your statement of how he had "speed" when gaiting reminded me of this method/trick . If he/you get it right in about a half dozen tries you may be on your way . The only draw back is , from my experience , a horse that needs to be aproached like this usually has little thread and you may have to settle for a single gear/speed smoothy . Only time will tell , he is very young .

I have found that working from the opposite direction when I hit a wall like a heavy pace can be just the trick to circumvent the way they are wired . Ofcourse patience is always needed and here is no exception . Also , this is a young horse and if he was started too early or is of larger bone/size , he may still be coming into himself . I haven't come across many pure RMH that have so strong a pace , but I'm betting he is just a late bloomer .

Stay on top of him , take it real slow and try coming in the back door from the canter . Good Luck !


From Panelist Laura

Since you have already tried using the terrain to help break up the pace (riding uphill and conditioning the horse), it is time to try something else.  If most of your conditioning work was in a pace, the horse may think that it is the gait you want which makes it harder to get a smoother gait. 

If most of your conditioning work was in a dog walk, the correct muscles have been 
built and it shouldn't be too hard to get him into the correct gait.  It sounds like you may need to put a front shoe on this horse to help break up the pace, along with getting some help on teaching the horse to collect.  You might call the people you bought the horse from to see exactly what they did with him. 

You might also want to look for a good trainer in your area to further evaluate the horse and work with him on smoothing out his gait.


From Panelist Stella

Shoeing in the front is often done on horses that are too lateral as a quick fix, but it doesn't necessarily teach them anything, just just become dependent on it to stay square. He likely had this problem before you bought him...

First, be sure his hoof angles are correct(natural, same as pastern)and that the hind feet are not longer than the fronts.(usually the back feet have a higher angle)Make sure his lateral balance is OK too, and he's tracking square...

Condition him  to bend his stifle and hock by using various lateral exercises, but dont start too small(start simple and work up to greater degrees of difficulty)...start with the walk, and then try to find which speed of gait he's naturally most comfortable at...

It might help to switch from a broken bit to something solid, even a mullen mouth, sometimes broken bits get particular horses too strung out, depending on their conformation, especially of the neck.

In riding, try keeping your legs more under yourself, to keep the column of your bodyweight narrower...generally, the wider you make your bodyweight for the horse to balance, the larger the stride behind becomes; it could be that he's pacing because your bodyweight is asking for a larger stride behind, while your hands restrict his forleg stride, which can also create pacing.


From Panelist Theresa

Were the shoes only on the front feet for the video? If so, rest assured, its not what your doing wrong. When a horse is lateral (pacey) if weight is added to the front feet it will
slow down the front feet and square the horse up.  This is the easiest, fastest and most sure way to square up the gait.

Other options to try, but not as successful would be to lower the head to square him up, however this wont always work if the horse is extremely pacey as you described.

If you prefer to keep your horse barefoot, then you may want to get some smooth rollers, however for trail riding this would not be an acceptable alternative. As the horse is pacing, you may also try to square him up by separating your hands, as though your holding a child in front of you while you ride. The sometime will achieve a minor amount of squaring effect as well, but from what you described I think I would go with the first option.


Back to main page
Ask a Trainer