Minnesota Eleven year old Tenn. Walker ridden in  walking horse bit, broken mouthpiece, 8 " shanks with western/ w/ tenn. walker tree in indoor arena by intermediate to advanced rider.

Question: This seems to be a problem with a lot of the Walking horses I see around here.  They seem to square up really well in footing that has some depth (sand, plowed up fields, etc.) but, riding on harder surfaces (dirt roads, etc.) they all seem to get really pacey.  Comments or recommendations please??? 

Thank you, Donna

From Panelist Annette

Yep. Because the soft surfaces make them work toward the forehand, and following the general rule "weight to the forehand pushes a horse to the diagonal", they square up. So, what to do when then are on a hard surface. 

Lower the head, get them working on the forehand. Get that back basculed (rounded), and they will tend to square up. The more you allow them to bring the head up, and hollow that back, and put themselves to the rear, the pacier they will get. This is dandy when you have a trotty horse you are trying to work into a nice even rhythm, but, as you have noted, will make a pacey horse just pace away.

Long backs, and long loins contribute to the paciness problem. You can get some strength to the back by doing that work in the loose surfaces, working them uphills, and good backing techniques. Not the wrong kind of backing, nose stuck up in the air, rider sawing away at the reins, but nose tucked, bent at the poll, weight shifted to the hind quarters, and that back basculed under the rider. Then back, back, back, back that horse across the
arena. Then start forward, and viola! there should be a nice square gait under you. Teach a horse how to back properly, then move them forward out of it in the same position, and the evenly timed gait will have the best chance to appear. From that, the horse will learn how you want him to hold himself to produce it. Plus, that exercise strengthens the abdominal muscles, which is the key to the muscular strength needed to overcome the effect of a too long back, with too long loins, and too low hocks that produces the paciness in the first place.

Hope this helps.


From Panelist Liz


Yes this is very common to see.
We would just love it if all our walkers were just walky all the time but that is not the case and many tend to be dominate to the pace or trot meaning we have to help condition and develop the running walk in our horses.

The Walkers are dominate one way or the other by 2 ways. One by genetics and other other being taught that way. I see many that are dominate to the trot but the riders have conditioned the body to the pace by asking the horse to carry it's self in an incorrect ventro flexed frame.

When the pacey horse is put in deep footing it must lift the feet to bring them out of the footing to move forward. Also the head will come down a bit and the back comes up if they are going to a running walk in the deeper footing.  Some will also go to a rack or stepped pace instead of a running walk in deeper footing, again lifting the feet front and back but keeping a ventro frame. The deeper footing is breaking up the lateral lift and set down of the hoofs of the pace.

Deep footing has always been used as a way to square up a horse but it is only good in that footing. Still the horse must be taught to carry him self in the correct frame to hold the gait on any type footing and this has to be done by know and teaching that horse to go with a neutral back instead of ventro. This comes with lots and lots of walking, the running walk come out of the flat walk.   Also a horse can only hold gait for a limited amount of time on any footing if it is not in good condition any way.

A gait that is permanent can not be made by the bit or nailing it on the feet. The horse should be taught how to carry it's self in the correct frame and it's us the riders that must know what that is , have the patience to work for it. The true running walk of the 
Tennessee Walking horse seems to be the most elusive of gaits for people to get just because they get impatient  with the time and conditioning it takes to get it.

I feel it is the best gait of all and is always worth the time to develop it if it is in a horse to get it.


From Panelist Nancy

Hi Donna, 

The deep footing is acting on them the same way as heavy shoes in front and helping them to square up.  I believe it's actually more of a training problem.  The horses must be taught that they are to do a square rw and not a pace. 

It seems that many of our TWs, without the training, most often prefer to pace.  But for most of them, the rw is there and they can do it and once they have done it enough that it becomes easy for them, they like to do it.  They need to be taught that the pace is a no-no and that the only gait that they will be allowed to do is the rw - aside, of course, from the canter and flat walk. 

The rw must be taught from the square, flat walk (or dog walk).  I'm referring to the square, normal walk that all horses do.  Also, to encourage them to do a square walk and not a pace, the rider will probably need to encourage them to lower their head some and stretch (lengthen) their neck.  They need to stretch their neck and body and relax their muscles in the neck and back. 

Nancy Cade

From Panelist Laura

A lot of horses change their gait and/or their rate of speed when the terrain changes.   For your pacey horse, I would work him mostly where his gait is the smoothest to build the right muscles for a good running walk and then be sure he is shod to help him gait better when the terrain doesn't help him. 

A lot of times this just means being sure he is trimmed close to his natural angles and maybe putting a keg shoe on the fronts and leaving the hinds bare.  You might also want to collect him up a bit more when you ride on the harder surfaces and see if speeding him up or slowing him down a little causes him to be smoother.


From Panelist Lee

Pacey horses will square up in deep footing because it delays the breakover of their hooves and changes the flight pattern and timing of their steps. They also have to work their shoulders and backs harder in deeper footing, which can contribute to them raising their backs a little as they move through it.  This body position makes the pace disappear.

Solution for riding on hard surfaces:  ask the horse to lower his head a bit, raise and round his back, and push him into the bit. That may be enough if he is not very pacey to begin with.  For horses with a more confirmed pace, more physical retraining and conditioning may be needed.

Good luck,

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Jonathan

Being that TW's are mostly very well bred for gait , actually to the point of being overly bred , animals that lean towards the pace when pushed too much are common place  . I believe what you are seeing here is , when held back in speed due to deeper footing they hold gait . On the other hand , when on on faster ground and feeling more confident , he brakes to the pace when asked for more speed . Most pace braking horses not ridden 
with this limitation in the forefront of the riders mind will do the same . Basically this is a rider fault before it is a breeding fault . This is also  why such terrain is used to counteract the pace fault . But , all gaited horses have a limit . They are not machines . Getting more speed without a brake to pace or trot is a VERY LONG TERM training quest requiring patience and skill aswell as different question .

As many of my fellow panelists recomend " collection, collection, collection " . Actually a stonger hand and knowing your animals limitation/braking point , will do the trick aswell . I have strong feelings about how we horse owners are responsable for what our horses learn , right or wrong . I believe a horse riden past there limitation/braking point will 
incorperate this brake point into it's gait routine as a matter of fact and as a good student should . After all , if we ask and they deliver , they think it's right . At 11 yrs. and with a history of being ridden as such for 3 of them , my guess is that it is something that is being taught by mistake.

Hopefully some of what I suggest will help . Again , all gaited horses have thier limits and asking for more than they can give in any aspect of performance will most certainly have a similar result .

As a closing point I would like to share this . The one and only time I have ever stone brused one of my animals was by pushing my horse in competition with another on a dirt road . He was laid up for close to 6 months .  Not fun . Most dirt roads are like concrete and with the ocasional stone in conjunction with absolutely no give in the road , running/raceing on such ground is a sure formula for disaster .



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