TWH only Paces!

Kentucky 7 yrs TWH gelding ridden in standard walking horse bit and western saddle, by good rider on long stretch of dirt road and pasture.

Question: Token is a 7 year old paint walking gelding out of a registerd mare and stallion.  His problem :  He will only pace.  We have tried different bits and I have recieved so many "suggestions" on how to shoe him that I have just kept him flat shod.  He is only used for trail riding so pads are out.I wouldn't mind if his pace was smooth but it's just like riding a trotting horse.Any suggestions would be helpful. 

From Panelists Darla

 It sounds like your horse needs some work on the following:
First of all make sure his feet ARE done correctly.  With a horse that is pacing his back feet should be left with his heels high and his toes off.  This will help him turn over faster and smoother.  His front feet should be natural as possible with his angles done correctly according to his shoulder.  It is also important to make sure his teeth are in good shape and wolf teeth removed by your vet.  Check your curb chain to make sure it is not too tight.  I like to get four fingers through it on a young horse and two fingers on a 
resistant horse.

Lee Zigler has an article for curing the Pace that is really good and helped me with a very pacey horse.  Ride a while and get your horse warmed up and do a lot of stopping a backing.  Backing should be easy for him and he should back collected and continuous for you.  When he is warmed up (Sweaty) go to a gradual incline in the road (preferably).  Start on the flat and ask him to walk at a brisk step.  When he starts up the hill lift a little on the bit by lifting on the reins (I use two hands for training in this case) just enough 
to see his head raise slightly (not enough to make him resent it) at the same time squeeze with your legs (from your hips to your calves) This should encourage him to start gaiting.  If he has a gait you will feel it get smooth and hear the hooves make a four beat sound on the road.  I may only last for a few steps so if he starts to pace of trot slow him down to a walk and start out again with the same sequence.  If he stays in the smooth gait just hold 
him there and keep encouraging him with your legs (if he starts to slow down) and make sure you praise him too.When you reach the top of the incline he might start pacing again so slow down and go back to the incline for another go at the gait.  As you go down 
the incline hold his head up slightly just like you did on the upside of the hill and ask him to take short smooth steps.  He is probably going to want to take big pacey steps going down the hill. A lot of backing helps so do not forget to stay calm and back him whenever you stop and before you start out again.  Calmness is very important and try to keep your mind set on him being smooth and gaiting.  If you expect it and visualize it put together with doing the exercises I have given you.  You have a good chance of bringing him to his smooth gait. this process takes a lot of time and patience on an older horse.  I just finished a very pacey 8 year old TWH.  He is gaiting really nicely now but it took 60 days of patience, encouragement and hard work. 

Also please read the article I mentioned earlier. 
Happy Trails and smooth rides,  Darla

From Panelists Laura
Here's one more shoeing suggestion - If it isn't too rocky where you ride, have your farrier leave the back feet bare (no shoes) and put a wide web keg shoe on the front feet.  If the hoof wall wears too short or the horse gets ouchy at all in the back feet, your farrier can put regular width keg shoes on the back feet.  Have your farrier put the horse's angles about 1-2 degrees steeper than the natural pastern angle of your horse.  The shoeing is to just help your horse gait a little better, NOT force him into gait.  

Now, you need to teach your horse the correct gait.  It will help a lot to use the natural environment to help break up that pace.  Slow down and dog walk when going down hill.  Speed up slightly when going up hill.  Don't allow your horse to canter or gallop going up hill, make him speed up his walk.  The hill will help break up the pace.  Use one of your many bits to help raise his head and collect him when going up hill.

Whenever there are tall weeds, plowed fields, or rough ground of any sort, ride your horse through this instead of taking the easy path.  Speed him up just out of a dog walk and don't let him canter at all.  The weeds and rough ground causes your horse to pick his feet up more and helps break up that pace.  Don't overdue the plowed field work - it's hard on his legs if you go too long or too fast.
Whenever your horse feels smooth (even if it's just a few steps) praise him loudly.  When he feels rough and bouncy, use a discouraged tone with him.  It will take quite a while for you to teach him to give you a smoother gait, so have some patience.  He has been pacing for quite a while so you are not going to correct this overnight.  If your horse is smooth for a while and then gets bouncy, don't slow him down.  Tell him "this is too rough" and 
speed him up a little so he doesn't get rewarded (slowing  down or stopping is considered a reward by most horses) for pacing.  Whenever you are on a smooth path and he gets bouncy, ride him down into a ditch until he smooths out or turn him side to side in a serpentine type of movement until he smooths out.  
Be patient.  He's been pacing for seven years and it may take quite a while to correct this.  If you don't see any difference at all after riding him in rougher ground after a couple of months, you should probably look for a good trainer to teach him to gait.


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