Michigan 12 year old TWH ridden in Curb and English saddle in Arena, round pen by Middle level rider.

Question: Should a Walker be allowed to fox trot?

During one training session my Walker did a lovely fox trot for a couple of turns around the arena.  Two experienced gaited horse owners hearing this immediately said I should
never allow him to do this, but had wildly different reasons why. Could you explain why fox trotting is bad or why they are wrong?

FYI: My Walker is quite inconsistent in his gaits and I've been working with him using various books (Gaits of Gold) and your website. (There are no trainers who will come to
the ranch and I have no trailer.)



From Panelist Lee

What are the alternatives to the fox trot in this horse?  If all he does otherwise is a pace, by all means let him fox trot -- or if all he does otherwise is a trot, again, let him fox trot.  It is a better riding gait than either of these alternatives.

Whether it is advisable for your horse depends on some other things as well. What do you plan to do with this horse? Trail or pleasure ride?  If that is it, than the fox trot is a useful gait and will come in handy in addition to the running walk on long rides. It is not a *bad* gait, just not a running walk.  Show?  In that case you don't want him to fox trot at all -- since it is not a "correct' gait for a TWH in the show ring, and too much practice in it might allow him to believe that this is the only gait you want him to do.

IMO, there is nothing inherently wrong with letting a TWH do a fox trot in addition to his running walk, *if* he does this only when you ask him to. If he is picking a different gait on his own, then it is not a good idea to let him do that, no matter what gait he is choosing.   Better to work on consistency. If you have as an end goal riding this horse in a good reaching running walk, and his main problem is inconsistency,  you might do better to establish a solid flat walk before trying for more speed. That way the horse is going to be set in an even four beat gait at slower speed before he is asked to do the same gait at higher speed.

A fox trot can be a good gait for the horse to use for a time if he is ordinarily pacey and needs to learn to travel more "square" for the running walk.  Work in the more diagonal fox trot will help condition his body so that he can carry himself in the running walk more easily if he has a strong pacing tendency.  On the other hand, too much work in the fox trot can work against the horse learning to stride far under himself and prevent him from
becoming set in the rhythm of the four beat running walk, especially if he has a preference for the hard trot.  Perhaps that is what horrified the people who told you not to let him do it? 

Of course, in the ideal world all TWH would just do a running walk and not try to do other gaits.  In the real world, we often have to take what they give us.

But doing the fox trot from time to time will not ruin his ability to doing a running walk. Roan Allen, who was a rather famous Walking Horse, fox trotted, and racked on command, in addition to doing his running walk -- it didn't seem to hold him back much as a Walker!

The important thing is to allow the horse to do the fox trot only when you ask for it, and to work on consistency in the running walk first before you "branch out" into other gaits, if you expect your horse to work most of the time in a running walk.

Good luck -- it is hard to work with a gaited horse when you don't have anyone on the ground to watch and coach you.

Lee Ziegler



From Panelist Liz

Hi,

In this situation I would first evaluate what all the gaits are that this particular horse can do.  Many of our walkers can do several gaits. This is not a bad thing and in my own horses I like to have them do all over time if they have it in them to do several different gaits. If I have a horse that does have the ability to do a running walk I do teach this one first  as it can be the hardest to get and have them hold it consistently. Once they are set in the running walk then I do start teaching them to work for the next gait be it a fox trot or rack or even a trot.  I do not work the next gait though until they have the first set and then each one after that. 

Doing this is your preference and knowing the mechanics of each gait is important so you know which one you are working on and how to teach them to carry them self's in it. There is nothing wrong with a walker that fox trots unless you are showing,  because the gait called for is the running walk. 

This would not be a problem though once you have taught your horse through different signals to do each separate gait. If you do not want to have multiple gaits in your walker them pick your gait and stick with it. Do not work on developing multiple gaits at one time as this will just create confusion in your horse. Some walker are great fox trotters and that is their best gait. I certainly enjoy having a horse that can do many.

Elizabeth



From Panelist Erica

I would recommend trying to find the gait your horse is most comfortable in and letting him go with it. Perhaps his body conformation does not allow for a comfortable running walk with him, but rather a foxtrot. 

Another thing to be sure of is that he does not have any physical problems that may be inhibiting his gait - check his legs and back, saddle and bridle/bit fit, etc. Good luck with your boy!

Erica Frei



From Panelist Bob

If you are going to show your horse it would be undesirable for him to foxtrot. In a trail horse I would consider it a plus. The foxtrot is a diagonal gait and thus very sure footed. Most of the gaited breeds come from the same foundation stock and most are capable of several soft gaits. My foxtrotters will foxtrot over rough terrain and many of them will do good RW on gravel roads.

Many of the gait inconsistencies that I see come from the rider asking for too much speed too soon. When your horse hits the gait that you want, try to keep him in it and don't push for more speed until you both can get it consistently.

Good luck,
Bob Blackwell



From Panelist Nancy

If your horse will do a nice running walk whenever asked, but at times does a foxtrot, I don't see that as being so terrible, as long as you like it.  You were probably allowing him to go along a bit fast so that he started trotting behind.  If you don't want him to do it, I believe if you just raise his head a little bit in order to weight the rear end and check the speed down a bit, that he will go back to the rw.  If you are using him for pleasure and not showing him, I wouldn't be especially concerned.  Either let him continue foxtrotting, or bring him back to the rw.  I work my TWs at a trot on the longe line and it really seems to help the rw as it loosens it up.

Nancy Cade



From Panelist Theresa

This is really a question of personal preference!

In my opinion, if you want a fox trotter, then get a fox trotter. The problems I would see would strictly lie in two areas.
One- resale.
Two- show ability.
After analyzing those factors, if you decide a fox trot is ok with you, and your goals are non show related and you are willing to take a lesser price if you decide to sell later down the road, then by all means this is an acceptable saddle gait.

Theresa

 

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