Walkaloosa has lost Gait.

 Indiana Walkaloosa 5year old ridden by experianced rider in roundpen, pasture, ring, and fields with an elevator bit and western saddle

Question: My 5 year old walkaloosa gelding had an appaloosa dam and a register TWBEA sire.  He gaited up until he was about 1 year old off and on. Then when I started working with him he does everything else but gait.  I have had heavy shoes on the front and I have had heavy shoes and trailer shoes on the back, with keg on the front.  I started him off in a snaffle bit, then a bit with a two inch shank and he kept his head low and just be lazy.  Then I went to a Wonder Bit, yes he listened more but still lazy.  Last, I put an Elevator Bit and it brought his head up. Now that you know what I have done.  Am I using the correct equitment?  Should I set his head first?  PLEASE help me.  Thank you.

From Panelists  Nancy

Ride him in a loose shanked curb, such as a Tom Thumb.  A snaffle mouth piece would be fine.  Get rid of the Elevator bit.  Yes, do work to keep improving his mouth, but don't try to force his head up.  It will come up a bit in time as he learns to get his weight back off his front end and carry more with the hind legs.  Develop his gait from the normal flat walk.  Just keep asking for a little more and be PATIENT. 

Don't try to ask for speed until he is confirmed in the rhythm of the running walk at a slow speed.  If you ask him to move on a bit and if he ignores your request, give him a smack with the bat or whip on his side right behind your leg.  Then when he moves on, praise 
him.  Be sure and ask for this with your legs first and then if he doesn't answer you promptly, use the whip.  Legs FIRST!  Remember, you work from the normal walk and whenever you have a problem, go back to the walk.  If you can ride him barefoot and the ground is suitable, do it.  Or have him shod with plain kegs and keep the feet trimmed with the toes short and enough heel to keep him comfortable.  Forget all the messing around with his feet.  Remember, a horse is trained with good riding and knowledge, but not with 
gimmicks.  I'm sure you'll be successful, but be patient with him. 


From Panelists Lee Ziegler

Does this mean the horse is hard trotting, jogging, loping or what now? 
What gait did he do as a colt?  It is hard to figure out what might work without this information.

Assuming he is hard trotting, the first thing you need to do is establish a flat walk. Take of the head gear and return to a real snaffle (D ring, eggbutt, anything but a curb type).  Riding with one rein in each hand, ask him to walk at an even, ordinary speed.  (I am assuming that he does walk like any other horse, even four beat, about 4 mph)  You can do this anywhere, ring, field, pasture, down the trail, it doesn't matter. 

As he is walking, you are going to have to teach him to walk with more energy.  To do that, you will probably need to carry a crop or dressage whip (the dressage whip is better because you can use it behind your leg without moving your hands).  Feel his legs move under you, and as you feel a hind leg pick up and start to move forward, squeeze with both your legs, evenly, using your lower calf.  (do not kick)  Release the squeeze when the hind hoof contacts the ground, then repeat as the other hind leg moves forward. (this 
is kind of tricky, you may need a ground person to tell you when a leg is moving). 

Practice the alternate squeezes to see what effect they have on your horse. If he ignores them, (and he probably will) try again, this time squeezing and then reinforcing the squeeze with a tap behind your leg on his side or on his hindquarters with the dressage whip. Remember to squeeze first, then use the whip -- don't just whip him to move him.  The point of this is to teach him to pay some attention to your legs. 

Work on this until you speed up his walk -- at the first sign of breaking into a trot, lightly check with the reins (use a pull and slack) then instantly squeeze him so that he does not stop moving.  You should be able to get a faster walk in a couple of lessons.

Now, for the next step:  Turning the walk into something else.  From the problems you have mentioned and this horse's breeding, I imagine that the only gait he is likely to perform easily is a fox trot.   Put him in the fast walk, then push it for a bit more speed, checking lightly as he tries to trot.  Push his walk and restrain him from the trot with light checks -- he will start doing a few steps of a fox trot.  It is very tricky to get just the right amount of push from the walk without going "over the edge" into the hard trot, but you can do it.  Be patient and do not ask for much speed.  Then, gradually, build on what speed he has in the gait and ask for a tiny bit more.  This takes time! 

IMO, no amount of weighted shoes or extreme bits will teach this horse to gait --- working his body in this way will.  Even non-gaited horses can be taught to fox trot using this method.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelists Christine

Sounds like the Appaloosa is comig through stronger, now that he is older. The fact that he gaited when he was younger should make it possible to get him to gait again. First he needs to find his balance and get as much good schooling as possible. You said he is lazy, which I would concentrate on before worrying about his gaits. Is he more energetic when ridden with other horses? 

Let him have some fun on trail rides, pass the other horses, let them pass you and get him happy and comfortable about moving forward. It sounds like the sharper bit and heaver shoes are not going to work for him, but I think more energy and encouraging him to use his hindend more might help. Sometimes riding on a slight downhill helps those horses slide the hindquarters underneath them. It really helps if the horse wants to go forward, maybe on the way home or his friend is a little bit ahead and you have to hold him back a little while at the same time urgeing him on.

Good luck and of it doesn't work, there is nothing wrong with a nice trot, millions of horses do just that.


From Panelists Laura

Since you have tried two totally different ways to shoe your horse, I think the first thing you need to do is determine what gait your horse is doing under saddle.  Have someone who knows gait watch you ride.  Is your horse pacing or trotting?  Is your horse doing some other gait?  You can't correct a gait if you don't know what the horse is currently doing.  

The next thing you might look at is your saddle.  A barrel saddle tends to tilt you forward towards the horse's forehand.  It is usually hard to teach a horse to gait in a forward seat type saddle (except for the foxtrot, but you usually teach a flatwalk first).  If you can, borrow a western saddle that will let you sit down on your butt and drop your weight back a little.  

You will need to teach your horse to collect and carry himself.  You don't want to use your bit as an artificial crutch to hold your horse up - you need to teach him to carry himself.  If you don't know how to teach a horse to collect and can't recognize gait while on your horse, you should probably look for a good trainer to do it for you.  Keep in mind that teaching a horse to gait is NOT a series of mechanics where you put on the right bit, the 
right shoes and off you go - perfect gait.  The horse needs to learn which gait you want.  Shoes, bits and saddles are aids to help him gait better, not force him into it.


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