North Carolina 3 year old Spotted Saddle Horse ridden in short shank/low port bit and western saddle in round pen, pasture, wide/open trails by moderate rider.

Question: I have recently started my 3 year old Spotted Saddle Horse on trails. I have worked her weekly in the round ring and pasture. She has picked up the slow and fast running walk quite well but does not raise her feet high like I have seen them do in the show ring (she has keg shoes on front, nothing on back). What do I need to do to get her to lift her feet higher or should I be concerned about this at this time. Please no suggestions to sore or use pain producing methods. Also would you please describe the dog walk and it's importance. I have seen it mentioned by several trainers. Thanks for your help!

From Panelist Liz

Please do not worry about the height your horse is lifting it's feet. As long as it is not tripping it is doing what comes natural and you should not be concerned. You may find a bit more lift with conditioning and being this horse is only three, it still has more filling out to do . Having a good comfortable consistent gait is a wonderful thing and wanting more height in the front legs lift could change that.

A dog walk is the slowest of walks. I use this walk to get a horse to relax and also to teach a horse to put its head down for stretching and to teach it to reach for the bit. I teach three speeds of walk on all horse here. The dog walk, a slow flat walk ( bit more speed with some up and down head motion) and the fast flat walk which is just behind the running walk ,  it has more impulsion in the hindquarters and the horse it really using that head and shaking up and down deeply, while pulling in the ground with those front feet.


From Panelist Nancy

You don't need to be concerned about her picking up her feet higher at this time, or any other time.  If you're mostly planning to ride on trails you don't want her wasting her energy with a lot of unnecessary high action and if you plan to show her, only attend the shows for sound horses, such as the FOSH (Friends of the Sound Horse) affiliated shows.  The judges at these shows will want her to be completely natural (and sound).  No soreing at 
those shows, thus no exaggerated high action either.

The dog walk is simply the much slower running walk - just a little faster than a flat walk.  It is a good training gait for the running walk.

Nancy Cade

From Panelsit Theresa

Many of the walkers dont seem to lift their front feet as we see in the shows.  If you are not planning to compete in the show ring I wouldnt worry about it.

First evaluate the horses natural conformation. Is his shoulder allowing his neck to come straight up, or out in front of the horse? Many low front feet are caused by the conformation. There is some you can do to achieve lift.

If you can lengthen the toe without compromising the gait the longer toe, or the front set shoes (front feet) will create a need for a higher arc in the  knee to lift the foot off the ground. It will increase the stride in the front as the leg is lifted higher. At the same time the head must be elevated from the shoulder. We can accomplish this by removing the curb chain from your bit, and if necessary adding a longer shank to the bit.

Do not hold the bit, rather you will wish to decide the height of the head, and when he drops below that height, use your leg(or a crop) to push his body forward to the head.  This will push the  head into the bit, while allowing him to move into a "closed front door".  This will naturally elevate the neck and the head, and allow the momentum to move through the shoulder of the horse. If you use a curb with this excercise, it will move the pressure from the mouth to the poll of the horse, thus lowering the head (as in western
pleasure type movement, which we want to avoid at this time) The process in allowing the neck and head to move up should be gradual over a period of say a month, rather than expect a low headset to become a high headset in a few days.

The dog walk(by my definition) is more of your trotting horse type of a walk, with a slight increase of speed (not as fast as a flat walk). It is a very swingy feel, with a four beat gait and a head shake. Some trainers I have worked with consider the dog walk a very slow walk the same as a quarter horse type walk, and call the slightly increased walk a "shaker
walk". It depends on where the trainer came from, and who he worked with. I use the dog walk to help a horse loosen up. A pacey horse will become more square as he dog walks and miles of dog walking will help him achieve the nice relaxed head shaking walk.

However, too much dog walking on a trotty horse will be counter productive to the running walk.


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