7 year old Standardbred ridden in  tom-thumb pelham and english/huntseat style saddle in indoor & outdoor arenas by rider very experienced, but not with gaited horses

Question: I have a Standardbred mare, bred to race on the trot. However, over the last few months, she has developed more of a pace, though she still trots under saddle. I am
interested in "smoothing out" her pace and exploring her gaited abilities. I am new to gaited horses, though I've been doing some reading and research into it.

How do I encourage her to pace? And how do I teach her the difference between trot & pace, since she seems to confuse the two gaits sometimes?

I have noticed that when other people ride her, she tends to pace much more. She is 100% sound (since pacing can be sign that she's sore somewhere, I had her checked out by the vet, just to be safe).

Any information or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

From Panelist Alan

when a standardbred is trained to race on the pace they wear equipment called hopples. They loop around so that both left legs and both right legs are working together. You may want to try this at least temporarily to see if you can teach her to pace. It is very common for standardbred pacers to trot at slow speeds and pace when they are encouraged to pick up the pace (no pun intended) You can check with your local tack shop as far as getting a set of hopples. you will need a front and rear hanger as well as hangers for the saddle.

On a saddle I'm not quite sure how you would hang them but on a driving harness they are attached to the cruper. If she has trouble with switching gaits this would be a good way to teach her to pace only. If you want her to switch gaits then this should only be done temporarily to teach her and let her get a feel for pacing again. She may not have used those muscles in a while and just needs to be pacing for a while again.

I raced standardbred pacers for about 5 years so feel free to contact me if there is anything else I can help with.


From Panelist Liz

Since this mare was started at the trot and is now showing pace this tells me she is now starting to carry herself in a hollow backed frame. This is either due loosing conditioning and losing strength in her back or is being asked to carry her head in a more up position
which drops the back to a hollow frame taking her to the pace or a combination of both. When other people are riding her they are not asking her to collect like you are making her pace more.

Having the pace and trot does indicate that she should be able to achieve some smooth in between gait. The trot being the most rounded back and the pace being the most hollow back you will want to find a happy medium in between to find and develop a smooth gait. Her structure will determine what this may be  . It could be a fox-trot, running walk, rack  or stepped pace. I recommend not allowing her to pace though or she will just get stronger in that and get weaker in the back and start to put stress on her whole body over time. I would find a person that knows how to identify the smooth gaits and knows how to develop them naturally ( with out going to weighted shoes or bigger bits) and help you figure out what her best smooth gait is and work toward it. I would continue to utilize the trot so she will keep her back strength.

She can be taught to do a trot and to gait separately with different head sets and body signals. This takes time and patience but is well worth the effort.  I would also recommend going to a different saddle, as a forward seat saddle will position you to add more pressure to the shoulders and front quarter of the horse keeping the horse from being able to free
up the shoulders. It puts your body in the wrong place for her to be balanced correctly to achieve a good efficient smooth gait. A western, dressage, cut back are all fine just not a forward hunt seat saddle.



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