Missouri 15 year old Grade Walking Horse ridden in Curb and western saddle in arena and pasture by intermediate rider.

Question: This horse has paced since we bought her.  It is a comfortable pace & she is an excellent trail horse, but when I show her in local shows, the judge always says: "do you
know your horse paces?".  At  15 is it too late to work on this?  she is built narrow w/high withers.  If I work her in a Dring snaffle and get her head down, she will bob and walk
out nicely. But in a curb and when she gets stubborn she paces.  She is also very herd sore.  Trying to take & work her in the arena when a buddy is outside the arena is not a
pretty picture!!!  Any ideas?  Aside from these two issues, she is a very nice gentle horse.


From Panelist Laura

If your mare works better in a snaffle, show her in a snaffle.  There's no need for a curb bit if your horse gaits better with the snaffle bit. 

One thing you could try with her "herd sour" behaviour is to make it more pleasant for her when she is away from her buddies.  When you ride close to her friends work her harder with lots of circles.  Get her a little tired and sweaty.  When you work her away from her friends keep the workout light and easy and give her a carrot or horse cookie. 


From Panelist Carol


No, it is never too late to train an old horse new tricks.  You mention that you can lower her head in a d-ring snaffle and get her to walking.  Voila!  So what's the problem?  Show her in the d-ring.  There's no rule agianst it if you're in English tack.  After you get her gait established, you could probably go to something suitable for Western classes.  If she paces in the curb (this doesn't surprise me) why ride her in it?

As for the buddy sour issue, John Lyons has some excellent material on this.  Refer to the Training Guide by Lyons or to back issues of Perfect Horse magazine.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Stella

It sounds like she may be working with a hollow back in the curb, but do check both her hoof angles and especially the saddle fit, to insure she's not just trying to evade undue pressure from it by hollowing her back. There may be a combination of things here contributing; you want to correct everything to facilitate and optimize success in regaining proper gait.If she does OK in a snaffle where she can lower her head and consequently 
more easily round the back, then likely your choice of curb and its adjustment needs to be changed; there is too much emphasis on the chin/curb chain action, rather than other elements of the bit. It sounds like you may need a bit with a possibly longer, but certainly square or oval shaped bridlekeeper(upper shank of bit, to which bridle is attached), so that the bridle is taken forward with this portion of the bit as pressure is put on the reins - this adds poll pressure to have the horse flex from the poll, use the topline of the neck, which helps keep the back rounded.It may be just that your curb chain is too tight; also,on some round-shaped bridlekeepers, it is possible to just use a wider strapped bridle to keep this ring shape from simply sliding thru the bridle, so it doesnt engage any 
poll pressure at all.

Many western curbs have big round rings to attach the bridle to that totally negate the possibility of poll pressure, relying simply on pressure to the mouth and chin only....its really better to have some pressure here on many horses, so you can use a milder mouthpiece and get better response on a headset...its more vital on horses where you wish to achieve greater collection than the average western pleasure horse - such as gaited horses! 

Perhaps you are using one of these?

On the mouthpiece, something with a port should work nicely in conjunction with obtaining poll pressure from your bridle and  bringing the head in but not down(since you want to lighten forehand, but with a convex topline). How you set your curbchain is important, you want some play - more open allows for more poll pressure, but not SO much to totally drop the head...too tight will decrease both poll and mouthpiece action, which is not what you want with your particular horse.Working alot of lateral figures, such as reverses, circles, figure 8s, etc., making sure that the horse stays light in the forehand and pivots off the inside hind, will help teach her to bend the stifle more and improve the condition of the musculature around the stifle area, which helps "break up" the pace into gait most...but, this needs/can only be done properly with a rounded back - facilitated by good position of the head/neck, and not inhibited by saddle fit.

Fifteen is not too old...while it sometimes takes a bit longer on any horse with a habit you need to change, as soon as the horse realizes the "new" routine makes them actually feel better physically during and afterwards, they are usually quick to respond and adapt enthusiastically.



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