Tennessee 3 year old Racking Horse with 3 months professional training ridden in single ear headstall, med. long shank with small port and western cordura saddle on trails only by experienced rider.

Question: Hi! and thanks! My 3 yr old stud has done real real well, except I can't get any speed out of him and he breaks gait a lot. I have been using a tie down on him as he
tends to throw his nose up and this has helped. any ideas?

From Panelist Laura

I would probably work on getting this colt working well at his best speed (where he stays in gait & is smoothest) first.  After he is confident in gait, start asking him to speed up a little at a time until you get the speed you want.  If this doesn't work, try pushing him as fast as he can go, even if he does break gait, then push him a little faster.  Sometimes this 
actually pushes through the "rough" spot and back into a really good rack.


From Panelsit Liz

I would recommend taking the tie down off of him because throwing his head is saying he is having problems in the mouth not because he is being bad. Being so young and having so little time on him makes sense that he can only hold his rack for so long. He is not fully developed yet so he is only able to have so much strength to hold a gait such as
a rack.

The rack is a hollow backed gait and you will need to do lots of walking with his head in a lowered position in between times to keep the strength in his back or it will get weaker and he will start to hold the gait less and could get sore in his back. He is to young to be doing much racking with out body stress. So work it only a couple of minutes at a time. I would change bits to. He should still be in a snaffle bit yet, not a curb. Also have his teeth  checked and I recommend having his wolf teeth pulled and keep them floated as well.

He is also at this age, still loosing milk caps. All of these things could be keeping from getting any speed and at this age I would not be asking for much any way. Take your time he will get there in time. Don't burn him out before his time.


From Panelist Lee

Often to reach top speed, a horse in a rack will need to get his head up and his nose out.  A 3 year old is also pretty immature and will develop more speed later as he gets more practice in his gait.  My thought would be to remove the tie down, which is inhibiting his use of his head, use your hands to keep his head from getting too high, maybe by using a shorter shanked bit, and work on keeping his gait consistent at a slower speed before you
ask him to speed up in it. 

Find his "comfort zone" for speed in his gait, and work him there, even if it is slower than you want, so that he can become set in the gait and develop the muscle condition he needs for faster work.

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Stella

Part of training is teaching, and the other part conditioning. A horse can learn fast, but there's only so much you can do to speed up condition, mother nature is really in charge here! Even if the horse understands what you want, it takes time for the tendons/muscles/ligaments/heart/lungs to build up sufficiently for optimum performance...the horse can "tell" its body what to do, the repeated performance increases coordination and correct response, but optimum mastery only comes after the physiological processes necessary are complete, and trying to "rush" this can tear your horse down instead.

Especially in a young horse, they still have much growing and development to do physiologically. Some may be more naturally/genetically endowed with greater musculature/etc. and some to mature in these aspects faster than others(although genetically slower  developers tend to also have greater longevity!).It is best to accept and respect this condition of nature, and have patience, gaging your training "in time" with both maturational development and a conditioning program. I know its hard when you have a 
talented, willing horse - you can hardly wait to see what they can be at the peak of their potential! BUT, you put that in jeopardy if you rush things.Overstrain can cause tiny microscopic tears to its elastic tissue(muscles, tendons, ligaments), repaired by non-elastic scar tissue fibers, so that even if a horse doesnt ever show lameness, its lost some of the flexibility and fluidity of motion, reducing its potential, time after time its overworked. On something like speed, it may take a year of regular work on a MATURE horse to reach potential while staying consistently in gait, and on a youngster, I wouldnt push it fully until it did reach maturity.(otherwise, you may never know just how fast he COULD have been eventually!)

But, with that goal in mind, the foundation of great speed in gait(yes, also one of my favorite things to do!) is developing CONSISTENCY in gait in a medium, even slow speed - I like to start where whatever speed is easiest and most natural to the horse, where the horse is able to stay in gait best, in good balance, collected; develop good condition and flexibility, rock solid at that one thing,in all sorts of figures, terrains,etc; and then start very gradually increasing and/or(depending on where their "natural place" is) decreasing stride, going on to another level after mastering what is being worked on presently. These go quite quickly once you have the first one down pat...by going in small increments easy to achieve, given good condition.

I think you should take the tie-down off; that's a "bandaid" for an incorrect bit-or sometimes too heavy a hand, or both. Likely, the long-shank w/small port is engaging far more leverage to the curb chain than he needs, and he's responding to this quite appropriately - do not aggravate him and likely decrease his love and willlingness to work by simply adding a tiedown to "cover up" the symptom - the bit tells him one thing, the tie-down does not let him get in a position of comfort(that's in part how bits work, the 
horse responds by getting his head/neck/forward motion in a position of comfort-the reward). A young horse still needs to use his head and neck to balance himself as he learns to move properly while carrying the weight of a rider, and become more developed to do so. The head itself is the last thing to set, but if he's actually throwing it up to possibly cause a hollow back, I think you simply need to go to a shorter (much) milder shank...he's just 
trying to tell you the pressure to the chin's too much -you dont need to be "correcting" anything yet with a long shanked bit anyway, you still have a young,"clean slate!" Only younger horses that later in training prove not as well-endowed in conformation of the head/neck may need to go to a longer shank. The continued use of the tie-down with this bit will only eventually lead to him trying to find some other way of finding comfort, even if it means behaviorally or gaitwise(adapt movement), which is just creating new problems for both of you.


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