Spotted racking 3 Year old with 3 months Professional Training, ridden in full cheek snaffle, english and western saddles in round pen by rider expert in stock seat.

Question: I started this fellow undersaddle and he did great. The only thing is this: he does not rack. He walks, trots and canters; sometimes he seems to pace for several

He has no vices or health problems and is very willing and honest.

This is my first gaited horse.  I have been riding stock horses all my life.  Can someone tell me how I can develop the rack in this guy?  His Sire and dam are both racking fools.  

From Panelist Laura

Since your background is in training stock horses, the first thing you might check is your headset.  Is your horse's head & neck carried low?  If so, this is probably a big part of your gaiting problem.  Most gaited horses tend to have a fairly high head carriage and need to keep their head up to gait.  It also seems to help young horses to have their nose out a little along with a relaxed poll.


From Panelist Lee

I imagine that since you have been riding stock horses you are accustomed to riding with slack reins, allowing the horse to go along with his head held a bit low.  This works fine for a horse that is expected to  hard trot, but is entirely the wrong position for one that is expected to rack.  It is also very difficult for a horse to rack in a small circle (round pen) or deep footing.

So, what to do.  Try to find a long stretch of straight, hard ground that has a slight downhill slant.  Put him in a fast walk (as fast as you can push him in the walk before he breaks into a hard trot).  Take contact with his mouth, (about as much pull as a small plum in each hand on the reins) using both hands on the reins, (not bridged, one single rein in each hand). Sit back a little in the saddle, not leaning back, but straight with your seat a little back from where you normally sit.  Raise your hands and his head so that he noses out a little with a higher head.  Urge him on from the walk,  keeping his head high.  He may surprise you and go directly into the slow rack.  If he does not, and instead hard trots fast, start to sway your weight from side to side in the saddle, and pull/slack first one rein, then
the other, to encourage him to go more lateral in his gait.  With practice, he will start to disassociate the trot and may pick up a stepping pace.  Let him go at that gait for a while, practice it for several sessions until he will take it when you ask. Then speed him up in it, keeping his head high and no longer "see sawing" with the reins.  He ought (ought) to hit a saddle rack at slow speed for a few steps.  Stop, reward, go on to something else, then try again.   You can then, over the next few riding sessions,  keep on working him in the gait for longer and longer distances.

You might also consider changing the bit you are using from a typical full cheek to a Billy Allen mouthpiece full cheek, since one of those may be less severe in his mouth as you ride with contact and higher hands.  A  low port Kimberwicke with the chain adjusted at the upper slot might also be a good choice.

Until he is working consistently in the rack at a slow speed, try not to hard trot him or to canter him much if at all.  Those gaits are fine, and it is good that he has them, but he needs to develop the muscle and body position for the rack, which is very different from the one he uses for those gaits.

Good luck with your horse and let us know if this works for you.

Lee Ziegler


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