South Carolina 3 year old  Racking/Walker ridden in a 6" walking horse bit with a  western/pleasure saddle in pasture

Question: My horse seams to be smooth when on a incline,but she is real bumpy on flat ground. She also noses out,I have tried a martingale. I have put chians on the front feet. When I bought her she had 3/8 toe weight shoe,I started using a 3/8 shoe with a cork. She is not working her feet the way she should. What advise can you tell me?

From Panelist Lee

Start over -- get rid of the caulked shoes, get rid of the martingale, get rid of the chains, get her out of the curb bit.  This is a baby horse, still finding her balance and growing physically, and you are not helping her develop a good gait by trying to force her into it through these artificial means.  

Before she can gait, she has to learn to accept a bit and work in an even four beat flat walk.  So,  riding in an enclosed area if you have one, put her in a snaffle (non leverage) bit that fits her and does not pinch her mouth, and teach her flex at the poll when asked with light vibrations on the reins, and work in a square flat walk.  I can't tell from your note if
she is smooth going up a hill or going down one? If going up, she is probably walking, if going down, she is probably racking.  And if she is rough on flat ground, she is probably pacing.  The exact "cures" for these problems depends on what gait she is doing and what you want her to do. 

If you aren't sure what she is doing, have someone watch you who knows what gaits look like, and then you can at least know what you need to start with. But before you can get the legs and feet to work the way you want, you have to get her body to work in the way that makes this possible.  The gaits aren't in the feet, they are in the way the horse holds his body -- his back and neck-- and until you can have good communication with the horse about how you want him to hold himself (which is what work in the snaffle will let you do) you aren't going to find the gait you want very easily. 

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Steve

First, lose the Walking Horse bit. (I have a box full of them...was thinking of selling them on line but didn't want to be an accessory). These severe bits have only one possible be used on a fully trained horse at a horse show, so that the riders hands don't have to move to get a response...finger pressure alone gets the point across. Other than that, their use is advertisement (in my opinion), that the rider/trainer doesn't know anything about horses in general or Walkers in particular.

Your horse is not gaiting well because its posture is incorrect. It is incorrect because of the bit and because of the horse's age, and most important, because of a lack of proper training. Young horses need to learn to self-support and to move out freely without pain. This establishes correct and comfortable walking posture over time. No horse can be
comfortable and correct while being hurt in the mouth. 

Go to a simple full cheek snaffle. Spend most of your time on a free rein and dog walking. From time to time, speed the horse into a flat walk and at the same time, keeping your hands as low as you can (below the top of thewithers) apply mild pressure, 2-4 ounces. It will help if you do this on uneven ground, on medium grass, and up hill. It will help if you do this every day for 30-45 minutes.

Over the next year the horse will learn to use himself correctly to do the gaits he has inherited. All gaited horses will do this if we are patient. Remember that we can't rush or adulterate a horse without paying a price.

Stephen B. Chasko

From Panelist Carol

Sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly what's going on from a brief written description, but it sounds to me like your horse is on the pacy side.  If this is the case, you can fix two problems at once, the nosing out and the pacy-ness by using collection and changing your horse's frame.  The head and neck are going to temporarily have to go down , perhaps more than you'd like the looks of, but this is essential to changing his frame.  I wish that I had a good source of complete info on the subject of "hollowness" and "roundness" as it relates to gaited horses, but any good dressage instructor can help you get your horse
"round". You will need a snaffle bit.  If he does not have good enough whoa in a snaffle, then that is a seperate problem and needs to be dealt with.  

A round frame is one where the horse's back lifts up, he constricts his belly muscles, and lowers his head, forming a bridge or the shape of a bow.  This is produced by driving his energy up to your hands with your seat and legs and then containing that energy.  Go get a couple of books on dressage and a knowlegeable person to help you.  It is too complicated a subject to get into much here, but maybe this will steer you in the right direction.

Carol Camp Tosh

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