Kentucky 3 year old Tennessee Walking Horse ridden in a curb bit and western saddle, made for saddlebred in pasture, open fields by a Level Rider: scale of 1 to 10--a  9

Question: I have owned my 3yr.old TWH stallion since he was 9 months old.  I broke him myself and have never had any other problems while on the trail.  To my recollection, he has racked only once, and just for a short time. I've heard of several methods to persuade him into a rack or gait. One being to run another gaited horse at a rack and let mine pick it up. 

I have a fox trotter, and have tried this on several occasions with no avail.  I heard somewhere that you can teach any gaited horse to rack by  building a type a framework of the ground with runners set at a specific distance apart and moving him across it .  The distance of the runners is based on the length of his legs.  To move through the frame at a specific speed causes him to rack . Does this make any sense to you?

All I need to know is how to bring him into a rack.  I plan on trying a full rig saddle next time hoping that with my weight placed further back he'll pick it up.  Help me please.


From Panelist Liz


I would first find out if your horse is structured to really be able to do a rack comfortably for the way his frame is made. He could be a better running walk horse of even a fox-trotting horse. I would not ask him to do something that he may not be able to do correctly with out stressing his structure. If he is a rack type horse then it is a matter of knowing how to support him in the correct frame with out over asking either but just enough so that he can hold the gait comfortably.

Being so young yet he is also not finished maturing and filling out to be able to hold a rack for very long with out stress.. His bones have not finished fusing yet either so small amounts may not hurt but do not over due it either .

The rack is a more vento flex frame meaning hollower in the back and up neck and head set which drops the back.  If it is naturally in him he will pick it up with just knowing the best frame to support his body in . Sitting back just a bit farther may help as well but not to
far that your weight is to much on the kidney area or that he has to work to hard at carrying your weight and that of a saddle and still be able to carry himself in the right frame. I would get the help of a good naturally gaited person to help you know when you are right in your seat, hands and supporting your horse . I also would like to stress that doing lots of lower headed  walking in between a rack helps strengthen the back,  as this gait over done can be taken to far for the good of the horse but certainly is a great fun one that I my self enjoy.

Have Fun,

From Panelist Steve

Well, I would teach the horse to walk first. I think encouraging the rack at this age is unwise if you want the horse to do the unique gait he was bred for.

Any mature TWH can be racked any time you want. At 3, this horse is not mature and I do not try to teach gait at this age..waste of time usually. I build strength and responsiveness and I find I have to do much less gait training later. In fact, most of the time the horse will walk right into thecorrect gait on their own. I just can't emphasize this fact enough.

However, I don't have a problem with racking a Walker once they are set in their gaits. To do so, put on a set of mild spurs, put the horse in a plain snaffle (there is NEVER a need for a curb in a Walking Horse...the curb is a sign of ignorance or failure), raise your arms and hands high, parallel to the ground, lifting (gently) his head, and get the horse to go fast  with the spurs (if necessary). If the horse paces, ride over uneven ground or low cavaletti until this breaks up. Ride fast, ideally at the speed interface where  the horse seems to want to go into the canter. This will break the pace into the rack by adding some contralateral timing.

When he smoothes out at a high speed, he is doing a rack...can't be anything else really ....and reward him by easing off slightly in the mouth (keep your hands high)  and praising him. This is an exhausting gait for such a young horse, so don't force him to do it for more than 20-30 seconds at a time when starting out.

Stephen B. Chasko

From Panelist Carol

Dear Samantha, 

In order to make any suggestions on how to move your stallion into a rack, I would first need to know if he is pacy or trotty. 
Since you probably already know this, I will give you some general guidelines for each approach.  If you are unsure if he is pacy or trotty, get someone who can identify what gait he's in to watch you ride him.  Sometimes you even get a horse that switches back and forth between the pace and the trot, in which case you try to eliminate the trot first, then convert the pace to a rack or other 4 beat gait.   

If he's trotty, bring his head up as much as you can and try to get him to swing a little bit at a speed slightly faster than the walk.  Once he figures out that he doesn't have to trot, he may prefer not to, and you can increase your speed.  Another technique that sometimes works on trotty horses is to send them into a canter, and then try to slide them into a gait or pace from the canter.   

If you can get a pace out of a trotty horse, then you can square it up using the techniques in the next paragraph.  Some light rollers on his back feet may also be helpful if you have them.  

If he's pacey, your want to lower the head and the ground pole work may help to break the pace down into a running walk or rack.  Uphill work will also help, and remember that the head and neck have to go down.  You can bring it up later once you get gait established.  Working in weeds, mud, or soft footing may also help.  Once you find something that works, do it every day for a week, then every other day for 2 weeks. 

I hope that some of this will help.  I would love to hear from you regarding what is working for you. 

Carol Camp Tosh 

From Panelist Lee

I can't give you very good advice on this because I have no idea what gaits the horse does at the present time. Does he do a running walk, does he pace, does he hard trot, does he fox trot?  Does he show any natural talent or ability to rack (other than the one incident which may not have been a rack) How much training has he had?  How responsive is he to bit, hands, leg and seat cues?  All of these things make a difference in how you go about
obtaining a rack.

The "build a framework to make them rack" method is very old -- it dates to well  before Christ.  It is also a rather iffy method of obtaining the gait, and can cause the horse to fall with you when you ride him through it. There are other less severe ways to develop the rack.  The one that seems to work best for me, assuming the horse has any natural inclination at all to do the gait, is to first,develop a good, even four beat walk and flat walk.
 Then, keeping the horse's energy up and maintaining a high hand position that asks him for a high head position, on firm footing on a slight downhill slope, ask for speed while swaying your weight from side to side and "see sawing" the reins to ask him to move his head and neck from side to side. This will break up the even walk into a slightly lateral gait.
Keeping your weight back in the saddle, still with high hands, push the horse on for some more speed, keeping him in this slightly lateral gait. You will usually get a  very slow rack.  Speed comes with time and practice. 

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

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