Vermont 14 year old TWH ridden in eggbut snaffle w/western bridle in western light weight saddle in round pen & pasture by intermediate level rider.

Question: I have just purchased this 14 yo, TWH mare and have never ridden a gaited horse before. The previous owner owned her for 2 years, had ridden her western but never asked her for more than a walk, fearing she might harm her training if she asked for more without knowing how.. my question?  What do I need to do to ask her to trot and/or canter? Anything different than I would my own quarter horse?

Thank you

From Panelists Lee

Ah, where to start??  First, you need to realize that as a gaited horse, she may not do a trot.  She should do a running walk as her next speed up from a walk, not a trot.  What she will do is another story -- she may actually do a running walk, she may pace, (you will recognize this gait, it is rough and throws you from side to side in the saddle) she may do a trot, she may do a fox trot, she may rack, she may do a broken or stepping pace( a very common gait, not uncomfortable to ride, in which you sway a little from side to side in the saddle).

So, what do you do to ask her to pick up whatever intermediate gait she has? Squeeze with your legs, sit in the center of the saddle, push with your seat and see what happens.  If necessary, use blunt spurs or a dressage whip to encourage her to pick up more speed (if she has only been doing an ordinary walk for years, she may not realize that she is allowed to move out under saddle).  When you move her out, pay attention to what she is doing in the way of gait.  The next step, your aids and cues, depend on what she chooses and what you want her to do.  Until you have a recognizable intermediate gait, you might want to hold off on asking for a canter.  She may not have a clue about how to do one, depending on the degree of her earlier training. You may also need to return to two handed "English" style riding with her for a while as you learn her gaits.

Is there a way you can find someone who knows what gaits look like to watch you ride?   With a  gaited horse that may  not be "set" in her gait, and a rider new to gait, many things can go wrong by accident. 

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

From Panelist Liz


Since this is your first gaited horse I would recommend finding someone familiar with them to help you decipher which gaits your horse does first. She could have one good one or many. Finding this out will help you understand you horse and maybe not confuse or loose what is already there and not take you away from it.



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