Wisconsin 5 year old Kt Mt Horse ridden in snaffle with short shank and western saddle in round pen, arena by intermediate level rider.

Question: I have a home raise Kt Mt Horse.  He is a five year old gelding that has been handled a lot since birth but for various reasons has only started serious riding this summer.  He has a smooth very relaxed rocking chair canter on any surface and does not gather speed. 

His "gaiting" though is giving me some problems.  I can get him to gait, which gait I am not sure because I can't watch and ride at the same time, I try to feel comfort in his stride and it is quite smooth and comfortable on a hard surface.  When I take him in the arena with the
soft footing we get quite a variety of movement of those four legs. 

He defiantly has a problem in the arena.  I can get a running walk but anything faster and he falls apart until we build speed into a canter. Is he unable to handle my weight in the soft footing?  Should I just  keep trying to build speed on the running walk?  Can I do something to improve his gait?  I don't think we have any gaited horse trainers in this area, pretty much quarter horse ville here.  

Also this horse is "an easy keeper" and has been on pasture and not in a very "fit"
condition. I was once told not to lunge a gaited horse, is this true?  Any info would be appreciated. 

Thanks,
Charlie



From Panelist Liz

Hi Charlie,

I would start checking and see if you can find some one that knows gaits to be sure you are on the right track. I know there are lots of gaited people in WI. You may just not have any in your back yard and may have to go a little ways.

Be sure you know which gait the horse is built to do and learn what you will need to support the horse in the gait. It does make a difference between the different gaits. Supporting a gait and the different ones does change in soft or hard footing but again you will need someone to look at the horse to help you. 

Working the canter to much just makes it easier for him to go there since that is easy.  Conditioning is very important to holding gait. Longeing is not bad if you know how to do it correctly and not push to the point one may do damage to the structure. Fast is not good.

Liz



From Panelist Stella

Its pretty normal for young, unfit horses to not gait as well on very soft footing as they do harder footing....the horse's hoof is meant for hard surfaces, they had toes when little critters in the soft-ground forests! As the horse develops better muscle tone, strength and respiration (its harder on breathing to work in soft stuff too, more exertion required) he will do better.
Its probably a good idea to stay on harder ground for the time being, until he's not only more fit, but also more trained and develops better balance carrying human weight. Its perfectly fine to lunge a gaited horse; you do want to use a variety of lateral movements, and even under saddle, use circles, figure 8s, etc to help supple him. 

As far not being able to tell gaits, get someone to video you, so you can watch both the horse, and yourself. One of the best learning tools is to have a video camera, and a VCR with slow motion....rewind and watch were the horse may "flub up"...it becomes very clear as to any mistakes, or, inadvertant cues the rider may have given, and how the horse has had to respond. It helps make you far more conscious of how the horse and rider must work in
unison to retain balance and proper gait; reveal the strong points and weaknesses, and what to do as the next step in training.....most helpful to improve BOTH horse and rider.

Stell Wise



From Panelist Steve

Most of the smooth gaits require a significant period of conditioning. This is true in virtually all gaited horses regardless of genetic talent. So I think your idea to build on the RW he has is a good one. Do it in soft footing or high grass to speed the process up. Reward the horse for gaiting well. DO NOT worry if the horse goes out of a RW into some faster intermediate gait...you won't ruin a horse's gait training so long as you do not *reward* the wrong gait. On the otherhand if you punish the horse for going too fast or going out of correct gait, most will tend to become nervous and contracted, emmotionally and physically.

Young horses must be conditioned before they can gait well and must be encouraged to move forward freely and comfortably. After these goals are accomplished, we can begin the process of gait training.

I do not lunge my horses after they are broke to saddle. I see not purpose to it and I believe, at least in Walkers, if is bad for their hocks. I do the Parelli games with them from time to time, especially before a ride to loosen them up a bit and get their minds tuned into me. After that, my training takes place from the saddle.

Steve Chasko

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