SSH Age: 7, just bought him, Ridden in snaffle in a western saddle in indoor and outdoor arenas and round pen by average rider

Question: We just bought a 7 year old out-of-shape Spotted Saddle Horse from a person who had let him languish in pasture for two years with very little riding.  She said he sometimes did his running walk on trail rides but she couldn't keep him in it, and he would go back eventually to trotting. She also said it was difficult to get him to canter, that he seemed lazy.  He is gentle, and smooth to ride even at a trot.  He prefers going slow, but then he is very overweight at the moment and not used to being ridden. He can move fast, however, since we have watched him run about the pasture when he feels like it. He is in good health except for his weight problem, and the vet says his legs are sound.

He had regularly appeared in shows from age 2 to 5, so we suspect he can do much better than what he does now.  We would like to get him to do his running walk gait but have no idea of where to start.  Currently we are not even riding him, just lunging him for fitness and for obedience, since this is his first week with us. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


From Panelists Lee

This 7 year old horse has a couple of things working against him in the gait 
department right now:  Excess weight, and lack of practice in gait.  Since he 
seems likely to break to a trot, and you don't have to worrry about a pace 
(lucky you!), the first thing to do is get the horse in some sort of physical 
shape.  Lots of riding at a flat walk, longe line or round pen work at a walk 
and trot (or whatever he will do) and a diet seem to be in order.  When the 
pounds start to come off, start to work on increasing his speed into the flat 
walk (about 5 mph walk) -- push him in the ordinary walk until he is just 
about to break unto a trot, then check him (with a squeeze/release on the 
reins) so that he stays in the walk. You will have to time your leg aids to 
push him just after you have checked, so that he does not just slow down into 
an ordinary walk.  

Practice the flat walk until he can do it easily, then go for the running 
walk by speeding him up just a tad in the flat walk, while on a slight 
downhill incline, keeping his head a bit higher than his usual position, 
lightly squeezing and releasing on first one rein, then the other.  BE 
CAREFUL -- he may try to pace as you do this.  

Over time, if you first establish the flat walk and then push it for speed 
into the running walk, your horse should start to do his gait consistently.  
Be patient, it may take a while.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler


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