Washington 3 1/2 year old Tenn. Walker ridden in Tom Thumb with Western saddle in  Pasture by a Beginner.

Question: This is my first TW and I don't know how to cue him into his gaits. How do I do that? I have ridden dressage and hunt seat with quarter horses and Thoroughbreds but, this is so different. I live way out in the country so I'm trying to teach myself. Do you know of any beginner TW books or videos on the market? Also, I've always ridden English. Are walkers mainly ridden Western style?

Thank you, 

From Panelists Darla
Does your horse gait at all? They can be ridden any style you prefer.  Mostly 
western or Saddleseat.   I would need more information to help you.  You can 
contact me you want to get more into this.  There is 
a book called Gaits of Gold that would help you some.  If you have a strong 
gaited TWH it should just go into the gait naturally.  Try a light contact 
with the mouth and lifting a little to support the head then at the same time 
cue with your legs to move forward.  You should find the gait there.   Darla

From Panelist Nancy


You have ridden dressage.  Remember how you asked your horse to do an extended walk?  That's just about what you will do to ask your horse to go into gait.  Sit down on the saddle - with your legs and seat ask your horse to move on a bit more from a flat walk - hold him steady and straight with the reins, but keep him stretched out, relaxed and extended.  Work on a stretched rein.  At first, just ask for a little - always working from a 
nice, long-striding flat walk.  Over time, keep asking for a little more.  You will feel the rhythm of the walk change into the rhythm of the runnng walk.  Don't try to get speed for quite a while.  Just ask for a little. If he breaks into a trot, stop him and start over again.  Be sure and praise him when he starts to gait. As the work becomes easier for your horse, the speed will come.  Sometimes working in a circle, of perhaps a diameter of 15 - 20 
feet, using your inside leg and an open direct rein, with the horse very let down, is a good exercise to do while asking him to move.  The fact that you are asking him to move on with your inside leg and bending him with an open, direct rein should get the impulsion needed, but at the same time keep him slightly off balance so that he won't break into a trot or canter.

As for riding Western or English - it doesn't matter.  Remember, good riding is the same whether you are in an English or Western saddle.

Good luck - and I'm guessing that you'll soon be sailing along on your gaited horse (and that's what it will feel like!!).

Nancy Cade 

From Panelist Laura

This is a tough question to answer, Walking Horses can do many different gaits both smooth & bouncy - without knowing what gaits your horse is currently doing, it is very hard to tell you how to ask for a flat/running walk.  Since your horse is only 3 1/2 yrs old, you should probably concentrate on getting him well-broke.  Teach him to give to the bit, teach him to collect, and do a lot of riding in a walk.  Whenever you speed up slightly and the horse feels smooth, praise and pet him.  If he gets rough, either slow him down until he is smoother, or ride him in rough ground/high weeds until the gait smooths out.

A lot of people ride gaited horses english.  However, this is generally saddleseat and not a forward or hunt seat.  There are some people now riding gaited horses in a dressage saddle which allows you to sit down more than an all purpose or jumping type of saddle.  If you have a dressage saddle which fits your horse, you might want to try that.  Don't over-collect your horse.  Most TWH do best with their nose out a little.

There are several good tapes available now.  Catalogs from National Bridle Shop & World Champion carry these tapes.


From Panelists Lee

First it would probably be a good idea for you to figure out what gaits he
does.  Does he do a flat walk and a running walk?  The flat walk is a faster
longer reaching version of the ordinary walk you are accustomed to in other
horses.  Faster thatn an extended walk in Dressage, but with a bit more
rounding to his back.  The running walk is just a faster still flat walk.

Success with cues for gait depend a lot on what the horse knows.  What is
the background of this horse?  Some trainers have their own methods of
cueing gait .. if you can find out from his previous owner what he has been
taught it will be a  big help.  If that is not possible, then you will  have
to approach him with standard aids and teach him to respond to them.

Assuming to begin with that you are riding in a snaffle? Take light contact
with his mouth, hands low on either side of the withers. Ride at an ordinary
walk, keeping your hands still, not attempting to follow his mouth with
them.  To put him into a flat walk, squeeze  and then release with both
calves and push slightly with your seat, while still maintaining your
contact with his mouth.  This should bring his nose toward vertical, and
increase his speed in the walk -- to about 5-6 mph.  Ride him for a time in
this gait,(squeezing with your legs if he slows out of it, lightly reminding
him to slow down with vibrating contact if he goes too fast)  then push him
out of it, the same way you asked for it in the first place, by squeezing
and releasing with your calves to ask for more speed, still maintaining your
contact with his mouth.

That is about it, if the horse does a flat walk and running walk.  (look at
video of him moving, the two gaits look exactly like a walk, except they are
faster -- each hoof leaves the ground and sets down at even intervals the
way it does in an ordinary walk)

If he does some other gait, you will have to ask him to use his body
differently to work in the square flat walk or running walk.  It depends on
which "other" gait he is doing how you ask.  Again, have someone video you
riding him and see what gait he is doing -- if he is pacey his legs on one
side will move forward together (right hind and right front will seem to
move at the same time, or near the same time) -- if he is trotting, his
diagonal legs (right hind, left front) will move forward together.

In the case that he does either of these things, check out the archives and
see what has been suggested to solve those gait problems.

Lee Ziegler

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