Need to get Fox Trot back!

Wyoming 4 year old  Fox Trotter, ridden in a pasture. Hackamore and western saddle, intermediate rider.

Question: This horse came with a really good gait -- fast and smooth.  The first time I had him reshod, he started to pace a little. The next time, he started to pace a lot -- and now all he wants to do is pace.  How do I get that fox trot back?

From Panelists Laura

From your description (the horse is getting pacier with each reshoeing), it sounds like your farrier may be doing what they call a 4-point or "natural" trim/shoeing on your horse.  This type of shoeing is very popular with the farriers in this region (Colorado, Wyoming, Montana).  A 4-point trim usually involves cutting the foot very short, setting the shoe back behind the toe and then "dubbing off" or rasping away the toe to meet the set back shoe.  If your horse's feet look very small, short and squared off in the front, this 
is probably what your farrier is doing.

If this is the case, tap your farrier sharply on the head with the nearest heavy object (just kidding) and tell him to NOT set the shoes back.  A pacy horse needs more toe and more hoof length than most trotty type horses.  Tell your farrier that that the 4-point does not work well on gaited horses and actually can cause them discomfort.

If your farrier is doing a regular shoeing job (not dubbing the toe and setting back the shoes), then you may need to work the horse in a bit rather than a hackamore.  It can be difficult to collect a horse in a mechanical hackamore (you don't normally use much contact with a hackamore) and your horse may need to raise his head and round his back more to gait better.


From Panelists Nancy

I'm going to tell you what I would do if I had that horse for training.  
First, I would stop using the hackamore and teach him to wear a bridle with a bit.  He would be started in a snaffle and taught to accept the bit and to go onto the bit and to flex (or give) to the bit when asked.  He needs all the elementary work, such as moving forward when asked by your legs, stopping and backing.  He needs to become supple and flexible with the snaffle bit.  Then, after he is thoroughly confirmed in this work at all gaits in the snaffle, I might switch to a short, loose shanked curb.  I use one with a snaffle 
mouthpiece, although that mouthpiece is not absolutely necessary.  It is only necessary that it be comfortable for him.  And I definitely like the loose shanked bits.  
By now the horse would have quite a bit of collection and would be well muscled up.  The horse would now be ready for some real gait training.  He should accept the bit well with no fear and go onto it when asked by your legs.  His neck should have a bit of arch to it and not be "upside down".  If your horse is carrying his head too high and their is no 
collection (in other words, an upside down neck and the hind legs strung out, not under him), you will probably get a pace.  Start working him like I described.  It will be really starting him all over, but you will end up with a trained horse.  Do not permit the pace.  Go back to a flat walk and work from there.  Gradually, over a period of time, ask for more.  Remember, you are attempting to retrain him and that can be more difficult than if he had 
never been doing a pace to begin with.  
As for the shoes, don't try to get fancy there.  Just shoe him properly for any type of working horse.  Keep the toes short.  Work on your riding and his training.  Every time you ride him he is being trained.  


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