Pennsylvania 5 Year old SSH ridden in a snaffle with  western, prefer bareback. In an indoor and outdoor arena by advanced beginner.

Question: I am considering buying an angel of a SSH.  He is a small five year old gelding.  He seems to have a problem holding his gait, but the dealer says that is a combination of my not knowing how to hold him in his gait and his age.  I only want to trail ride him, so perfect gaits are not my issue.  My question/issue concerning this horse is twofold.

One -- His running walk (when he tries to do it, bless him) is pretty jarring (i haven't had bruises like that in a long time).  His canter is to die for though.

Two -- He throws his head around like a son of a gun.  Apparently someone in his past (about which the dealer seems baffled and clueless) may have roughed him, because when I ask him to collect himself (or turn or stop) even just a little bit, he starts throwing his head up and down.  Otherwise he is a willing little guy in every way.

Is there possibly a way to fix his RW so I won't get hematomas on my butt?  He *never* trots.  It's just that his front legs seem to be moving twice as much as his back legs if your watching him from the ground.  And of course, can that head thing ever really be fixed since he's five now?

From Panelist Laura

If your horse's "running walk" is that rough - it's not a running walk.  Your 
new horse may be doing some variation of the pace.  You should probably look 
for someone in your area that knows gaited horses and their gaits and have 
them determine what your horse is actually doing.  Your horse can probably be 
taught to gait (something smoother that what you are currently getting) by a 
knowledgeable trainer.  At 5, your horse is getting pretty close to being 
mature - the roughness in gait is probably not related to this horse's age 
but rather to training/shoeing/collection/rider's ability or other factors.

As for the head tossing - check the teeth first.  Are wolf teeth interfering 
with the bit?  Does the horse need floating?  If you're not sure, have a vet 
check your horse.  If you are in the process of buying this horse _BE SURE to 
get a vet check/pre-purchase exam.  This can save you a lot of trouble and 
heartache later.  If the teeth are fine, you might try a different type of 
bit to see what this horse is comfortable with.  You might also ride the 
horse with a lighter hand to see if that helps.  Good luck with your new 

From Panelists Darla
Congratulations on you new horse!  First I would like to say he is probably paceing since it is so rough and most TWH horses tend to get pacey.  Have his feet checked for the proper angles.  If he is pacey try having his hind feet trimmed "high heel " style and his front feet "flipper " style.  This usually will help him to bread up the pace into a running walk if he has one.  A lot of TWH horses I have trained lately tend to Singlefoot or rack!  Have his 
mouth checked by a your vet.  He could have a sore mouth or wolf teeth.  If  not work him in a "rythm maker" with a snaffle for a while.    They are made by Richard Shrake and work really well on mouth problems.   Best of luck and if you need more help you can 
contact me.
From Panelist Nancy
It sounds like you have a nice horse, but one who needs a lot of 
very skillful training.  The head tossing comes from nervousness and a lack 
of training to make a mouth.  And the nervousness comes probably mainly from 
the lack of training, therefore, a lack of his understanding what he is to do 
- so he becomes anxious and nervous, therefore tossing his head.  A vicious 
circle.  The only remedy is someone who is a very skillful trainer and really 
knows how to develop an educated mouth to work with him.  That would stop the 
head tossing and develop a horse that will accept the bit and give to the 
bit.  Then his training can progress.  It's hard to picture the gait that you 
are describing.  I believe that to improve his running walk that he needs to 
do a lot of slow flatwalking and gradually develop the running walk from 
that.  He needs to relax and do a true walk.  I don't know if this advice has 
helped you much, but yes, he can be improved with some skillful work.  Bad 
habits are harder to correct than if he had never learned them in the first 
place.  He needs a trainer who is skillled and patient and knowledgeable to 
correct the mouth problem.

I just reread your question and perhaps he is just so green that he really 
doesn't know anything.  If that is the case, you might start with driving him 
in long reins and teaching him to stop and turn, etc, and bitting him up with 
a light rein contact for short periods of time might help.  If he is really 
just completely green, you will probably be able to teach him yourself.  Be 
patient and remember, he hasn't a clue what you are doing on his back and 
what is happening to his mouth.  Give it a try!


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