Alaska, 6 year old kentuckey mountain horse/rocky, ridden in  tom-thumband western and autralian stock sadlles in roundpen and a 1/8 acre riding ring, gravel road by medium level rider

Question: two parts
Red rock is a 6 year old kentuckey mountain horse/ rocky,
he was kept as a stallion  untill he was 5, and didn't get a lot of riding.I would say that he has a relatively short back.He is 15hands and is a very good example of the breed standard. for the last years he has been riden at least twice a week for about three miles each time. He is very smart and learns things very quickly , but I have always had a problem with his gait. Over the last year I have worked very hard at setting his gait, and it has been very trying as he is very smooth, and it is hard to determine sometimes what he is doing. He seams to be able to  throw a veriaty of gaits at me and I am not certain that he isn't doing this on purpose just to keep keep me out of control, he has that kind of personality-he plays all kinds of games with me. There at times when I think I am getting even a fox trot out of him.

Basicly this is where we are.
he steps out with a very nice walk, then we can move it up to a slow broken pace (four beat lateral), then into what I beleave is a nice rack or may-be a foxtrot(slightly choppy and I think kind of diagnal)but he will only hold it for a very short distance and then he will break to a trot from there he is eager to canter.

for a while last spring I had him racking or a very fast broken pace witch was very nice, but after doing this for a while I found that he was very hot and I would have a fight on my hands if I demanded a walk, he would only want to go fast.So I have conciousely worked and developing a walk ( as my wife occasionally likes to ride him and she is a timid rider, (I have since bought a colt for her same breed that we will get under sadle next spring, I am confident that he is more naturally gaited that red rockor at least more laterral)

What I want to do is elliminate the trot from his gaits. and enhanse the faster gaits so that he enters the canter at a higher spead

we curantly trim him to 52 degrees on the front and 56 on the rears, I also find that when the shoes go on this increases the angles by 2 degrees when you remeasure after the shoes are on and I don't get that.

I live in Whitehorse ,Yukon Canada (near Alaska), I am the only one here who has a gaited horse so there is now resourses for me totap into

thanks inadvance for your help
 
 
 



From Panelist Lukka
Of course this is not an icelandic, and I have no experience in riding Kentucky Mountain horses.  But this is something which I'm not unfamiliar with from the icelandics.  That breed is actually required to go in 4 or 5 gaits, so horses with little training are often mixing up their gaits. 

First of all, be sure that the saddle is not pinching the horse in the withers, then it is very difficult for it to gait. It's likely that I'd train the horse in this way:
I'd be sure that the horse would bend well in the poll, and not be showing a  tendency to show an ewe-neck when gaiting.  If the horse is doing that, it has to learn to carry itself right, so it uses it's body right, but that is a subject for a whole column. If that basis is right, then the next step is to work on the transitions from walk to rack.

If it were an Icelandic, I'd work on the transitions from walk to trot too, because asking the horse to trot some every time it is ridden strengthens it's muscles, so the rack would be better performed, and the horse also relaxes well on the trot.  As this horse goes from the rack to the trot, I would think it would also benefit from being allowed sometimes to go straight from walk to trot.
Anyway, as I guess the trot is not an option in this case, you'll be working with two gaits mostly, the walk and the rack.  I'd ask the horse to do a lot of walk, as the walk is a gait very similar to the rack, only slower.  The walk is also a gait where the horse can learn to relax.  Allow it to let the neck fall and relax.  Then, once in a while, I'd ask the horse for the transition from walk to rack.  The horse obviously needs to get more balance in the gait, and can thus not keep it up for a long distance, so what you have to do is to ask
the horse to do exactly the amount of rack it can offer today, and not more.

What I mean by that, is that if you ask for the walk, then the transition from walk to rack, the horse goes f.ex. 100 feet in broken pace, then another 100 feet in rack, and then trot.  So, what you need to work on is asking for the 200 feet of good gait, and then just before you know or feel that the horse is going to fall into trot, you ask for walk again, and try to keep the head of the horse up in the transition, so it does the transition in gait and not in
trot.  Reward the horse for doing the correct thing by allowing it to stretch and relax at the walk for maybe 100 yards, before trying the transition again. If the horse goes into trot before you can ask it to do the transition rack-walk, then slow it immediately down to walk again, and then do the transition walk-rack immediately.

That way, the horse learns that if it goes into trot, it is corrected and has to work more, but if it gaits well, it is rewarded by a relaxed walk.  Repeat this many times.  Build the strength of the horse up by not riding it for long each time, but frequently.  I'd propably ride it for half an hour per day, 5 days a week.  That way it doesn't get too tired (mentally and physically) to gait.  If the horse goes more and more into trot as you ride it longer, you are
riding it for too long at a time. Working on these gait-transitions might take a week, it might take 3 months. But the horse learns soon what it's supposed to do, after that it's just a
question of building up the muscles so the horse can actually do what it's supposed to do.
To begin with it's propably easier for the horse to gait while it is going straight, so it might be best to train it on the gravel road.  Later, you can ask it to do the gait while going in bends, like on the riding ring. As time passes, you feel that the horse can keep the gait for longer stretches.  After 2 weeks you can maybe ride it in walk, then a few steps of
broken pace, then 300 feet of rack.  Do it then, ask it for longer stretches of gait, but always try to feel just when the horse is giving up, and ask it for the walk again before it gives up.  It is better to go for a ride and ride 100 yards in correct gait than a mile of incorrect gait.  Help the horse to succeed at what you ask for, not fail.

Ride at the speed in the gait which is easiest for the horse.
The same technique is used to ask for the faster gait.  When you come to the point where the horse can go for as long as you ask it in one speed at the rack, ask for different speeds, both slower and faster speeds.  But only do it for short stretches, and when you ask for a faster gait, let the horse only go as fast as it can manage, for as long as it can manage.  That way you make the range of speed bigger, gradually.  When the horse has succeeded at going at the fastest or slowest rack it can manage, reward it with a bit of relaxing walk. 

Lukka.
 
 

Back to main page
Ask a Trainer