Out of shape TWH, pacey and trotty.

Ohio, 13 year old TWH, Ridden on trails and in round pen by beginer rider, in a Tom Thumb and western saddle

Question: I'm a real beginner to gaited horse's.  I love the gait.  We went trail riding last Saturday and we would gait along but it seemed that the longer we went or the more that I held her back, she would start trotting on me.  Not really going too fast but wanting to move out again.  We probably rode 7 miles that day.  She hasn't been worked with for a long time. 

She did great in her gait for a long time but I was riding with a trotting horse so I held her up and made her walk.  She walked but it was rather pacy and trotty.  Will this just be a matter of time, getting her back in the swing of things or getting her back into shape?  She's under weight and I would like your opinion on the best way to get weight on a horse.  Thanks.

From Panelists Darla

Hello,  Well first of all at the age of 13 She is probably pretty set in the way she goes.  You should have her feet checked by a farrier that knows gaited horses.  if her angles are off that could be part of the problem. 

Some trainers will say not to use a Tom Thumb but if that is what she is used to I would stay with it.  I like to use a curb bit on gaited horses.  BUT,  I have very light well trained hands and that makes a lot of difference.  If she is really under-nourished she could be tired and just that could make her pacy or trot.  Maybe as you build her up she will gait longer and stronger. 

Gaited horses should have no trouble walking if you are with a horse that does not gait and want to stay at a walk.  Although some of them do have a very fast walk that is hard for the average ungaited horse to stay with.  I have taken the mind that I ride my horse like I enjoy it and I tell my friends that they may be left behind to ride alone!

Don't push her too hard right now.  When she ads weight and muscle she will start to show it in her abilities.  Make sure she is not wormy.  Ask the vet to check her for that and advise you on a worming program.   I use grass hay and Purina Equine Sr. to put weight on my horses not matter what their ages.  It ads muscle too and that tones out really well.  They shine like a new pair of patent shoes to boot!  Have her teeth checked by a vet to make sure they are in good shape so she can make the best use of her food.  She may need her teeth floated. I hope this helps,  Enjoy her she sounds like a very special 

Happy and smooth trails,  TLC  Darla

From Panelists Nancy
I'm understanding that for quite a long time she gaited for you very well.  Then when you wanted to walk slower she started to get pacey and trotty.  Many Walking horses are seldom ridden at a slow, normal walk, but always go along "in gait".  With the proper training they can walk as slow as any horse, but right now your mare doesn't seem to think that that is what you want.  (You will note that in the pasture she walks slow, so you know that she can.)  Your job now will be to teach her that you do not always want her to hurry along in gait.  Be sure that you are not inadvertently cueing her to move along faster by the way you are sitting in the saddle.  Sit up straight and sit relaxed.  Whenever she wants to go faster, slow her down.  Try to induce her to relax and drop her head down a bit - just a nice, natural head carriage.  Each time she starts to hurry on, check her - and then relax.  You might try turning her in a small circle, if necessary, to break up the running walk.  Have your riding partner stop their horse and stand - so that you can stop your horse and stand still now and then.  Anything you can think of to teach her that it is OK to relax and walk slow.  And be sure that you are not tightening up and pulling on the reins as she might think that you want her to move on.  Many riders do ride that way and they are usually 
riding a fast rack or running walk.  Your Tom Thumb bit is a good bit.  Be sure to use your hands lightly - not a constant pull.  Also, I would suggest that if you want to teach her to walk slower when you want her to, that you not do too much fast gaiting for a while, until she knows more what you are asking her to do.  I'm sure she will be perfectly willing to walk slow when she understands that it is OK to do so.  Chances are that she has always been ridden at a fast rack or running walk and never asked to walk slow.
As for putting weight on her - be sure that she is wormed about every 6-8 weeks.  I don't know if she is on pasture or not, but if not, keep hay in front of her all the time so that she can eat when she wants to, and feed her some grain.  I'm not going to recommend any amounts of grain as I don't know her activity level, her size or what you are feeding, but as a rule of thumb - if the horse is too thin, feed more - and if the horse is too fat, feed 
less.  Some people swear by just oats.  I like to feed a sweet feed, as I think that a variety of grains will provide more nutrients.  You might want to talk to your vet about this.  And it's a good idea to use a vet who specializes in horses.
Good luck with your horse.  She sounds like a nice one.
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