Washington 5 year old  Missouri Fox Trotter 60 days professionla training, started in a snaffel then moved to a wonder gag bit with a sweet iron mouth, riddein in western saddle in Round pen and outdoor arena by intermediate rider

Question: This horse will do a running walk in the pen and will sometimes go into that gait when trail riding. His dam's perfered gait is a running walk. Most of the time I ride with a group of friends who all ride hard trotting horses, so I dont have much chance to push him
into any kind of gait other then a nice flat foot walk which he will do very well. If I am in the lead he will soon out walk the other horses so we have to stop and wait for them to catch up.  When working in the arena I ask for collection and since he was trained on a loose rein I have a hard time getting him to collect up, he will break into a canter or trot when ask for more speed.  Is there something I could do to get him set in his gait, running walk or fox trot??? By the way this is my first gaited horse so I dont know much about training them to gait.  Any help you could give me would be wonderful. 

Thank You 

From Panelist Laura

 You might try riding alone more often so you can ride at a faster speed.  To 
help set your horse in gait (probably the running walk since he naturally 
does that), praise & pet him when he is in gait (smooth).  Each time you go 
out with him, try to keep him in gait longer and use lots of praise.  He'll 
get the idea.  To foxtrot, you will need to teach him to collect and slightly 
drop his forehand.  Either get some professional help or just keep asking him 
to give a little to the bit for you until he can relax his poll and give to 
you whenever you ask.


From Panelist Lee

Many Fox Trotters have so much TWH  in their background that the preference for a running walk is not unusual.  However, the training to work only on a slack (loose) rein can be a problem when you want to ask a horse for a specific gait.  How do you ask for collection?  Ideally, you should just take up your reins to where you feel the weight of a small plum in each hand, keeping your hands low as you do.  Practice doing that at a walk and flat walk, until the horse accepts the idea of contact on his mouth (this may take some time), using your seat (sitting deep, weight a bit toward the back of the saddle, with a relaxed lower back-- breathe out) to slow him down if he tries to pop into a trot or canter.  Ride in the flat walk with light contact, keeping his speed even.  Practice transitions between a slow walk and a flat walk, still with contact, again not allowing him to speed into some other gait just because you are "talking" directly to his mouth. Use half halts (light squeeze/releases on the reins, accompanied by the deep seat and breathing out) to slow him if he starts to rush.

Once the even flat walk is established with contact, push him on lightly (squeeze both legs) for more speed until he goes either into a running walk or a fox trot (if he hard trots, sit back in the saddle, lightly bring his nose more toward vertical and try again -- a horse that hard trots can be persuaded to fox trot by simply pushing the walk but lightly restraining
from the hard trot by half halts and seat use). To be successful at this, your hands must be steady, fixed and even on the reins -- held about 2 inches above the pommel of the saddle in a dressage saddle.  Rate the horse's speed with light half halts, keeping an upright seat in the saddle  no leaning forward).  when he does the gait you want, relax your back,
lighten your contact just a hair, and reward him.  When he does something else (strings out into a hard trot) go back to the half halts, and slow him to start over at the flat walk.

Good luck with your horse.

Lee Ziegler

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