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How to ride gaited horses...and eliminating the misconceptions


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#1 Elizabeth Wertz

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 02:08 PM

Skjotta's post got me thinking...and

I thought it would be interesting (and helpful to some) to start a thread on teaching people how to ride gaited horses, understanding what a gait is and how to gait a horse better and other stuff that might come up, including how some people learned to ride them, and help some that might be struggling with their horse and so on... maybe even eliminate some of those stereotypes and misconceptions out there?

Often there is a misconception that gaited horses are so much different from walk/trot horses and there are all kinds of crazy theories out there about gaited horses and how to ride them and what you have to do to get them to gait, what is natural and not natural and so on.

I am a big fan of TWH's and of course my MFT's. If you would have asked me ten years ago if I would be involved with gaited horses I would have said "no way..." now I love them like I love my QH's and TB's (what I grew up riding and showing.) My own background in English/Dressage and Western riding is what I use to train gaited horses...there are others on this thread that have been involved with gaited horses longer than I and have their own way of starting colts. Maybe we could even discuss that, the different ways of breaking/training young gaited horses? One misconception I heard in a recent clinic I gave is that you can't longe a gaited horse. Anyone else ever hear that?

Anyway, if you have questions on how to get a better gait, how to get into gaited horses, how to problem solve with gaited horses, any question at all, maybe some of us gaited horse people can help you or just answer some questions?

[ 06-19-2006, 03:12 PM: Message edited by: Elizabeth Wertz ]

#2 SatinsOwner

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 02:30 PM

I heard several people tell me that lounging a Gaited Horse can ruin their gait and I didn't for a long time.

It was a question I asked many. A Pro told me that it's perfectly fine as long as you stay in WIDE circles. Gaited horse do not do turns very well and often have to cut the corners.

So I have and I do lounge for conditioning. Not at very long intervals.

I would love some pointers on how to get them in the Various Gaits while on the Lounge Line - Mine tend to get pacey or trot and not produce a good gait... [Confused]

#3 foxtrotUSA

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 02:32 PM

I get a lot of funny comments and misconceptions voiced to me about gaited horses...

My reasoning is that a horse is a horse is a horse. I ride my MFT like I ride any other gaited or non-gaited horse. I do as much as I think she's capable of - she can jump pretty well, does sliding stops, hard trots, lunges, and most other normal things - I just say she has the added advantage of being smooth! I didn't know anything about treating a gaited horse different when I bought her so I didn't treat her different. The only thing I did different was teach her a cue to gait.

I don't really have any advice to offer as far as gaiting better, etc. - but to show my horse off at her best gait, I exhibit proper (or as proper as I can get) equitation and collect her. She doesn't have the best fox trot or flatfoot walk to begin with, but by fixing some of my equitation problems (arching my back a little bit, leaning forward, etc, etc) I found she gaited better as a result. I think just knowing proper equitation and what gait the horse is exhibiting undersaddle really helps as far as developing the best gait.

The only misconceptions I have come across is when I tell people I jump my MFT. Most non-gaited horse people are like, "What? But you can't jump gaited horses! Doesn't their gait or something get in the way?" I have also heard it is dangerous to jump a gaited horse because of how they're built, but I think it's a bunch of BS. Anyone have any theories as to how that even started?
I have never heard the lunging theory. I longe my gaited horse just fine. However, she doesn't really gait on the longe-line, so I don't know. I'll be interested to see what people put.

#4 PASOGIRLZ

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 03:20 PM

by Michele Londono, Ph.D.

Few people realize it, few horsemen and horsewomen from other breeds even know this. In the Paso Fino breed, the rider can be 40% to 70% responsible for the gait of the Paso Fino under saddle! This makes riding the Paso Fino horse quite a challenging, but also quite a rewarding experience. And Paso riding has mostly become the fastest growing equine sport of the new millennium.

Yes, the Paso Fino foal is already naturally gaited at birth and yes, the solid training of a good Paso Fino horse can enhance his gait considerably for the ring or for the trail, with bitting or without bitting. If you ever wonder why the same Paso Fino horse ridden by his owner and then ridden by the trainer will look very different, the answer is both in the seat and in the individual amount of bonding of the horse with the rider. This happens in all breeds. But ridden by a true beginner, the best gaited Paso Fino horse might well start to trot! Why? Because the rider is not giving the cues necessary to the harmonious headset and four-beat gait combination, it is all in the rider's hands, know-how and the seat.

How can a beginning rider hinder the Paso Fino gait? It can happen either by dropping the reins too low, or by pulling too hard on the mouth, for lack of balance, or giving confusing leg aids. The same way a new rider can cause the sensitive Paso Fino horse to loose his four beat balance under saddle--and his temper sometimes--, a new owner can cause it just by not respecting the correct feet angles for the Paso Fino, if the farrier follows the lower angles of racing horses or quarter horses. Let's use a metaphor that works pretty well in the world of arts to illustrate the extent of damage that can be caused by incorrect riding skills and-- or-- by the lack of good shoeing angles, for a Paso Fino. Ballet and Paso Fino riding are art forms. The Paso Fino in many ways is like a ballerina. Who could blame a ballerina for looking clumsy and tripping on a rocky road, while she does glide perfectly on a shiny stage floor?

This article aims at helping the first time Paso Fino owner and rider with a working gait formula.

All elements of the Paso management and the riding formula have to be perfectly right for the Paso Fino horse to act elegant and smooth at all times under saddle, and, to this effect, a few Paso Fino riding lessons remain the key to success under saddle, at least at the beginning, until you bond with your horse.

What is essential is to have a few Paso points of reference, to read about Pasos and to recognize the need for pointers, all in order to gait successfully. However, this basic need for very correct riding skills in order to get a true Paso gait represents in no way a threat to the sport, it should not be seen as work, as a limitation or a fast stop to the true enjoyment of the breed. All the opposite. It should be seen as a challenging horsemanship feature and a chance for further bonding experience with the horse. The beauty of the Paso Fino horse is actually in his own versatility, a rider may be successful under saddle not only in western skills, but also in English skills, jumping, barrel racing, cattle work and competitive trails or endurance. The same Paso Fino horse with sound training basics can actually or virtually excel at all these disciplines at the same time, and win all the competitions, if the rider gives him the correct cues and bonds with the Paso horse as a riding team. It has been done. Paso Finos usually win three days events and even endurance competitions, to everyone's amazement, considering the hotter temper and the smaller size of Paso Finos.

Pasos are pleasers and they respond to new cues without hesitation, children can ride them and senior citizens as well, without any problem, handicapped riders benefit from Paso Fino school teachings. Pasos will adjust to neck reining, bosal riding, bareback riding, they can wonderfully answer to leg cues when the reins are dropped, and they respond as well as they can to bit or bitless cues, when the legs are not there, Pasos are wonderfully gifted and it is only doing them justice to try and learn how to ride them better for the quality of their gait. This article is not intended to teach specific riding techniques for the Paso Fino. It is best to learn under the careful eyes of a serious, experienced and dedicated Paso professional instructor at an established Paso Fino school. But sometimes Paso Finos travel to far-away places where the owners are at a loss for Paso trainers or even for riding instructors even remotely familiar with the still mysterious Paso Fino breed. We have had the case of Paso Finos exported to Canada, Central America, Germany, Asia. Their new owners crave Paso information, that is still too scarce in English at this date, since most books on training Paso Fino horses are originally written in Spanish and not translated or unavailable in the public libraries, and still absent from bookstores or feedstores. The Internet with Paso webpages comes as a handy tool nowadays for hands-on clinics and videos. Check it out!

What follows is just a guideline, if we were to give here a few pointers only for the true Paso beginners, and for riders coming from any other equestrian disciplines, using leg aids in dressage or in Western riding styles.

Riders of dressage may ride a Paso Fino successfully, as they have the naturally balanced body carriage and seat, and the gentle, soft use of the hands. All they need to do is omit any excess of leg and thigh pressure, as Paso Finos are naturally driven forward and need no spurring ahead, that would virtually turn them into time-bombs. All they need is a light slowing down from the reins, and a few stops with immediate rein release. Pulling the reins back --even slightly-- automatically means backing up, in any trained Paso mind. When you feel the Paso engine under you, for the very first time, it feels like a porsche or a racecar! That is what we call " Paso brio" or spirit. It can scare people first hand, but it is a quality, not a defect! Brio needs to be there, it is your accelerator. Do not worry. Do not panic. Do not give unclear commands. Riding a Paso with brio becomes a passion and a delight. Your gentle hands are the breaks, do not abuse the break, do not abuse or overlook the leg power either! Go with the rhythm, go forward, try a few stops, a bond will establish. All will go well under saddle if the horse is trained. You learn by doing, when you urge forward with a click of the tongue and the four beat gear first starts under you, what you feel is an eerie smoothness, when it is suddenly bumpy under you, there is lack of gait or a trot, due to a problem, find out why, shift your position, stop and try again, ask for help from another rider the ground, get to know your horse well, starting on the ground first. In an enclosed arena next. Try your skills at a trail ride next. The ring is the ultimate challenge.

Pasos can canter, of course, it is one of the questions most frequently asked, but it is best to keep it to a few controlled canters only, now and then, to keep intact the quality of the corto and largo rhythm otherwise. And, just as easily as they extend, Pasos can also collect and they can learn new tricks too! The sky is the limit once you trust your Paso and recognize the smooth feel of the gait, and learn how to keep the rhythm in a consistent manner.

To be brief, remember five words that will take you far when riding any Paso Fino horse, anywhere:

Patience
Relaxed attitude
Trust
Balance and practice
Safety
Enjoy your Paso rides! Pasos can ride with a smile!

#5 taraalb

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Posted 19 June 2006 - 03:34 PM

I, too, have just ridden my gaited horses. No chair seat or ridiculous posture. Good equitation is good equitation.
I have heard the lunging theory and that it is OK in large circles. Also have seen people's faces about jumping, team penning, etc. gaited horses. They ARE horses still and can excel at many disciplines. In fact, there is (maybe was by now) a very highly placing TWH in the show-jumping circuit.

#6 Guest__*

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:00 AM

OK, so I have recently aquired a Standardbred and this is my first gaited horse. He seems to go into his pretty naturaly considering I have no idea about how to get them into it. My main question I have not been able to get an answer to is about bits. I have been riding in just a O-ring snaffle, is ther a specific bit I should be using?

#7 KLN

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:27 AM

It's not the bit. I know of people who ride gaited horses bitless with no problem at all getting into proper gait. Use a bit that is most comfortable for your horse in your hands.

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 11:50 AM

Well he messes with it alot, but I think it is just a habit with him, he is 19 after all. He responds well to the bit I use on him.
My daughter is going to show him in open classes this fall, she is a begginer rider and will pretty much just be doing walk/trot and halter classes.

#9 Ratz

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Posted 20 June 2006 - 01:46 PM

After several years of taking riding lessons, my instructor would switch my lesson horse from time to time. I would ride a foxtrotter one week and a little QH mare the next and so on. Looking back now, I can see my instructor was teaching me by experience that my equitation shouldn't change when I change horses.

#10 Elizabeth Wertz

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 12:15 PM

Ratz---great point. I do the same, especially with kids that come for lessons, they may want to jump, or run barrels, or whatever, but they are going to switch...whether they like it or not. I thank my Grandma now for the English lessons I didn't like as a kid. She knew something I didn't!

As for bits, I have learned that the more I know about bits the better able I am to use them for the purpose they were intended. I use wonder bits a lot, a loose ring snaffle, western bits and walking horse bits, and more, but I use them all for the purpose they were intended and I never get locked into one bit. Each bit has been developed throughout the years by horsemen and women who knew how to use a bit to enhance their horse's preformance. I personally have horses that ride in 6-8 different bits, and are bridle wise and bit wise in all of them. Since I compete in everything from jumping to western pleasure to cattle classes, I need the right type of bit for each class. I also expect that my horse work in each type of bit, the key is how you use the bit, and how good your hands are at adjusting from one bit to another.

One thing that is true for all horses, their teeth needed to be checked and floated. I have found that has solved many a problems with horses and bits...somtimes though if a horse has had a mouth issue for years, even if you fix the teeth, it may continue to "work" the bit, just out of habit. Head slinging and bracing are usually signs to me of tooth trouble.

#11 KLN

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:29 PM

Good point! I cann't believe I forgot to mention about teeth floating [Duh] .

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 02:51 PM

His teeth are good, they are all on a reg. sched. with that. He doesn't toss his head or brace up, more or less just "chews" on the bit.

I must admit, I am completely confused when it comes to bits. You see all of them out there but they never really say what they are best suited for or what application they would be used for.

#13 Elizabeth Wertz

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 03:03 PM

Is the bit adjusted properly in his mouth?

That is very important, it should be in the corners of his mouth. Can you take a pic. of it and post it on here so we can see?

#14 Itchysmom

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Posted 21 June 2006 - 09:49 PM

To answer your question about the bit for the STB. My mare, who I raised from birth and has never seen a cart, can go in anything. She was in an eggbutt snaffle for years. She then started hanging on it as my hubby started riding her. She has always been just a trail horse. I swotched over to a low port western bit and I can figure tip her. She will also go in a bosal.

Now the new gelding we got was trained to race but never did. His previous owner used a mechanical hackamore. He hates it as far as I am concerned. We tried a snaffle but he was heavy in it. So, I put my mares western bit in his mouth and he loves it. It is what my hubby uses when he rides him. I love the way he moves on the lunge line and wanted to try bitting him up a bit so I put the eggbutt in his mouth. All he did was chew it the whole time. So, I tried a full cheek. It works well and he doesn't mouth itlike he he did the eggbutt. So, try a full cheek on your horse and see if it makes a difference. Mine has a copper mouth piece.

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Posted 22 June 2006 - 07:21 AM

I'll have to try that. He is retired form the police force here, so I don't know what kind of bit they used on him. The bit sits just in the corners of his mouth, not to tight.
He is extremely light in the mouth, you barely have to move the reins to get him to do anything, I think maybe he just likes messing with it, he has a couple odd quirks. But he is by far the best riding horse I have ever been on, I understand know why people who ride gaited won't ride anything else, I know I am hooked! I have ridden QHs all my life now you will have a hard time getting me to ride a non-gaited horse.

#16 goatmom

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 04:27 PM

I have always been interested the gaited horses. I finally made up my mind that I am going to sell the horse I have. He needs to go to someone that will enjoy a more spirited ride. I am too old to mess with it any longer. I think my next one will be gaited. I am going to look for a walkaloosa. My first love is the appaloosa. But if I can not find one I was thinking about the MFT. I hear Missouri has quite a few gaited horse farms.

#17 Elizabeth Wertz

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Posted 23 June 2006 - 04:35 PM

There are lots of gaited horses in Missouri!!!

Lots of MFTs and TWHs.

Once you go gaited for trail riding and such, you won't go back, and that is from an old QH girl!! Ha Ha!

#18 MistyDun

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Posted 24 June 2006 - 09:42 PM

I'm also looking to get involved with gaited horses. I've always had Quarter Horses, Paints or Apps, but I think it's time to find a "smoother" ride. Actually, it was my buckskin Quarter Horse mare that ruined me for trail riding. Personally, I think she was gaited. You could get Misty out on a trail, and she would get into the smoothest gait I've ever been on. I would sit in the saddle, with my feet out of the stirrups, and never bounce an inch. I don't know what it was, but I loved it. She's not rideable anymore due to a bone chip in her front fetlock, so I'm looking to find another smooth riding horse. I think I'm partial to MFT, simply because I like their body style, and their height is perfect.

#19 SERobins

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Posted 26 June 2006 - 12:44 PM

Goatmom, you know there are some gaited appaloosas!