sometimes he breaks out of it and trots. He's full TWH...I was just curious if they, well, enjoy gaiting? It just looks very labored and uncomfortable for him when he does it...
It is entirely possible the horse needs to see an equine chiropractor because he IS uncomfortable. Not because he's a Tennessee Walker but because something in his skeletal system is out of alignment.
The only time I've ever had a Walking Horse break out of his gait, start trotting under saddle and look "labored and uncomfortable" was when his Atlas Bone and his sacrum needed some adjusting. He was out enough that I had to give a week of rest, which ended up being two weeks. That all happened in the pasture at play, so it doesn't have to be anything the rider made the horse do.
When I got back on him, he was a gaitin' fool with a beautiful head nod.
I have three Walkers who all perform their intermediate gaits equally well at liberty, under saddle, barefoot or with shoes on.
Their ages are 23+; 16+ and 13. I have owned the 23 & 16 yr olds since they were 2-1/2; an age when a Walking Horse is still "finding its feet".
I guess I got pretty lucky to have three Walkers who are "naturally" gaited and never needed lessons on to perform what is their birthright