Gaited horses possibly having back problems?? - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 12:27 AM Thread Starter
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Gaited horses possibly having back problems??

Most gaited horses I know (actually all gaited horses that I know) gait best with their heads slightly up a bit, rather than down like a quarter horse. I have seen TWs that keep their heads very high with the "bob"; it seems to help with rhythm and momentum.

My horse (a KMH) doesn't "bob", but he does keep his head up. Now, one of the trainers at my barn has suggested that I TROT him, and work with his head down to round his back. This would only be done in the arena as an exercise; she is afraid his back is beginning to get too "hollow".

I had 1 gaited trainer tell me to "stretch the bit, and keep his head down" during the gait, but this was really tough for him to do! He lost so much rhythm and balance! But, I would love to be able to do this, because I don't want him to go back to the trot. I "paid extra" for his wonderful gait!!!

Has anyone else been concerned about a hollow back forming on their gaited horse? Can you gait with the head down? Or, do you trot your gaited horse often? I certainly want my horse's back to stay strong and pain free for as many years as possible, so I would love your feedback.

Thanks!

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #2 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 12:43 AM
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Could back the horse a lot with its head down maybe.


Not good here so I'm sticking around.
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post #3 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 11:48 AM
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Some gaits like the rack require a slightly hollow back to perform. Other gaits can be done with a neutral back. I think only trotters get that really rounded low head look. I would not worry to much about it. Most of the gaited breeds do have a naturally higher head carriage.
I have been gaiting on some of my Peruvians for 20 years and their backs look fine. I let them carry their heads where they want to and I ride on a fairly loose rein to let them self carry. I use no tie downs, no shoes and a snaffle or no bit.
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post #4 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 01:23 PM Thread Starter
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Hummm... good to know. I normally use a soft hackamore, and ride with a loose rein as well. And my horse in not shod, so I agree; the more natural you can go, the better.

You are probably correct in that "mother nature" will tell the horse the most comfortable spot for him to place his head. Gaited horses usually do have higher withers, so their backs can appear more hollow.

Thanks for your input; I appreciate it.
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"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #5 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 05:56 PM
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The gait of the KMH is a rack/singlefoot, which requires a hollow back and still head. You can't compare them to a TWH or a trotting horse.
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post #6 of 24 Old 11-25-2012, 06:32 PM Thread Starter
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Really? I have 2 different trainers who confirm that he does a running walk and/or a fox trot. He used to pace on occasion, but I have worked to keep him out of that. A friend whom I ride with has a RMH; his gaits are similar to my horse's, but he does like to trot on occasion as well. I have never seen either of our horses rack. Perhaps different lines within the breed differ?

Because I do trail riding (no showing) I don't care except that the gait be comfortable for me and him. And of course, good back conditioning is imperative so he can be strong throughout his life.

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #7 of 24 Old 11-26-2012, 12:23 PM
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Very, few horse can do both a foxtrot and a running walk. The muscle tone required for these two gaits conflict drastically. Yes, it can be done, but is not normal.

Head down gaited horse: Any gaited horse that gaits with it's head down is either very poorly conformed OR the trainer has gone way out of their way to teach this approach. Gaited horse are by definition and conformation, high headed horses. And that does not mean this causes a permanent swayed back from traveling hollow backed. A naturally gaited horse that is allowed to move in it's normal gait with a normal head set will have no problem with swaying. One of the very nice features of a naturally gaited racking horse is it's ability to travel extended periods(hours) in a slow rack and never tire quickly, even with only moderate conditioning. The rack of a natural racking horse is much easier gait(requires less energy to perform) than the running walk of the walking horse. There have been several muscle comparison studies done, that shows the reason this occurs.

Back problems: You would be amazed at the number of horses(of all breeds) that have back problems due to misaligned ribs and vertebra. I have a horse that bucked so bad, he had 4 very good trainers give up on him. You could ride him for days, weeks, or sometimes just a few minutes, then he would go into bucking and not stop until the rider was gone. We ran into a horse chiropractor at a ride we were on back in the spring. I took this horse to him. We spent 4 hours getting him right. He has not bucked since. He spent a lot of time with me, showing me how to check. Since then I've checked quite a few horses that had problems and found the back/rib alignment to be the problem. They got them fixed and the problems went away.
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Last edited by bbsmfg3; 11-26-2012 at 12:30 PM.
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post #8 of 24 Old 11-26-2012, 12:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by imagaitin View Post
Most gaited horses I know (actually all gaited horses that I know) gait best with their heads slightly up a bit, rather than down like a quarter horse. I have seen TWs that keep their heads very high with the "bob"; it seems to help with rhythm and momentum.

My horse (a KMH) doesn't "bob", but he does keep his head up. Now, one of the trainers at my barn has suggested that I TROT him, and work with his head down to round his back. This would only be done in the arena as an exercise; she is afraid his back is beginning to get too "hollow".

I had 1 gaited trainer tell me to "stretch the bit, and keep his head down" during the gait, but this was really tough for him to do! He lost so much rhythm and balance! But, I would love to be able to do this, because I don't want him to go back to the trot. I "paid extra" for his wonderful gait!!!

Has anyone else been concerned about a hollow back forming on their gaited horse? Can you gait with the head down? Or, do you trot your gaited horse often? I certainly want my horse's back to stay strong and pain free for as many years as possible, so I would love your feedback.

Thanks!
Ok, I am P.O'd just as soon as I read "Trainer" the first time, then to read it the second time really has my feet stompin' in this swivel chair.

BBsmfg3 summed things up the best.

It sounds to me like these trainers are trying to ruin gaited horses with their "peanut pushing" mentality, just like they have the Quarter Horses.

I can remember the days when Quarter Horses held their heads high. By high I don't mean they're star-gazing. I mean they had their heads up where a head is supposed to be.

Let your horse carry it's head where IT wants to carry its head when it's gaiting. They are all different. I have three TWH's and the "gaiting headset" is different on each of them. One is a Step Pacer, one does nothing but the running walk, the third mostly racks but I've seen him do some other funky stuff that I don't recognize and isn't comfortable

Apologies to the OP - this is not geared toward you. Please feel free to whap the stupid trainers alongside the head and say it's from someone whose owned gaited horses for 22+ years and thinks they are complete idiots. I'd whack them myself if I lived close enough
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post #9 of 24 Old 11-26-2012, 05:46 PM Thread Starter
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No problem; I don't take offense!

Actually, I agree with you. There is a well known gaited horse trainer in my area (he has been on the RFD Channel a few times, and is heavily involved in FOSH) who is a really nice guy, and seems to get great results, but he stresses the "head down gait". I did try it with my guy, but.... it was a battle. My KMH just didn't want to do it. I finally decided.... "he must be more comfortable holding his head where he wants to".

(I posted on a different thread today that he was brilliant this afternoon. Very relaxed, gaited and cantered smoothly, and very calm.)

And again, I am no expert. This trainer has horses that move beautifully, so I would not argue with him. I just have to go with what seems to work best for my horse. No shoes, no bit, and let him hold his head where he wants to! (I will keep working on those gaits though!)

ps - I also recall John Lyons saying on his show once... "I know there are trainers who stress their horses ride head down all the time, but frankly, if you ride you horse on the trail, why would you want that? I WANT my horses to be alert and look around. They are prey animals; it just isn't natural for a horse to move with his head down by his feet.... unless he is grazing in a pasture."
I have always liked John Lyons' approach.

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)

Last edited by imagaitin; 11-26-2012 at 05:51 PM.
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post #10 of 24 Old 11-26-2012, 06:39 PM
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Conformation plays an important role. My TWH is of a stocky build and the way his neck emerges his head is higher even when snoozing than some other breeds. He lacks the head nod even when really motoring around the pasture at liberty.
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