Gaited Saddlebred Questions
I think I've mentioned before that I have a gaited Saddlebred mare (naturally as far as we can tell... nobody "taught" her to do it). Last year the girl leasing her was looking for ways to ensure she didn't gait at all, now that her lease is over I've decided to change tacts a bit with her.
I've been riding under a new coach who has been dispelling a lot of the gaited myths, and encouraging me to use ALL of Chance's gaits - spending time to improve all of them, rather than trying to "ignore" any of them.
So, we've been starting back at square one - starting with the flat walk, and encouraging her to work long and low... it's still very much a work in progress but we're getting lower. Same deal with the trot.
Yesterday while working on increasing flexion and straightness Chance began gaiting (stepping pace is what the coach called it - she usually works with RMH's... I was told by Saddlebred people that it is "slow gait"). At first I was correcting the gait by going back to a walk and starting over to ask for what I wanted. This was getting her really flustered and the gaiting was getting worse and worse (really pacey and awful) - so rather than allowing her to do this (figuring this might run a risk of ruining her gait) began to just ask her to bring her head and neck lower and work on balance and flexion in the gait as well. (As the coach had been explaining to us this is as good for them in their extra gaits as it is for the "regular" gaits). This seemed to be doing two things - she was getting softer and rounder, not just in her gait but in all the gaits... and she was beginning to understand that she cannot gait to avoid correct work in the walk or trot - which meant she was learning to distinguish what I was actually asking for vs just using it as an evasion.
What I'm wondering is this ... what is the "correct" way to cue for the slow gait so that I can be sure I won't confuse her? It's something we haven't really covered in our lessons yet - because we were working on improving the flat walk and trot (we've discussed the gaits and the subtle differences in seat... but haven't actually worked on them with her yet). Once she's in the gait I can feel when she's getting pacey and seem to be able to help her correct that by adjusting my seat and hands - but I was finding that it felt like I was "chasing" her into the gait (so the first few strides were really pacey, then we'd get it cleaned up), rather than a clean transition - and I'm assuming that is no more correct for gaited work than it is to chase a horse into the trot or canter. (actually I KNOW it's not, but I'm not quite sure how to work on it)
There's another 2 weeks until I get another lesson, and it'd be super if I could arrive with a "new trick" up our sleeve LOL I don't expect it to be perfect by a long shot, but I'd love to be able to show her off a bit (Saddlebreds aren't common in my area, and gaited ones even less so)
If anyone's made it through that novel... and has suggestions, I'd really appreciate it! (And yes, I know there's a few great books on this subject, but I haven't been able to get any yet - it's on the "to do" list!)