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Just got my first gaited horse and need some advice

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    02-26-2010, 08:30 AM
  #11
Weanling
When I say the concept of the "gaited saddle" is a marketing ploy I'm merely pointing out that since "gaited horses" can range from 13.2, 750 lb. Paso Fino to a 17.2, 1400 lb. Walker that the very idea that one design of saddle will fit both is extremely questionable.

Does the way a "gaited" horse moves mean it needs some specially designed saddle? Again, since "gait" exisits on a coninuum of movement and can range from a broken trot to a broken pace we again must conclude that producing a generic "gaited" saddle would be inneffective.

We often hear that "gaited" horses need more shoulder room than trotters. Sometimes claims of "necessary" variation in rock and twist are made. Anyone who thinks that has never seen any of the jumping events at the Rolex or Spruce Meadows.

The variation in size and conformation and way of going amongst "gaited" horses makes any claim by a "generic gaited saddle advocate" very questionable.

How about breed-specific saddles? Here you might have a much more scientificly based product. A breed that's pretty "tight" on conformation and gait standards (like the Paso Fino) will have much more commonality between individuals than, say, a breed with very vague standards (like the TN Walker, where there is not even a breed standard). So a "Paso Fino saddle" might work but a "TN Walker saddle" will be much more of a "crap shoot."

So, again, IMO the claim that a "gaited horse saddle" vice a "normal" saddle found in any given saddle shop is necessary is unsupported by anything beyond marketing and prejudice. A breed-specific saddle might work as long as the breed is physically consistent.

Guilherme
     
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    02-26-2010, 12:07 PM
  #12
Green Broke
[QUOTE=ponyboy;562739]A saddle used on gaited horses should have a straight flap (if English), a fairly flat seat, and the stirrups placed a little farther back than usual. [UNQUOTE]

I thought it was just the opposite- that the stirrups were placed a little more FORWARD than usual. Am I wrong? And also, that the saddle should encourage you to lean back a tad. The lady I ride with always tells me to lean back a little to encourage the gait.

So I always got the impression that a gaited saddle would be giving you more of slight "chair seat" rather than a balanced, say "dressage" seat.

But I don't have a gaited saddle, so I don't know firsthand.
     
    02-26-2010, 01:29 PM
  #13
Weanling
[quote=trailhorserider;564091]
Quote:
Originally Posted by ponyboy    
A saddle used on gaited horses should have a straight flap (if English), a fairly flat seat, and the stirrups placed a little farther back than usual. [UNQUOTE]

I thought it was just the opposite- that the stirrups were placed a little more FORWARD than usual. Am I wrong? And also, that the saddle should encourage you to lean back a tad. The lady I ride with always tells me to lean back a little to encourage the gait.

So I always got the impression that a gaited saddle would be giving you more of slight "chair seat" rather than a balanced, say "dressage" seat.

But I don't have a gaited saddle, so I don't know firsthand.
A "chair seat" will, in fact, make a horse more smooth. It does this by increasing weight at the back of the saddle, putting pressure on the horse's back, and causing the back to ventroflex. This is not necessarily bad if the rider has the good sense to vary the gait by getting off the back and causing a mild dosiflex from time to time. And using a correct canter on both leads during the course of a ride. Mix and match is good; constant ventroflex will equal a sore back.

A ventroflexed horse, however, looses much efficiency and it disconnects the front and rear ends, which is the antithesis of collection.

If you dorsiflex (bascule) too much then you can loose the soft gait completely and end up with a trot. This, also, is not necessarily bad as it uses different muscles in different ways. It can be particularly helpful to teach a very lateral horse to canter.

Again, a properly fitted saddle appropriate to the discipline should be the goal of the rider. The moniker on the saddle is less important than the function it permits and encourages.

Guilherme
     
    02-26-2010, 06:02 PM
  #14
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
I thought it was just the opposite- that the stirrups were placed a little more FORWARD than usual. Am I wrong? And also, that the saddle should encourage you to lean back a tad. The lady I ride with always tells me to lean back a little to encourage the gait.

So I always got the impression that a gaited saddle would be giving you more of slight "chair seat" rather than a balanced, say "dressage" seat.

But I don't have a gaited saddle, so I don't know firsthand.
Taken from Easy-Gaited horses by Lee Ziegler:

"The chair seat, with legs sometimes braced in front of the rider's body, puts the rider behind the normal balance point of horse. It... can encourage our horse to rack by making him tighten his back muscles and move into slightly inverted position, with slack in his dorsal ligament. You may sometimes need to use this seat, very sparingly, on gaited horses that tend to hard trot. It is not an appropriate seat for long-term riding because in addition to putting your weight far behind the strongest point of your horse's back, which can tire him, too much work in a chair seat can encourage a pace."

Yes, this is in new way of thinking. But I believe this book because Ziegler uses physics and biomechanics to support her claims, something which few trainers do.

Icelandic riders had always ridden in a "dressage seat." The straight flap on a gaited saddle makes that easier. (I think that whole "avoiding interference with the horse's shoulder" thing is BS too).

Guilherme, if your horses gait in an all-purpose saddle then that's nice for you. Actually, if your horses are naturally pacey, it might even be good for them. But there's some distance between that and claiming that all gaited saddles are marketing gimmicks. Do you believe that dressage and jumping saddles are gimmicks too? Have you ever tried jumping over 3 ft. In a dressage saddle?
     
    02-26-2010, 06:26 PM
  #15
Green Broke
Quote:
Originally Posted by ponyboy    
Taken from Easy-Gaited horses by Lee Ziegler:

Icelandic riders had always ridden in a "dressage seat." The straight flap on a gaited saddle makes that easier. (I think that whole "avoiding interference with the horse's shoulder" thing is BS too).
So really, instead of worrying about about how to ride a gaited horse, we should just pretend they are a "normal" horse?

Because I ride with a pretty long, straight leg (I ride western on the trail for hours and short stirrups get tiring after a while so I tend to ride really long). And my current saddle sits me right in the center of the horse. So really, I shouldn't be doing anything different than when I ride any other horse? Maybe the people that have been teaching me to ride gaited horses have taught me all wrong. Because I was always told to lean back and put my legs forward.:roll:

So gee, I wouldn't even have had to learn a new way to ride. I ride very centered most of the time. Ugh!
     
    02-27-2010, 12:00 AM
  #16
Foal
The lady I bought my Paso from told me that as long as the saddle fit my horse and me, then it would be fine. I asked her about the leaning back and she said that when you do that then you run the risk of hurting the horses back. Riding center is the best thing for the horse. As long as I am comfortable the my horse will be comfortable. She herself has not heard of riding with her legs more forward, or shorter...just make yourself comfy and your horse will be...
     
    02-27-2010, 01:02 AM
  #17
Green Broke
I agree we need to make ourselves and our horses comfortable, even if that means we use a different style of sitting or riding than what is in vogue at the moment. Every horse and human is an individual and what works for one may not work for another.

I am torn between the two styles myself. I learned on non-gaited horses and try to sit pretty centered with my legs more underneath me. My gaited horse friend and neighbor taught me to do the slight leaning back thing with the legs slightly forward.

Just so everyone knows what I am taking about, I found this video by Brenda Imus that talks about the riding position I am refering to. The video is at the bottom of this page:

Brend Imus 4-Beat Saddles and Tack

I think the talk about riding position starts right before the 5 minute mark, but goes on after that to show the riding position with and without the saddle.

She says on there that their gaited saddles put the stirrups more forward than a standard saddle. And that this position is supposed to be how a rider will naturally ride bareback.

I don't know which is the more correct riding position, but this is a great topic for discussion!
     
    02-27-2010, 01:17 AM
  #18
Green Broke
[quote=Guilherme;564149]
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider    

A "chair seat" will, in fact, make a horse more smooth. It does this by increasing weight at the back of the saddle, putting pressure on the horse's back, and causing the back to ventroflex. This is not necessarily bad if the rider has the good sense to vary the gait by getting off the back and causing a mild dosiflex from time to time. And using a correct canter on both leads during the course of a ride. Mix and match is good; constant ventroflex will equal a sore back.

A ventroflexed horse, however, looses much efficiency and it disconnects the front and rear ends, which is the antithesis of collection.

If you dorsiflex (bascule) too much then you can loose the soft gait completely and end up with a trot. This, also, is not necessarily bad as it uses different muscles in different ways. It can be particularly helpful to teach a very lateral horse to canter.

Again, a properly fitted saddle appropriate to the discipline should be the goal of the rider. The moniker on the saddle is less important than the function it permits and encourages.

Guilherme
Thank you Guilherme, this is some very good information to ponder!

As I rode my Foxtrotter mare today, and she was very well behaved but rather reluctant to gait, I have decided that I should try some different saddles I have on hand to see if she feels more willing to move out in one of them than the saddle I am currently using.

I have noticed, as you said, that I can encourage her to gait by raising her head and getting her to ventroflex, but I worry that it will be bad for her back in the long-term. If I try to "collect" her as I do my non-gaited trail horse, she wants to hard trot. Sometimes I wonder if I should just "throw the gait away" and just let her trot. It would be a lot less work. And maybe it would be better for her soundness in the long term? But that seems like such a waste when you have a Foxtrotter! She has a to-die-for flat walk though. It's just the intermediate gait we are having trouble with.

I didn't meant to highjack this thread, but since we were talking about saddles for gaited horses, I thought I would join the discussion a bit. I hope I didn't take us too far off-topic.
     
    02-27-2010, 09:51 AM
  #19
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
So really, instead of worrying about about how to ride a gaited horse, we should just pretend they are a "normal" horse?

Because I ride with a pretty long, straight leg (I ride western on the trail for hours and short stirrups get tiring after a while so I tend to ride really long). And my current saddle sits me right in the center of the horse. So really, I shouldn't be doing anything different than when I ride any other horse? Maybe the people that have been teaching me to ride gaited horses have taught me all wrong. Because I was always told to lean back and put my legs forward.:roll:

So gee, I wouldn't even have had to learn a new way to ride. I ride very centered most of the time. Ugh!
The word "gaited" modifies the word "horse." So the horse is a horse first, gaited second.

Lee Ziegler, with whom I was aquainted before she died, was trained in her youth by a retired Army officer who was trained in the Cavalry School at Ft. Riley. When we began using the "Ft. Riley seat" I asked her about it. She said it was an excellent way to ride the vast majority of gaited horses. It will not produce a winning "show gait" but it will give the rider security, control, and comfort for long periods of time in the saddle. It will also keep the rider off the horse's back and not induce ventroflexion, which has long term negative consequences for the horse.

The winner at the 2009 National Cavalry Competition was a man named Dick Ross riding a TN Walker in a McClellan saddle. In this saddle he did the Equitation, Field Jumping, Mounted Saber, and Mounted Pistol courses. He bested 70 other competitors riding QHs, TBs, Arabs, grades, etc. IMO the result would have been the same if he'd been in a Western saddle, English saddle, endurance saddle, Aussie, or anything else. It was the effective combination of skill, training, and good horsemanship that won the day.

So the "short answer" is yes, we ride a gaited horse like we ride any other horse. If Imus or anybody else says otherwise then they are demonstrating a lack of understanding of equine biomechanics.

Soft gait exists on a continuum. In any given horse the rider can move the gait along than continuum based upon how they ride. This means that good equitation basics are more important to the gaited horse rider than they are to a trotting rider. In general a "trot is a trot is a trot." You can extend it, collect it, speed it up and slow it down but it's always a two beat, diagonal gait with a moment of suspension.

Ventroflexion in a trotter is a Very Bad Thing. In a gaited horse it will be a Very Bad Thing if that's all the rider does. As long as gaits are frequently "mixed" even the most lateral of ventroflexed gaits will not cause harm. But this, again, requires that the rider have some skill and judgement in determining the "mix" on any given day.

A lateral gait puts more stress on the horse than a diagonal gait. This means that the horse must be strong and fit to hold a lateral gait. Lots of "weekend warrior" horses are just not capable of doing this beyond a few minutes. I've been on trail rides where I've observed people on very unfit horses flogging them along trying to stay in gait mile after mile and then being completely puzzled by the very sore back the horse shows at the end of the ride. Well, DUH!!!!!

As to type of saddle, the "gaited horse saddle" is marketed as a generic solution to the "unique" movement of the soft gaited horse. To try and compare them to jumping or dressage saddles (that are purposely designed to assist the rider in maintaining a certain position) is an "apples and oranges" comparison. I don't think I'm the one making the overbroad assertion, here.

There is no magic formula to riding the soft gaited horse in most equine activities. You ride like you'd ride any good horse. Some disciplines might require some differences (if you're going to "dally rope" you need a different saddle and position than if you're going to ride a 100 mile endurance race). But for everyday moving down a trail the differences between a soft gaited horse and a trotter are subtle, if they exist at all. Very frequently they don't.

Note that if you're looking for a show gait then much of the above does not apply as you're looking to impress a judge in a few minutes, not keep a horse sound and comfortable for many hours/miles.

So I reject the "marketing hype" that produces the gaited horse saddle or some specialized position on the horse. As with all things, YMMV.

Guilerme
     
    02-27-2010, 06:21 PM
  #20
Yearling
Quote:
Originally Posted by trailhorserider    
I have noticed, as you said, that I can encourage her to gait by raising her head and getting her to ventroflex, but I worry that it will be bad for her back in the long-term. If I try to "collect" her as I do my non-gaited trail horse, she wants to hard trot.
That's something else mentioned in the book. Although they can look that way, gaited horses don't go truly collected. Trying for true collection will stop them from gaiting.

Think of it this way. The trot and the pace are at opposite ends of the spectrum. A horse cannot pace with too much weight on their shoulders, so if your horse wants to pace, riding them in a more forward seat (like with an AP saddle) will improve their gait. But if you horse wants to trot, a forward seat might make them stop gaiting. With a trotty horse, leaning back will help, but you don't want to sit that way all the time because once your horse gets used to it, you've got nowhere else to go (and it's bad for their back). It's like how if you ride with heavy hands, your horse will eventually become dead to the bit. A chair seat is a seat aid, not a position you should stay in.

Sheawhittet, if the lady said you could use any kind of saddle you want, it just means that your horse is good enough that you don't have to worry about it. For gaited horses that have issues the type of saddle would make a difference.


Quote:
As to type of saddle, the "gaited horse saddle" is marketed as a generic solution to the "unique" movement of the soft gaited horse. To try and compare them to jumping or dressage saddles (that are purposely designed to assist the rider in maintaining a certain position)
The saddles I'm refering to are designed to help the rider maintain a certain position. They are a type of English saddle just like AP, CC, dressage, etc. You seem to keep referring to gaited saddles as having only one kind of tree, which I've never heard of. Depending on the brand, they come in different sizes and shapes like any other kind of saddle. So it sounds to me like we're talking about completely different things here. *shrugs*.

Suffice it to say I think the best advice is that if you liked the way your horse moved when you bought it, you should use the same type of equipment the previous owner used at least in the beginning.


     

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