Originally Posted by trailhorserider View Post
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.