Really new to gaited horses

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Really new to gaited horses

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    07-03-2010, 04:08 PM
Really new to gaited horses

I've had almost no contact with gaited horses, but it seems I recently aquired one.

This mare is a 13yr old Saddlebred, who, either nobody noticed gaited or just didn't think to mention it.

It's been a couple of years since she's been ridden, but she's very well trained. Thing is, in the process of getting her fit again, she's decided to evade certain things (canter transitions, mostly) by gaiting. There's a 12yr old, novice rider working with this horse, and they're aiming mostly for the early stages of eventing.

The gaiting has become a relatively "big" issue, as it seems many coaches are commenting on it as a negative thing which frustrates the young rider, and I'm wondering what sorts of things we can work on to clean up the w/t/c and transistions of them... or is it likely that the gaiting will diminish as she gets fitter?
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    07-03-2010, 04:16 PM
A gaited saddle bred is not like a naturally gaited breed. They have man made gaits. A saddlebred should still have a normal walk trot canter like any other horse and if it is well trained this shouldn't be an issue. If she is racking you are giving her cues to do it. You might ask a saddlebred trainer what those cues are to avoid them. With an inexperienced rider then obviously the horse is confused.
    07-03-2010, 05:04 PM
Actually, I know it isn't true that all Saddlebreds have man made gaits.

She has a daugther who also gaits - but has NEVER been taught to do so. (I know this because I know the owner who has had the filly since weaning)

I don't know for a fact that my mare HASN'T been trained to gait, but, I also know that there are SOME Saddlebreds out there who do naturally gait. There just aren't many of the ones who gait naturally.
    07-03-2010, 05:37 PM
I stand corrected. They were naturally gaited centuries ago. If you know for a fact she hasn't been trained to gait, which I question how you would know that? Then you know her history and how she was used which may help explain why you are having a problem now. They usually don't rack unless trotting down hill so I still question why she is doing it so easily.
    07-03-2010, 06:22 PM
I said I don't know that she has or hasn't been, just that I DO know her daughter wasn't trained to gait, and does so... therefore it's probable that she is naturally gaited too.

I know that most recently she was used as a trail horse, and that owner did not know she was gaited.

Before that she'd been trained to level 4 in the Parelli program, but again, not, to my knowledge did they work on any of her gaits.

She is not "pretty" when she gaits - which furthers my belief that she has not done formal training to refine the gaits. She does a walk-type gait (not sure what they call it) as well as a rack-type gait (much faster, higher knees and hocks)

The 12yr old riding her has been riding her whole life, but has little formal coaching... she's not too off balance, nor does she have any extremely telling faults. The mare also gaits when I ride her, but not as much.
    07-04-2010, 01:29 PM
I have the same problem. I too have a 10yo saddlebred that we can't get to canter. He has been off due to injury for the last year and was previously a show horse competing in the 3 gaited class. I have next to no knowlegde of horses or riding but putting a very experienced friend up there she can't get him to go either. There is no one around here who has knowledge of the gaited breeds, which is a bummer. Some saddlebreds are naturally gaited, my father in law who is in BC breeds them and he says about half come out naturally gaited.
    07-04-2010, 03:11 PM
That is really strange. Gaited Saddlebreds, unlike most other gaited breeds, are ALWAYS taught to trot and canter as well as gait.

Are you using a good farrier knowledgeable about Saddlebreds? Since their conformation is so different, they can't be trimmed like QHs can, and a lot of farriers don't seem to pay attention to this.

Has she been checked by a chiropractor? It's easier to rack in a stiff, painful manner than it is to trot or canter, and a lot of horses quietly suffering from back pain will let you know by refusing to canter.

What exactly does she do when asked to canter? How out of shape is she? How balanced/coordinated is her gait? Does she canter or trot in the pasture?

I have a MFT who one day decided she wanted to do a stepping pace instead of a foxtrot. There was no tack change, no rider change, no change in fitness level, no change in hoof angles, etc. Since I needed her to foxtrot, I needed her to be more trotty and less pacey. I don't know how familiar you are with the different gaits but they start at completely diagonal (trot) and get more lateral as you go down the line (ending with a pace). It goes like this: Trot, foxtrot, running walk, rack, stepping pace, pace. So basically, you want your mare to be more diagonal and less pacey - just like I did. You want to go from rack to trot, and I went from stepping pace to foxtrot. I can tell you some of the exercises I did to get my mare more trotty, but first I'd like to hear the answers to my questions. ^
    07-04-2010, 06:56 PM
Okay... she DOES canter... it's not that she's refusing to canter, just that before she goes into, and as she's coming down from, she gaits. There are other times when she gaits instead of cantering - but those times I can see that the rider didn't set her up right.

She is trimmed by a Saddlebred enthusiast. She gets a balanced, barefoot trim suited to her and her conformation. She has GREAT feet, and tends to wear on her own, needing little in the way of trimming.

She has not been checked by a chiropractor - I can't get one to my area at the moment, but am trying (also trying equine physios, massage therapists etc. ) to get one who will travel to me. (I live out of the way, in a small community - many professionals won't come unless we have 5 or more horses to work on). I suspect there is some back pain, likely around the SI joint, she doesn't give anything away obviously (and I have only had her a few months) but there's just a feeling I get watching her that she finds it difficult. I have talked with a human physio - and she explained that without the muscle tone to hold the SI joint stable it's very likely she's got a little bit of pain due to the joint(s) not having enough support. She did give us some things to work on to help work those muscles, but I'm still going to try and get someone out to have a look.

When asked to canter she tends to bring her head up, hollow her back... and then the footfalls change from a trot to an ugly four beated thing (with feet flying everywhere) for a few strides then she'll go into the canter and sort herself out. Once in the canter she seems happy enough to stay in it... but that break in stride has been a frustration on the dressage and hunter standpoint. Coming down goes much the same way, but not as often (it doesn't happen every time)

In the field she can and does canter, it's not always pretty or balanced, she definitely prefers the trot (and man can she trot!) possibly because she doesn't like to be left behind and her canter/gallop is very slow. Under saddle her canter tends to be more balanced, providing the rider does their part in keeping her balanced.

She was out of shape - as in not a bit of muscle beyond what she needed to walk around a small paddock. She has been brought up, slowly, so that she has some muscle, but looking at her she still looks unfit (unlike my other two saddlebreds she has no real "tone" to her...) and has little in the way of a topline (the lack of topline is the second reason I suspect there may be some discomfort or pain of the back.. she really resists using herself correctly and therefore isn't building up those muscles).

I hope I got everything?
    07-08-2010, 08:52 AM
Okay, that sounds like it might just be the unfitness. Much like non-gaited horses who do a couple trot strides when you ask them to canter. I would still definitely get her checked by a chiropractor, though, just to rule that out.

Good luck : ]
    07-08-2010, 09:46 AM
Occasionally gaited horse enthusiasts become so fixated on “gait” that they forget about everything else.
It’s not unknown for a trainer who becomes “gait fixated” to punish a horse for breaking gait into a canter when asked for more speed in gait. In some circumstances, like pacing SBs, breaking gait means disqualification (and loss of a purse) so the training can be pretty intense. Some lines of ASBs are trained as racking horses and in two gait classes movement into the canter would also be a Very Bad Thing (from the perspective of owner and trainer). If this horse were trained “outside the mainstream” it would explain the current refusal to easily strike the canter.
Also, a horse that is naturally laterally gaited will have more trouble striking the canter, which is a diagonal, three beat gait.
There could be physical issues stemming from either conformational problem or muscular development due to training practices. Also, trimming practices can be a factor. If the horse is trimmed to anatomical correctness then you’re giving the horse the best chance to express its native talent. If the horse is being trimmed to some outside “theoretical” standard then maybe its feet are getting in the way.
I’m not a fan of chiropractic for a bunch of reasons, but there are some rare times when it can be effective if (note the conditional) the practitioner knows what they are about and stay within the confines of their discipline. Massage therapy is, IMO, a practical program for equine athletes (as it is for human athletes) but it is not a “silver bullet.” It addresses the side effects of training and conditioning. It does not correct underlying problems (but, then, neither does chiropractic).
What does the horse do on the longe? This is a middle ground between the open field and saddle work. Is the horse capable of striking the canter here? If so then the problem could well be as simple as poor saddle fit or some other maladjusted or fitted piece of tack. If not then the “detective” work will be more difficult.
Last, and far from least, you have the rider. Is the rider sitting balanced and correctly using hand and leg? If not then this might be the real cause (and either the easiest or most difficult problem to solve ).
Good luck with your project.


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