How would you go about extending the stride? Rookie is quite bumpy for a gaited horse. I was watching him move yesterday evening though, and he takes much shorter strides under saddle than he does when he's just gaiting in the field.
Gaited horses can sometimes be tricky to get into and keep into proper gait carrying a rider. My TWH mare was off for over a year with injuries and illness and when I got back to training her, she was green when she got hurt, it was a mess. Does he gait with his head up and his nose up in the air? Looking at his pictures it does look like he has a classic "walker back" (although he is a very handsome boy!). My first walker had this too, not as mush muscle developed along the topline due to head high, nose out type of gaiting. It's very very common with walkers. This also tends to make them a bit rougher of a ride. Do you ride on a loose or pretty loose rein?
Perhaps if you give me some detail in how you normally ride him I can assist you in things that helped me with my mare. My girl was very pacey and rough when we first started back and 6 months in she is really learning to reach under from behind and really power out, no more pace and is going well on the trail and in local shows (regular keg shoes).
His gait right now is more of a pacey jog. Rough as all get out. I normally ride him on a pretty loose reign, and when walking on a trail, he has the head carriage of a quarter horse. Lately, I've been riding him in the ring and (I wish I had video) collecting him when I ask him to gait. He does great when going up a hill, but any other time he gets that rough jog type thing he does.
The people that I bought him from told me that he had been used for team penning, and that a trainer *who I don't trust* said that he'd never gait. I have somewhat proved him wrong. I just need to get him to extend his stride on flat like he does on a hill. He still has that natural head shaking motion. And I know he can do it on flat ground, he just won't do it under saddle. I do have the keg shoes on him with borium because of the hard top and rough rocky trails that we ride at times.
To start with work as many hills as you can, that's part of how I started my mare back to work too (during good weather that is). The team penning really would have given him incorrect gaited horse muscle memory. It's perfectly fine to use gaited horses for anything you want to do, once you develop proper muscle memory for the gait. It probably was not properly developed in him from the beginning by the look of his topline, or if it was he lost it in being used for other things without it being "set" so to speak. It will take a little time and effort now, but you can do it. You can ALWAYS make it better, no matter what someone says! And good for you for working on it with him! It will actually help keep him sound long term to do it properly.
On the hill work let him do the gait but hold him in (with two hands on gentle contact) and don't let him go faster, even relatively steep hills, it will build his back muscle. Start off with a few for now and work up to it.
I will try not to write a book but on paper it always takes longer to explain something than in person! LOL.
In the arena you want to ride him with 2 hands on light contact. To start with hold your hands a little up in the air and rather far apart, to help him learn the head carriage (it looks funny but it works). I never crank on my mare's mouth, but to help him you will need to "support" him in the proper frame for now. Light constant contact with a little more pressure as needed to get his neck up. He should have his neck up, not like a quarter horse, and nose just in front of vertical. That's where you want to end up. Of course he probably won't start there, work on just getting his neck up for now, can work more on his proper head carriage later. Sometimes they will nose out to start with, but give a little more contact to help bring his nose in (eventually). This will free up his shoulders (by bringing his head up and out of the way) to allow him to reach forward with his front legs. That will open up his front stride and allow him to reach forward from the shoulder more effectively. Encourge him forward as fast as he can go at the flat walk without breaking into the pacey jog. At first this will not be very fast before he breaks (their backs have to build back up from the incorrect way of going so it takes time). When he breaks, gently bring him back down and start over. You will keep light contact at all times and hands apart and up in the air a little for now. That's where you start, and with the hill work as much as you can.
Eventually his speed will pick up at the flat walk as he builds muscle (you will see his topline change and start to build muscle down the spine and hip area). His pacing jog is easier than gaiting for him but that will change. You will feel it when he hits a 4 beat, and his head bob will be more pronounced. Don't get frustrated, at first you may only get a few steps on gait before he breaks, but keep trying you will get there!
Start there and let me know how it goes. This takes several months, but you will see him gradually gain strength and improve his movement.
I will try to get some before and after videos of my mare for you to see the difference, and maybe I can show you exactly what I mean with hand position etc. I have some before where she was pacey and a mess but no after videos right now.
This is definitely NOT a horse that I'm going to give up on. He is exactly what I wanted in every aspect, except for the gait. I know he has it in him. Otherwise, he wouldn't have that natural head shaking motion. Recently, I've started working him in the morning (unless I get a late start), and riding him in the evening. Our relationship and trust is getting better by the day. I didn't think it could get any better than what it was when I first got him. He's helped me through some pretty tough times. The way I see it, in a manner of speaking, we're training each other. I've only had him for 4 months. At the point where we are now, it may take 6 months or it may take 6 years. I made the decision back in June that neither one of my guys are going anywhere. They take too good of care of me.
This is Diva starting back after a year off (martingale is only because she was having rearing and bucking issues and hit me in the face with her head once LOL). This shows how pacey she was. At this point I was just encouraging forward motion rather than rearing so I wasn't very worried about what gait she was doing, but it's a good example of just how pacey she became. (you don't have to watch the whole thing!) You can see how high my hands are as well, you won't always have to keep them there, it just helps to start with.
This was her before I bought her, and that is basically back to what her gait is now doing what I mentioned, and actually I think she's moving even better, she was very green at that time. You can see how high his hands are as well, and spaced farther apart.
You sound like me, niether of mine are ever going anywhere! I know you will be able to help him because you love him and that will give you patience you never thought you had to help him get better physically. It truly will help his long term soundness to gait properly, it's hard on the joints and back to do it wrong.
This was her winning a championship 2-1/2 months ago at the local show (her first show ever), beating one of the top local horses, so you CAN get it where it needs to be! Not bragging (although I think she's pretty cute!) but I wanted to show you what a mess she was to start with and where she is now, so you feel encouraged to know you can do it too!
Watching how the bumping is with the pace makes me think he is actually pacing instead of jogging. It gives me a basis of what I need to do to work with him into what will eventually turn in to a really smooth horse. THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!
I have FINALLY found out what to do with him. A dear friend rode him this past Sunday. She used spurs on him. After a lesson on how to use them on him, I got on him with her spurs and he was a totally different horse! I was able to ride him on a loose reign the whole time. He did do a little prancing, but it was very smooth, unlike the teeth jarring dance he used to do. I was also able to get and keep him in a slow gait!!! He has to build those muscles up, but I'm completely happy with the slow gait until he does get them build up. He also stays OUT of the pacing with them on! The lady who rode him is going to be riding with me more often to keep working with me...and she's not even charging me for lessons!!!! I'm so thankful that I have met the friends I have since starting to camp and trail ride!!!!! They really are a group of GREAT people!
That's great, glad to hear you were able to get him to gait properly. Eventually you will be able to get rid of the spurs, most likely. I don't ride either of mine with spurs but hey, whatever helps! Good luck with the progress, would love to see a video of you two!