The Gait--bad for horses? Help!
Can someone point me in the direction of some research please?
We just found out that our Camelot horse may be a gaited horse which has been ridden as non gaited (aka, allowed to trot etc). My husband, who has taken a special shine to Witch, and thinks gaiting is not all that cool, has brought up the question of whether or not the gait, or encouraging it is detrimental to the horse?
It seems as if the horse is smoothing out the ride for the rider, but at what cost? Does it cause greater impact on the horse's musculoskeletal system?
He also wonders if forcing a mare who may be 20ish to gait when she has not been previously trained to do so is possible or even feasible at this point?
Again, if anyone could give me their opinions, anecdotes or direct me to some research, I would really appreciate it.
Thanks guys! =)
What is the footfall of the gait? Are you positive she's not just pacing? My friend has a Connie cross that will pace occasionally if allowed to become strung out under saddle.
What's most natural for the horse? When she's at liberty, does she pace? Trot? Gait? What's her immediate tendency under saddle when asked for a gait above a walk?
A fantastic book is Easy-Gaited Horses by Lee Ziegler. It's worth a read, as it explains conformation as it pertains to gaits, the different footfalls of each easy gait, problems commonly encountered, etc.
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You will find some old equitation texts, some as recent as the 1980s, that state that "gait" in horses is a sign of lameness. Those texts are wrong. But they are still out there and some folks still believe it.
In fact there are some lameness's that will cause a trotter to "gait." One of the jobs of a vet. is to distinguish between lameness and soundness. If there's a question get an evaluation. It's likely the "gait indicates lameness" error comes from poor diagnosis from either vets or laymen.
The more lateral a gait the higher the energy level of the horse must be to maintain it.
Here’s a test, first suggested by Dr. Deb Bennett, to demonstrate the relative energy demands of a lateral vs. diagonal gait.
On a carpeted floor (for human comfort) get down on all fours. Now “walk” using the same footfall pattern as the horse. Do this for a minute or two to get the “feel” for the movement. Note the energy level you are required to expend.
Now “trot” using diagonal pairs. Note the effort level involved. Note that when you are on a lateral pair you have natural “balance” and don’t need to do much to maintain it. Don’t try for a moment of suspension; that won’t be necessary for this experiment!!! :-)
Now “pace” using lateral pairs. Note the effort involved. Note that when you are on a lateral pair you must intentionally shift your weight to that pair or you’d fall over. Note that you are clearly expending more energy than you did at the “trot.”
Is the extra energy required “bad?” No, it’s not. It’s just gravity being balanced by equine biomechanics. Gravity is not just a Good Idea, it’s the Law. So we have to deal with it. In a trotting horse, with the moment of suspension, we deal with gravity by either posting or properly sitting the trot. The rider’s body does the work. In the pace the horse’s body does the work so the rider’s body doesn’t have to. This means the rider must pay particular attention to the strength, fitness, and soundness of the horse’s body.
The Good News is that most gaited breeds have been selected for conformations and temperaments that permit the horse to effectively use their body. The person that tries to teach a trotter to gait is asking for something Nature did not intend. That thing will demand the horse expend energy in ways its conformation was not designed to deliver. Sometimes it can work, but it’s really putting the horse to the test.
On the other hand asking a gaited horse to trot is the mirror image of the problem. Here you’re asking the horse to perform a much lower energy gait. This still has risks as the conformation of the gaited horse might not be well suited to the “moment of suspension” the trot demands. Done for a narrow purpose (i.e., helping a very laterally gaited horse learn to canter) it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Over the long haul I’m not so sure it’s a good idea.
Because a human is not a horse this test is not perfect. It does, however, effectively demonstrate some aspects of the differences between the trot and a gait. A more diagonal gait is easier on the horse but more demanding on the rider. The mirror image is also true. This suggests that first thing a gaited rider must do to improve gait is to improve the strength and fitness level of the horse (not alter the hoof angles, use a different bit, add an action device, etc.).
She got wide-eyed and said "ohhhh my! that horse is REALLY lame!"
It caught me off guard and took me a few minutes to reply "no he is not lame, he's a gaited horse and that's what they do by birth".
She also wondered why I blinded my horses with those "things" over their faces (face masks).
I need to also mention that person was newly out of vet tech school and unable to find a job with any local vets ----mehbee there was good reason for that:?
Ok, not completely OT but The End of that comment:-P
Horse may be Pinto Saddlebred in which case? She would trot as well as do some sort of gait too.
Look up Pinto Saddlebreds, and you will find many.
Michelle McFarland and her friends ride the Pinto Saddlebreds in the Rose Parade every year, decked out in full Parade gear.
And if horse is naturally gaited, it can do its thing or not, depending on breed. It will not hurt the horse at all.
These gaits were chosen and improved upon for the comfort of the rider, and the ability to cover ground more comfortably for the horse.
It will harm nothing to let horse gait.
"If she's not already doing it, I don't see why we need to change it. I don't really see why we need to send her to training to force her to do something she isn't doing already...I don't care if she does it (the gait) naturally, I just don't see the need to force her."
^--Mr. Demonwolf's opinion on the subject. Mine is sort of boggled over how complicated this seems! If she is gaited and it would be "better" for her to go as gaited, then I'd need a trainer to fix that, because I'm no trainer. Thank you all for the information that I can stew on for awhile. =)
Gaited horse owners get very fussy about training to keep the gait. My KMHSA mare won't ever trot under saddle--owned her since 2008, my 6yo KMH gelding will sometimes trot under saddle. When I'm working outside and my horse needs to move through mud or footing that isn't the best, I have no problem with any of them picking up a trot. My gelding is 16'3hh, so he has a BIG trot. No problem bc I post it.
The gaiting genes are dominant. I have owned about 6 gaited crosses and they all gaited. Farriers will tell you, for instance, that TWH's are "rubber legged." It feels right for them to gait, and they do it the very first day of life.
There are many articles online by Lee Ziegler. She recommends collection for gaited horses. That would help your mare. I guess I don't understand why you DH doesn't want the gait. It's a LOT easier to ride than a trot.
The video camera is your friend, here. Put the horse on the longe or in the round pen and video its movement. Then do the same under saddle but allowing the horse to completely choose it's own way of going (no encouragement and certainly no force). Now review the video. What do you see? If the movement is pure, two-beat trot then the odds of an "obscure" gait approach zero.
It is not true that "gait" genes are dominant. I've run across many half-gaited animals that did not gait. The recent genetic "breakthrough" in identifying the so-called "gait gene" is, IMO, vastly overblown. We need a lot more research from a much larger sample to make any definitive statements.
Again, your husband's instincts are correct here.
Guilherme, I hear you.
I did take video of Witch walking and trotting, and sent it to another board member. It was her opinion that the horse is a gaited horse that has been allowed to trot. Being still somewhat new to horses (and having ridden a gaited horse exactly once!) the only thing that I really notice is that she has a slightly different way to her walk.
In your opinion, is the "trot" of a gaited horse rougher than the trot of a horse that is not gaited?
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