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My first gaited horse, question...
Hi all! I am new here and although I have been a horse owner for about 15 years, I just got my first gaited horse, a 15 yr old Foxtrotter mare, this past October. I am riding her and getting to know her as much as I can, but the winter weather makes it tough sometimes!
Anyway, this may be kind of a stupid question, but can I just ride her like a "normal" (non-gaited) horse? I have read a bunch of articles on the internet about riding them into the bit and such, and although I have had some success, I really am not used to riding with so much contact. Also, she seems calmer and more willing to walk when I give her a loose rein. With contact she kinda wants to "go," especially towards home. She is a bit barn sour but I am working on that.
I just want her for enjoyable trail rides, I ride western, and normally give my horses totally slack rein at the walk. I collect them up for faster gaits though.
I guess where I am getting confused, is I was reading an article, maybe at the Gaits of Gold site, and they talk about pushing the horse into the bridle at the walk, and eventually your horse is supposed to slip into it's natural gait.
Can I just let her walk on a loose rein if I am not worried about a faster gait at this point? Or is that gaited horse taboo?
Isabelle was used as a rental horse a bit and although she has a lovely Foxtrot and sometimes a running walk, she will also go into a hard trot if you let her. Basically, I feel like I have all these lovely gears but no way to hold the right one in place once I feel it! I know that will take practice. I do have a neighbor who has Foxtrotters and she has always discouraged me from "throwing the reins away" (riding without contact) but at this moment I really just want to enjoy the horse and give her some slack rein, at least at the walk.
Sorry for the ramble! I guess what I want to know is, can I ride her at a walk on a loose rein, and then practice gaiting when I want, or do I really have to constantly push her into the bridle, even when we are walking? We are never going to be a show horse and rider, I only want to do trails. Thanks in advance! :?
There's NO reason you have to ride with constant contact. My MFT will occasionally do a couple steps of a hard trot, and that's the only time I use constant pressure on the bit - to show her what she's doing is wrong. She immediately goes back to a foxtrot and I loosen the reins.
Gaited horses can gait just as easily on a tight rein as they can on a loose rein. There isn't much of a reason for it.
This is how they're ridden in the show ring:
I personally don't like the headset they have in the show ring. I ride my mare with a lower headset and more on the bit, like this: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4006/...6c39cef5_b.jpg
That's only when I'm working her in the arena, though. I give her her head on the trail... I want it to be fun for her, not work.
And when your mare does a hard trot, try slowing her down a little and see if that helps. MFTs usually do a hard trot when they get going too fast and don't have the muscle or stamina to hold the foxtrot. So if checking her back works, I would keep riding her as fast as she can foxtrot without breaking so she'll get better and better at it. After a while, you should be able to get her going faster without going into a hard trot.
My mare used to do a running walk as well as a foxtrot (huge no-no in the showring, but alright for trails). She started to have a little bit of a stepping pace for a few weeks, so I decided I didn't want her doing ANY lateral gaits whatsoever (she did a hard pace when she was first started under saddle and I didn't want to go back to that), so now I only let her do a foxtrot. But when she was doing both, I would give her her head and say "trot" when I wanted her to foxtrot, and I would lower and open my hands and take a little contact and cluck when I wanted her to do a running walk. It makes things MUCH easier when you have two entirely different cues for the different gaits.
Anyway, I hope that helps and let me know if you have any more questions. The Gaits of Gold site has some GREAT articles, so you're off to a good start : ]
From having a few gaited horses I must say it was a learniong curve. It was hard for me to tell when my horse was gaiting and how much headset effects there gait. Now that I can tell each of my gaited horses gaits at a different headset and contact.
CloudsMystique- I really like your horse's headset. I like that much better than the Foxtrotter show ring look.
My mare actually Foxtrots better alone than with another horse. I find that when I am riding with someone else, and I ask her to go faster than a walk, she really just jumps right into a hard trot. But alone, she is happy doing a Foxtrot. We still can't hold the gait for very long though, she likes to slip into a flat walk and she is so smooth doing it I can't hardly tell when we loose the Foxtrot and slip into the flat walk. I usually end up noticing when I don't feel her hind quarters moving as much.
I actually LOVE the feel of a running walk. The Foxtrotter lady that is a neighbor has a Foxtrotter who prefers to do a running walk, and I love it because his hindquarters just glide! And the front end feels like it's doing a swimming motion or something. (I jokingly call the gait his "dog paddle"). And every once in a while, usually when she's excited, Isabelle (my horse) will do a few strides of a running walk. I really like the gliding motion in the hind end. But the Foxtrot is cool too, it just bounces my butt a tad more than the running walk. :lol: It's still MUCH better than her hard trot though!
churumbeque- Thank you for your input too!
Most gaited horses (even ones that do a hard trot or a hard pace 99% of the time) will do a running walk on the way home from the trails or whenever they're excited. I'm not sure why.
I would sasy just practice. you feel when you are in the right gait. When you are riding alone work on her going a little faster and foxtrotting for a little longer. My sister has a MFT, and she can foxtrot beautifully. On the whole rein thing...My horses know how to gait with or without pressure from me. I love being able to just call one into a running walk, drop the reins low and just neckrein them as we go down the trail. They know how to tuck it up and get on the bit when I ask it of them, but I like for them to move nice on a long rein as well, especially since the one I used to have was my CTR horse. If I'm riding for hours I don't want to hold in his mouth. It's not as comfortable, and if your horse leans into it too much for so many hours they can have a tender mouth at the end of the ride. :( I hated that so we learned to go ona good loose rein.
Good luck with your horse. It looks like you are getting some pretty good advice from CloudsMystique
I will say there is definetely a learning curve to it.
You will learn what your horse needs.
Some need collection, and others are perfectely fine by themselves :)
Howdy trailhorserider. I myself just got my first Fox trotter last year. I have had a walker for the past 2 yrs It took me awhile to get use to the gaits. But now it's a piece of cake. I usually ride with loose rein on both of them and thier find. Now my FT will break his gait but he is young and I have to work a little bit harder with him. I'm like you I love the running walk..I think that's what hooked me.... I don't think I'll ever go back to a QH.... Yeap once you ride the glide thier isn't any going back....:wink:
Thanks guys for all your help! :-)
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