Originally Posted by Horse Training Cowgirl View Post
I agree, I'm not to worried about him pacing in the paddock, but how is it riding a pace? Is it harder then a trot?
Riding a pace is kind of like riding any other gait - something you get used to. I well remember my first trot at riding lessons as a kid because it shook me until I was rattling, and I got really bad stitches while trying to learn to be elastic enough to absorb the shock. I was so disappointed by how awful it felt! ...steep-angled shoulders on that particular lesson horse didn't help - which is where actual harness racers are smoother to ride, as their conformation generally makes them excellent, smooth trotters (unless obligate pacers). I first saw this when riding a French Trotter mare when I was nine - she just floated, and it was so little effort to go with her movements as a rider - plus the huge ground-covering strides out on trails became an addictive ride, until I could no longer ride ordinary horses with "slow" trots. These days I ride her great-grandson, who is in the left of the clip I posted earlier. The chestnut on the right is a grandson, 25 and retired. The horse in the middle is a straight STB and a grandson of your famous American racehorse Albatross (as is the horse on the left), but all of them are registered as STBs.
For most people I talk to, it's the trot that was the most disappointing and difficult gait to learn to go with when learning to ride. I was relieved when I learnt to canter - that was sort of like being on a giant rocking horse. I didn't ride a pace until I rode STBs who were also racing pacers. A pace is easier to ride than a standard lesson horse trot because it never jars you in the back - but it will swing you from side to side to a greater or lesser extent. In harness racers there are two types of pacers - leg pacers and body pacers. Leg pacers simply move their same-side leg pairs while their bodies stay relatively straight, but body pacers really swing their bodies along as part of the pace (and tend to be faster pacers on the track). So, riding a leg pacer will give you less side-to-side swing than riding a body pacer. I would hazard a guess that most gaited riding horse breeds would not contain many body pacers, since body pacing becomes most advantageous at speed, and generally people don't ride their horses at racing speeds.
All things considered, I personally prefer a nice smooth floaty harness racing trot to its pacing equivalent, but a harness racing pace to a standard lesson horse trot. The horse I ride these days is a lousy pacer as he took after the trotting lines in his ancestry - he has rhythm problems at the pace, and only attempts to pace at all because he was forced to train in hopples for nine years while his previous owner was trying to teach him to pace (because there were no trotting races in Western Australia back then). So, he sometimes, when confused or on rough footing, accidentally gets into a pace which feels like riding a camel with a limp, and this is comfortable for neither of us, so I half-halt him and send him back into a trot (don't canter-on from a pace because you'll likely get a disunited canter - always canter-on from a trot). His walk, trot, racing trot, canter and gallop are all very comfortable to ride.
In the 90s I rode an "ambidextrous" STB who was a successful metropolitan class harness racing pacer as part of his cross-training. His pace was very comfortable to ride - all his gaits were - he had a gorgeous smooth canter too. He tended to prefer to trot (or canter, or gallop) through sand and pace on firm surfaces, but you could cue him so that you could get whatever gait you preferred at the time, just like with a "standard" horse. Trot versus pace was mostly requested through rein aids - trot on out of a lower, dressage-type headset with a face near vertical, pace from a high headset with the nose out - and I sat more deeply when requesting trot versus pace. You can ride a pace sitting or posting (or out of the saddle leaning forward slightly) just like a trot.
Re lunging, for walk, trot and canter it's the same as with any other type of horse (and I would avoid painfully small lunging circles with any horse - go on a large, roomy circle - free lunging in a nice large round-yard is good, but not for hours - for muscle building I tend to walk, trot and canter young horses (or senior horses that could use supportive exercise without a rider) 15-25 minutes in a session, with lots of reversing sides (and working at speeds to get them damp around the chest by session end and using their lungs properly, but no more than that - no flogging a horse around circles). If you have an obligate pacer, then I'd avoid lunging, except at the walk (and canter, if offered and if not disunited). I used to play "paddock chasey" to get horses that don't free-range some non-riding exercise - a game where you make a show of hiding behind trees etc and then racing out from them, or you start by trotting the horse on the halter and then let it go as you both race off - but I worked with racehorses who love being "infected" by displays of speed and silly antics; more sedate breeds would probably just look at you funny instead of join in the fun and games.
Ground driving is great, except that most humans can't run very far or fast for getting a horse fit. Humans tend to do better attempting to run when leading horses on a halter - and then there's no uncomfortable bit to jar with puny human attempts at running, and you don't have to run with your hands out in front of you as if waterskiing. A young horse I trained as a kid got me very fit when I went cross-country running with it on a regular basis, and built up muscle and valuable trail skills that way. I'd recommend that to anyone because it makes riding trails so much less spooky when you get around to actually riding the horse.
And you can drive a young horse in a cart for exercise way before it's wise to ride it - but that's another story...