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View Full Version : How to tell a Gaited Horse is Lame?



jazzrider
May. 7, 2008, 11:24 AM
I'm asking this because I a newbie gaited rider, and my TWH moves so differently from our other horses, including my husbands SSH (racking). Also, I'm in an area where there really aren't a lot of knowledgable gaited folks, including vets.

My TWH got kicked (I presume) on his back right cannon bone (outside) about 10 days ago. It was swollen and warm, but he didn't seem overly pained by it. I gave him these last 10 days off, buted him the first week and did liniment wraps, and now am using a bit of Surpass. The swelling and heat have come down about 75%. I've been watching his movement in the field, and while at first he seemed to be a little "off" and taking good care of himself, now he's back to his old bomb-around-with-my-OTTB self. I'm trying to decide if he's ready to ride. I walk him up and down our cement aisle every morning to check his movement -- but just don't trust my judgement and really get tell if he's "off." It's so easy and clear with the non-gaited horses.

So, aside from really knowing his movement well enough to tell (which I don't yet, and this is his first injury so it hadn't occurred to me to really study him on the ground :(), is there a way for me to confirm that he's good to go?

Guilherme
May. 7, 2008, 01:43 PM
You tell if a gaited horse is lame the way you tell if any other horse is lame. ;)

First, watch it move. Is the movement symetrical? If it's not then there's probably an issue.

As the horse moves do you see a head movement against the gait? Walkers can have a natural "head nod" but if you watch a sound horse move at liberty the nod is in time with the rest of the body's movement. If it's against the rest of the movement then you have a sign of lameness.

What does a physical exam show? You say it's "75% better than it was?" Is that about right? If so then put the horse under saddle and ride at the dog walk for a bit and see how it feels. If it feels off then it is off. If it's OK at the dog walk then try the flat walk. Again, how does it feel? Work you way up through the gaits like this.

Did you get a vet diagnosis after the injury? If so what was the SOAP? If not, that's always an option now.

Gaited horses are not nearly as mysterious as some gaited folks would have you believe. Their differences from a trotter are generally subtle and minor in most areas (including lameness evaluations).

If you really don't feel qualified to make a call, then video the horse and post it someplace. You'll get lots of analysis. Using the historical 'Net average, about 10% of that analysis will be both correct and useful. :lol:

Good luck in your program!

G.

jazzrider
May. 7, 2008, 02:20 PM
Thanks so much for your post. I guess the true issue is I'm not confident in my ability to judge, because of his big ol' natural head nod. But you've given me some good advice -- so I'll take a look at him again tonight.

I'm probably being overly careful not to ride him too soon -- because I really want him to be sound for a ride I'm supposed to do next weekend. But you're right -- putting him under saddle may be the real test.

jeano
May. 7, 2008, 03:10 PM
Does he trot? If he trots at liberty you should be able to trot him and you would of course get a nod related to the injury if its still bothering him. If his only intermediate gait is the running walk, then walk him on a good noisy surface and listern--running walk, dog walk or flat walk should be an even four beat gait. And the head nod is lowest when back leg is striding forward.

Another thing to be aware of is that he might be able to fox trot, and if he does this, he will have head nod while trotting that has nothing to do with lameness, its part of the gait. The fox trot involves diagonal legs moving together, but with the front setting down noticeably BEFORE the hind. (if you listen, its a four beat gait also, but not evenly timed 1-2-3-4, rather, 1-2, 3-4.. "Cachunk-cachunk." Hope this helps some.

katarine
May. 7, 2008, 03:41 PM
just really watch him move--- head nod is rhythmic and even in the up/down..bobbing cause he's hurt...ain't.

if you have hard pack sand somewhere- walk him in a straight steady line...then walk it again and see if his stride is even on both sides...

Hug your big pony for me :)

jazzrider
May. 7, 2008, 03:50 PM
Hug your big pony for me :)

I will. I call him my big Bobble-Head. I love him. :sadsmile:

Ugh, Jeano, your post was helpful but shows me just how much I have to learn about how he moves. He really doesn't trot, unfortunately.

In about an hour I'll be in my barn, clutching a print out of this thread, trying to figure things out with poor Luke trying to tell me he'd much rather go out on trail than run up and down the aisle or back and forth in the bluestone ring (but do you have any snacks?!).

jeano
May. 7, 2008, 04:12 PM
http://www.lizgraves.com/articlen.html This link might be helpful. The late great Lee Ziegler, mentioned on Liz Grave's website, wrote a wonderful book, Easy Gaited Horses, which explains gaits about as clearly as they can be explained. I have only had gaited horses 2 years, and they are constantly springing new gears on me. The walker hard trots but is working on a fox trot, and the racking horse has a bewildering number of ways of going, some of them strange, all of them entertaining. When she does the "wicky wack" (cantering with one end, and doing something else, maybe the rack or trot with the other end) it feels a little like a motorboat with a propeller blade missing. Or riding a corkscrew. She was lame once and I didnt know it until the farrier picked up her big hot back leg and started hollering at me.....

Guilherme
May. 7, 2008, 04:50 PM
A trot is a trot is a trot is a trot, but "gait" exists on a continuum from a barely broken trot to a barely broken pace.

In Brazil some gait analysts have rejected "names" entirely and have gone to an alpha-numeric system where a diagonal gait is denominated as D1 or D2 (where D2 is almost a trot); a lateral gait is rated from L1-L4 (where L4 is almost a pace); and CM (the center of spectrum, the equivalent of a running walk of a classic TN Walker of the '30s or '40s).

Or, put on paper you can have:

Pace L4 L3 L2 L1 CM D1 D2 Trot.

Personally I like the system because it puts everybody on the same page and in the same language! :cool:

The "evil" in the gaited world arises when people have a horse that is denominated by a signiture gait (Walker, Racking Horse, Paso Fino, etc.) but the horse does not perform that gait. Then comes the devices (legal and illegal) and and farrier and training practices (mild to dramatic) that "force" the signiture gait.

With ANY gaited horse you can move it on the gait spectrum simply by shifting rider position. This means that a good rider can get a better gait out of a horse than a poor rider. The is a fundamental truth that is often not accepted in the "gaited" world because these horses are often sold to new riders and the unscrupulous sellers frankly tell unsuspecting buyers that these horses are so easy to ride that they don't need to have any real instructution. This is a Great Half Truth because many breeds ARE "mellow" enough that they will pack a "passenger" without much ado. But if you want some performance out of the horse you've go to know how to ride it. If you want to be SAFE outside of very well prepared and controlled areas you have to know how to ride it.

So, if you're a good rider you'll quickly figure the horse out. If you're not then you'll have some trouble. Become a better rider and trouble will "go away." ;)

Good luck with the horse!

G.

spookhorse
May. 7, 2008, 05:05 PM
When she does the "wicky wack" (cantering with one end, and doing something else, maybe the rack or trot with the other end) it feels a little like a motorboat with a propeller blade missing. Or riding a corkscrew.

:lol: I call it the "funky chicken" when Buddy does it! My friend snaps some photos of it and it actually appears that he's cross cantering... poor horse has NO IDEA how to canter under saddle! When he does hit a canter, it freaks him out and he can't hold it for long :lol:

jeano
May. 7, 2008, 05:57 PM
Sadie can canter very well, but either my poor riding or her sense of fun means the wickywack gets thrown in there. She seems to enjoy it. She also does the air-punching dead gallop, which scares the hell out of me. Very fast.

The walker gelding would rather trot than canter, but when you get the canter he is also quite competent. He'll throw in flying lead changes when he see's or feels something in the trail he'd rather avoid. He needs a better rider than i am, that's for sure, but he's working with me.

The alpha-numeric sytem makes plenty of sense. most of Sadie's gaits are lateral and she trends toward the pace when lazy or when she has saddle issues. Give her a saddle that fits and she sproings right into the saddle rack. Although she trots at liberty she seldom does under saddle. I'm learning to ride her better, too, but she would just as soon i went along for the ride. She wants to be a packer, then she gets to have her own way....

jazzrider
May. 8, 2008, 11:21 AM
http://www.lizgraves.com/articlen.html This link might be helpful. The late great Lee Ziegler, mentioned on Liz Grave's website, wrote a wonderful book, Easy Gaited Horses, which explains gaits about as clearly as they can be explained. I have only had gaited horses 2 years, and they are constantly springing new gears on me. The walker hard trots but is working on a fox trot, and the racking horse has a bewildering number of ways of going, some of them strange, all of them entertaining. When she does the "wicky wack" (cantering with one end, and doing something else, maybe the rack or trot with the other end) it feels a little like a motorboat with a propeller blade missing.

My husband's racking horse does the exact same thing. We call it the "weeble wobble," (If you're old enough to remember -- weebles wobble but the don't fall down!).

Thanks for the book reference. I'll probably buy it today.

So from everything I assessed last night, Luke is good to go. Even foot fall, rythmic head movement, okay in the turns. My hubby and I took turns assessing him. The bump is still there, but while I think it has just a little heat, my husband doesn't. So if weather permits we're going to do a short, mellow ride this weekend and see how it goes.

Guilherme -- Good post. I can't agree more that striving to be a better rider is important, particularly for someone like me who has changed worlds. I just wish we had more trainers that understood gaited horses in our area. I'm a pretty solid rider. Not advanced (because I've pretty much always been a hack), but no novice. I have had a lot of general equitation training and most recently a good amount of dressage training (on my QH). I have a good seat, good balance (though very crooked in body structure -- one leg is 1.5 inches longer than the other), with a tendency to get stiff and slightly forward if I think too much. I'm light handed, maybe too much (my QH has TMJ). The great thing about Luke is that he's so incredibly responsive to changes in my seat and position, that he's actually helping me be more consistent and teaching me to be more body aware. He's also so willing to listen, something my QH (stubborn) and OTTB (rebellious) were not.

I may, at this point, just be trying to take in too much information at once. Gait types, gait systems, oy. :rolleyes: But he's worth it. He really is.

Guilherme
May. 8, 2008, 03:02 PM
jazzrider, it's real easy to "overthink" the whole "gaited horse thing." Sit in the middle of the horse, balance yourself (a la Ft. Riley or Sally Swift), take your contact, and off you go!

Until you get into the show world (which is an evil place; there's a real interesting thread in Off Course that will give a REAL education in the "don't bees" of the TWH world) what the horse gives you with you balanced is what God/Bog/Nature/Whatever intended that horse to do. If the horse is moving easily and you can dismount after a few hours to a quiet horse with no unsoundnesses or pains then you're "doin' it right." On the other hand if you've got a sore backed horse or a lame horse then you've got to find out if the problem is the rider (style, skill, tack selection, husbandry issue, etc.) or the horse (injury, conformation issue, temperment issue, etc.).

I always rode my Walkers in contact. Many who like a Western style don't. I've always found that Walkers generally gait better with light contact riding. We've followed the old Cavalry system' taught by the CavSchool at Ft. Riley before it's demise, for many years. The military seat is balanced, centered, and the horse is ridden in contact. Not the contact of the dressage ring, but the light contact of the cross country horse. Your average Walker can do quite well with this style of riding. The soldier also rode one handed in the field (as might the cowboy) so he could use his weapons (usually pistol, saber, or lance) as might the cowboy might use his rope. There is no necessity to ride on a loose rein to have a hand free for other purposes.

A difference between the military seat and the Western seat is that the military seat also permitted taking of low jumps over logs, ditches, or other field obsticles while using a weapon. Taking jumps in a Western saddle can be done, but for a male it increases the chance that you'll end up as a soprano in your local church choir!!!!! ;)

The roots of the Walker are as a working road horse. In the 19th Century roads could be pretty bad (particularly in the South) and a good traveling horse had to be smooth but also able to handle ruts, fallen logs, mud, swollen streams, etc. The Walker's predecessors excelled at this and got bred. When the breed was established in the '30s the type was already common.

We'll not talk about the tragedy of the modern show ring here. :no:

Use good "horse sense" with your Walker and you'll do just fine. You sound like you've got sufficient background to sort out an "snags" you might run into. :cool:

Good luck in the future!

G.

jazzrider
May. 8, 2008, 04:04 PM
Thanks Guilherme. I am riding him in a bit of dressage seat with light contact (he seems to want it), and he goes really well.

I stay very clear from the threads about BL. Right after we got my husband his SSH we drove four hours down to Lexington, excited to see our first "gaited horse show." We were appalled. We stayed for about an hour, then left when I thought my husband was going to jump the rail and start stealing horses. I did my research after that, chatted with different folks and formulated my opinions. Now I just stay away from folks that think that sort of treatment is ok because "other disciplines are just as bad." It really is just so sad. :no:

But I don't want to bring that discussion to this quiet little forum. :no:

Thanks for the historical background. I'm having fun learning, but get a bit overwhelmed. I overthink, because I'm an overthinker. But there's no showing or competition for us. Been there, done that (not with horses). We're just walking now! :cool:

Guilherme
May. 8, 2008, 04:27 PM
It's easy to get lost in the "detail" of the riding a gaited horse and forget that "gaited" modifies "horse," not the other way 'round!!!!!!! :)

Sounds like you've a got a good program. Again, the "proof is in the pudding." If the horse is sound when you put it up after a ride then you likely don't have a problem.

Good luck with your future work!

G.

Beverley
May. 8, 2008, 06:19 PM
The swelling and heat have come down about 75%.

If he were mine, I wouldn't worry about how he is moving until the swelling and heat are completely gone for a few days. Deep bruises can take a long time to resolve.

jazzrider
May. 9, 2008, 10:20 AM
:sigh: Yes, wise advice. Thankfully or unfortunately, the rainey weather will keeps us off the trails for another 4 or 5 days -- we ride conservation land and they ask us to not ride when the trails are wet. So he'll have a few more days of healing. Heat is gone now, but a bump remains.