View Full Version : MFT does not want to gait

Jul. 21, 2010, 09:14 PM
I am not terribly experienced in horses or training and am hoping to get some input! I purchased a 13 yr old MFT just over a year ago for trail riding. His previous owner used him extensively for trail riding as well as some hunting and packing. Miles and miles and miles. I have spoken with her and she says she didn't ask him to trot on the rocky mountain terrain very much. He is everything I want in a trail horse except that I cannot keep him in a trot. Great walk and canter, super gentle. I have been trying to address a list of possible reasons why he wont stay in a trot over the last 8 -10 months without spending a fortune, consuming my life, and while still enjoying this guy on our rides 2-3 times a week. My vet and a well known local instuctor cannot seem to find any issues that could be keeping him from trotting. Other than maybe my riding skills.......Chiropractor did find an ouchy back right hind, adjusted him, and he immediately seem relieved and relaxed. On the followup visit, the chiropractor felt he did not need to be readjusted. He suggested stretching exercises, lounging to work on respect and using the bit to collect him. I am learning to lounge him and we spend 15-20 minutes 5-6 times a week in the arena.Making good progress! Also stretching him some. Switched from hackamore to the bit, actually tried several bits and he either hates them or I have no control. This week out of frustration I rode in the hackamore again and he responded so nicely that I dont want to use a bit again. Dont need to use much pressure and he really listens to my legs and verbal commands in the hack. Saddle fit was an issue and is now resolved for the most part with a much better fitting Imus 4 beat. What's next? Oh, have switched farriers and now trying plastic shoes on the front for more absorption of shock. They are called Ground Control. My farrier is experienced and educated and feels Charlie was ridden pretty hard before I got him. What am I missing? Yes, I have thought of sending him to a trainer but frankly dont have the cash for that right now. Have not looked too hard for anyone in my area to help me, but that may be my next step. Anyone have a situation like this? If he never stays in a trot for me, I can live with it if I have to because he is fabulous in every other way. This is too long already, so this is the end!

Thanks for listening! Mary

Jul. 21, 2010, 11:25 PM
When you say he won't stay in a trot, I'm assuming you mean foxtrot?

Does he not foxtrot at all, or does he just not stay in gait?

If he hasn't been asked to gait in a while he may need time to build up to holding gait.

Get a copy of Lee Ziegler's Easy Gaited Horses. It's got info on the foxtrot and common problems:

Articles by Lee:

Liz Graves also has a lot of info on gaited horses: http://www.lizgraves.com/articlen.html

Jul. 22, 2010, 08:39 AM
Find someone with experience with gaited horses and take lessons. It will be the best money you ever spent. And it is not as expensive as putting one in training.

Painted Horse
Jul. 22, 2010, 10:37 AM
If this horse gaited for the previous owner, ( and maybe even you when you tried him out) and now doesn't gait. It's probably a matter that he's got your number and is being lazy.

As mentioned above. All horses need to be conditioned for the gait you want them to hold. If he is out of shape he may only hold the gait a few strides. As he gets conditioned, he may hold it for 1/4 mile, When fully conditioned he may hold it for miles.

Have somebody who is very good with gaited horses get on and ride him. See if he will pick up the gait for them. If he does, then it's just a matter of conditioning the horse or you learning how to ask for the gait and demand he stay in it.

I have the same problem. My gelding goes from a smooth Foxtrot to a broken gait, to a rack to hard trot, depending on the speed, how excited he gets, the terrain and other variables he encounters along the trail. It's a learning process for me to learn to identify each gait and quickly correct him when he changes with out being asked.

Jul. 22, 2010, 11:15 AM
I have also found that I have to ride my MFT subtly different than my Qh to get him to foxtrot. I have to tilt my pelvis differntly and slide more towards the cantle of my saddle. I also have to hold him in gait with my legs. Where as my Qh will stay in whatever gait you put him in.

Jul. 22, 2010, 04:42 PM
The first and most obvious thing I see that could be stopping your horse from gaiting is the lunging!! Gaited horses cannot gait very well in a circle; the gait is a lateral movement and when you ask for it on a circle, you'll get a trot almost every time. I say STOP working your horse in circles, because you have effectively un-done his natural way of gaiting! I see that you are new to horse ownership and this is a very common mistake, and if your horse is as good as you say he is, he does not need to be lunged anyway. And 5-6 times per week is just killing his gaiting abilities; it's totally unnecessary and complete overkill. Just get on him and go. Ask for his gait on long, straight lines as you go down the trail, or on the long, straight side of your arena; somewhere with a little uphill slope to it will help too. And if you can't get his gait back with any consistency, go ahead and find a riding instructor who specializes in gaited horses. I guarantee with just a couple of lessons and stopping all that lunge work, you'll be foxtrotting again in no time at all!!

Jul. 22, 2010, 08:44 PM
Mary, I wanted to add....if your horse has never been asked to gait much in his life, you will have to spend time building the muscles that he uses when he gaits. The stretching excersises you're doing will help alot, assuming you're doing them at a stand still and not in a round pen or on a lunge line.....think of it as yoga for your horse. You'll be building a gaiting athlete from now on instead of a trotting one..... After you abandon the lunge work, and start working him in long, straight lines, and he begins to understand his ability to gait, there will still be a learning curve where he'll have to be trained to gait on a regular basis. You'll be able to start with short distances and work your way up to nice, long stretches of foxtrotting down the trail over several weeks or months, depending on how quickly he gets conditioned to his new way of going and his new muscles develop. Up until now, he's developed a whole different set of muscles by going in circles and his 2-beat trot is probably quite nice, but that's not what you want. You want a foxtrot so you can have that smooth, ground covering gait that MFT's are known for!

Jul. 22, 2010, 10:53 PM
Thank you to everyone for the advice. Responding is a bit overwhelming!
Let's see if I can start this......He will fox trot for a short distance only. Then moves into the canter. I do think he kinda 'has my number' .....so I have been spending time working respect from the ground. I thought lunging would be another avenue for learning respect...getting him to listen to me. But I certainly don't want to continue it if is working against our goal! Poor guy....I hope I am not confusing him too much.
I think the bottom line is that I may need help to truly get him to hold the gait. Finding someone to work with me and him will be money well spent. Until I can do that, I'll keep trail riding and strengthening him. And reading the forums! Thanks again, Mary

Jul. 23, 2010, 01:06 PM
Do get the Lee Ziegler book, and do work him at a walk a LOT. The walk is the foundation of the saddle gaits. Push him for a good flat walk or a running walk if he can do one and work on him staying in that walk at a consistent rate of speed.

When I got my not very strongly gaited walker about all he could do was flat walk, hard trot, and canter. When he was strong enough to walk up steep hills toting my large butt he was strong enough to start working more in the running walk. He is still pretty trotty but the gaiting is much better and easier to get him in and keep him in. It is a different way of riding, in that you have to learn how to feel when a change in how he feels under you or a change of rate means he's fixing to break into a different gait, and catch him and keep him in the gait you want.

My riding buddy has an immensely strongly gaited fox trotter who will stay in gait at a speed so great my horses have to gallop to keep up. He can do a running walk that makes my walking horse trot to keep up.

Since foxtrotting is easy on the horse it shouldnt harm him to stay in gait for quite long periods of time once he does get fit.

Jul. 23, 2010, 04:32 PM
You've received great advise here. I have a spotted saddle horse. Its just the right tilt of the hip, with my legs just a hair forward, and raising my hands just an inch.. and holding them there to support him, with the word "gait" that gets him to gait. If I vary even a hair from this, he wont gait. I dont think gaited horses are for beginner riders... They can be as bombproof as the best horse, but if you are not in control of your cues, slight shifting of your own weight... etc... you may not be educated enough to get that gait back without someone helping you. Even if you dont have a trainer in your area, or can't afford one, at least find another gaited rider who can help you. Good luck!!

Jul. 23, 2010, 08:36 PM
OKAY, I am heeding your advice! Today, no lunging. We did 30-40 minutes flat walking and just a little trotting. I did keep my pelvis tilted a bit forward and my hands raised a bit.

I have been riding biweekly in a small group for the past year. It's safer and alot of fun. Being new to the place, I have needed the guidance learning the trails.

Now that I am more confident riding alone (not too far, though), Charlie gets all my attention when it's just the two of us. I won't give up the group rides, just add a few short lone rides throughout the week.

I noticed today when I am distracted (bugs), he really takes advantage of that and changes his focus or even direction.
In the meantime, I am going to look for some help. I am sure there is another gaited rider in my boarding facility.
Can anyone suggest some stretching exercises?

Thanks so much!


Jul. 23, 2010, 10:17 PM
What do you mean by stretching? Like stretching his head down?

Jul. 24, 2010, 10:57 AM
When you say "not trotting", I assume you mean not gaiting. When you move out of a walk, does he go directly into a canter and skip trotting? Or is he not holding his gait? Those are two different situations and would require different training.

I once took care of a polo horse who, for some reason, would not trot. Only walk and canter, and she could canter slowly enough to stay with trotting horses. Apparently she was trained that way.


Jul. 24, 2010, 12:29 PM
You don't want to tilt your pelvis forward, you tilt it back. Tilting it forward will hollow your back and make you stiff, which in turn, will hollow his back and make him stiff. You want to tilt your pelvis back, (rocking back on your pockets a little) so it will round & soften your lower back, pushing your legs just a hair forward, gently raise your hands, and ask him to gait. You will want contact, very light contact, with his mouth at first. (Not a big loopy rein).

Sometimes, you can do a gently rocking back and forth motion with your hands, very very gentle, almost unnoticeable... to encourage the gait... whille you are doing all of the above. The very second you feel him "gait", relax, yet keep holding your "position"... the second he falls out of that gait (or trots), make him uncomfortable until he finds that gait again. By uncomfortable... I mean, if my horse lost his gait, I'd "growl", and say in a low voice "nooooo", while squeezing with my legs, and sometimes tap tap on his shoulder lightly with my crop. Letting him know that this is the wrong gait. When he goes back to the smooth gait, relax, while maintaining your "gait" position.

Remember you are having a conversation with your horse, in a language he does not understand. So when you ask him the question "please gait" and he trots or does something other than his smooth gait, you need to respond by saying No... make him uncomfortable until he finds the right answer. Eventually, all you'll need to do is shift your weight, begin to raise your hands and he'll gait off smoothly. For now, exaggerate your aids (clarifying your question)... later it will just be a whisper.

Get Lee's book and ride with - or find another gaited rider, you'll get the hang of it.

Jul. 24, 2010, 04:22 PM
Will add that in my experience a gaited horse will go into and stay in gait better when riding out with another gaited horse. My walking horse and my buddy's foxtrotter having walking races, and my racking horse will speed rack ONLY when the foxtrotter is showing her up.

Jul. 29, 2010, 07:06 PM
Again, THANK YOU to everyone who has responded. I do appreciate it. Walking, walking, walking.....he is doing fine. He is trotting a little more for me. Longer stretches of the gaited trot then sometimes moves into that uncomfortable trot for a bit before going to a flat walk or canter.
I am sitting back more on my pockets trying to move with him more comfortably. The more I learn the more I realize I do not know!

Aug. 17, 2010, 01:15 PM
You've received some good advice, and some that I'd question. Walk, walk, and more walking, along with encouraging him when he's gaiting are the best ideas, it sounds like. I'm not a big fan of pocket sitting or the cockroach back it gives you, or trying to hold the horse up with the bit, but these things are very firmly entrenched in the gaited horse world. A firm, deep, dressage style balanced seat is what I find to be most effective, not a forward one, and not a chair one.

Also consider that a horse's ability to gait is genetic. The ideal gaited horse gaits naturally, and doesn't actually require all sorts of fiddling to get him to do it - just like an Arabian will trot without needing to be "taught" to trot. He must be conditioned, and worked to obtain better form, strength, and suppleness, but he inherently can trot. The same SHOULD be true for a gaited horse. If it isn't, there is a breakdown somewhere in the proper breeding, training, or health, and owners then look to all sorts of other ways to help the horse achieve the gait.

Inability to gait naturally in a breed that is supposed to do so should probably be as unwise to breed on as a scrawny AQHA, an unsound, slow moving TB, or an Arabian with a jughead. But we aren't living in that perfect world, are we? ;)

Training for the cues to gait, and conditioning a gait that is already there, are both normal processes that must be done. It's where this cue training crosses the line into gimmicks (e.g. holding the horse up in the reins vs the horse being able to carry itself properly (self-carriage), leaning back in a chair seat, changing hoof angles/shoe weight) that I start having issues. I know many horses can't gait without being held up by the riders in a curb bit, and that is an unfortunate result of poor breeding choices as well as poor training...but it still irks me.

Aug. 18, 2010, 11:58 AM
I agreed with Soliae. Everything, I couldn't have said it better!!

I do want to add:

I also do not sit on my pockets. Nope, more of a dressage style, balanced. You want to not get into a "chair" position, which is the on the pockets style. Basically, when you do that, which I have seen a rider just recently on a mft, you are sitting on their kidneys, and the back of the horse hollowed, and I really didn't see this particular horse ever gait for the 10 miles we did. He trotted, and cantered, and walked (mostly out of gait, rarely saw him in gait at the walk). He also had no give to the bit, iow no collection so he was on his front end head low low, and with a hollow back. He turned left right ok. Nice horse, friendly temperment too.

My rocky is very inclined to gaiting. I certified her, and you can not fool the registry certifiers. So I had to get it figured out on my own.

I will collect her, ask her to gait, keep her a tiny bit collected and in her 4 beat gait. Over time you can lengthen your time collected. It is a little bit of the hand a little bit of the leg, and a combo of each or none at all. I do not ever care where her head it, as long as she is not hollow in the back. and she maintains her gait. If you speed up faster, then they can tend to fall out of gait, and or get rough if they are not conditioned to the higher speed. This can mean they are past their genetic potential for themselves, or they are not muscled or collected enough to do a nice smooth gait at that faster speed. Stay *in* your horses speed zone until he is strong enough to go faster. No faster, no slower. I never want my rocky to ever canter under saddle. Nope, I want all gait all the time, because it is so dreamy. She goes plenty fast at her 4 beat gait if I want her to.

Just like you would (let's pretend) in a show, or dressage test. A certain type of "trot" or "gait" is asked, not a full blow way over the top trot or gait. But a nice, quiet, even, smoooooth trot/gait.

Right now my 4 yr rocky gets a tad rough above 5.7 -5.8 mph. She can get to the 6-10mph and above in a smooth fashion, however, then she can't hold it and gets rough, but still can fly along well. I try right now to keep her at a specific speed only, until she is 100% smooth, then I will ask for more speed if I want her to have more speed. More than likely in a year or two. But I want that slow smooth gait. So I will probably not ask for more speed. Hey 5-6 mph is a good ground covering gait. She is very efficient at this speed too.

Yes, ride with other gaiting horses. But make sure that other horse walks out well. No poking along, that WILL ruin the natural gait on your horse. I have had that happen for sure, so I had to go back and fix it. The gaited horse's owner allowed a walk slower than a QH I had would walk. Go figure. Mine walks 4.1-4.5mph. My arab 3.3 to 3.5 mph. And yes, my rocky walks in gait. Or, I fix it. 99.99% of the time she walks in gait. No, she doesn't pace - ever.

Yes, do not lunge your horse. That builds trotting muscles, not gaiting muscles. If you have to lunge canter all the time. Trail work and arena work is best.

Happy gaiting!

Aug. 18, 2010, 12:19 PM
Differing opinion her on the longeing... you can longe a gaited horse. In side reins. You can improve and strengthen their top line asking for a big reachy walk and cantering. No, you would not ask for their 'soft gait' on a longe line, unless you can manage a really big circle of 20m or so. Smaller than that on a weak horse will mess them up. Larry Whitesell's got a great set of DVDs on riding gaited horses to help supple and teach them to use their body's better, and a newer DVD on longeing in side reins. You do need to know how to properly longe one, of course.

Aug. 18, 2010, 03:23 PM
You are walking in my shoes, Mary.

I purchased a TWH this past winter after finally realizing my body could not ride my Arabians any more.

I also found he was a whole different kind of horse. He had been on a long lay off (almost 4 years) plus I had to learn to speak TWH. First thing I found out was that my beloved kimberwicks did not work for this guy. His feet were all over the place. I knew he gaited cuz the first time I ever rode him, he dropped his head, flopped his ears and gaited wonderfully. It tooks us a good while --4 months or so of riding 3 or 4 times a week slowly until I figured out what he needed to do his job and ask it correctly. He slowly built up his muscle memory on gaiting and now we do a flat walk all day long.

The running walk is coming.

I had friends who rode TWHs who could help me on the trail. If you are the only one riding a gaited horse, do as folk said get helpfom folks who know MFT.

That said ---check for saddle fit, the kind of bit you are using. I am having trouble with saddles, mine are either too wide or too narrow. He is shaped all different than my other horses.

I don;t think the Ground Control shoes are an issue here though. They are not heavy enough to make a difference.

Also not all gaited horses gait as well as others of the same breeding.

I wish you luck, so just get some help from folks who rid eMFT.