View Full Version : gaited types, keeping gaits clear on trail

May. 1, 2011, 06:56 PM
The basics of this are pretty, well, basic, but folk with more gaited horse experience may have some good suggestions. As many of you know I now own a Haitian Gaited pony and am fitting him up for work. We would do trail riding, starting on the flat and eventually using him for travelling up some steep mountain trails. He does W-stepping pace-T-C.

Now that his saddle and hackamore are sorted out, and we've gotten out regularly, I've gotten to know what his gaits are really like. He uses all 4 willingly. I've noticed he likes to slide between walk-SP-T rather than make clear changes, esp. when he's trying to sneak into a higher gear before Mom says OK. No surprise, the way those gaits are related.

What is new to me that I want to double check is, he will slide from trot to canter in some ways that are odd to me. He likes to get into a canter when he's keen to go, via something that starts as an uneven trot and then feels like a very lateral 'tranter' before it goes true. He isn't used to riders posting so if I post the trot, he will often go uneven and then if I let him move out we seem to slide from that to a tranter to a true canter. He goes back to trotting evenly if I bring him back and sit the trot.

All this feels odd to someone who's only ridden OTTB and WTC types before, but I take it this is normal with gaited horses from pacing roots? The obvious answer is to clue clearly and make him pick a true gait and hold it. But does anyone have other suggestions/comments for a newbie to the gaited world?

Technical notes - he is happiest by far in a mechanical hackamore and my Wintec AP. He's about 12h2 and I'm 5'6" but we make it work.

May. 1, 2011, 10:31 PM
You'll probably get better responses on a gaited board. This one is good and active. http://www.horseforum.com/gaited-horses/

How old is your pony? Most people will probably tell you to work on his walk, increasing the speed as long as he can hold the gait, then just holding him there. He sounds very green in general, does he have specific cues for walk, gait, canter?

What is a Haitian Gaited pony? Any video links?

May. 2, 2011, 06:50 AM
I train gaited horses here and I have no idea what a hatian gaited horse is.

But you arn't mean to post on a gaited horse, any gaited horse is supposed to gait in a way that you can't/dont have to post because they are onmfortable.

What kind of footfall does ths breed have? I work alot with Paso's and they have a natural gait that has the same footfall as a walk would, so asking for canter is relatively easy. When they are younger it can take a bit to get them to canter, but like with any breed, they more you work with them, the fitter and better they will get.

Painted Horse
May. 2, 2011, 09:38 AM
If you are just getting him/her set in their gaits. It may take a way for them to develop their muscle memory and get them conditioned to extended distances at the chosen gait. If he is slipping in and out of gaits, It may just be the horse trying to relieve muscle pain by changing speed. Like you holding your hand above your head for extended periods of time. As your arm tires, you change how high you hold it to relieve the muscle.

As the muscles get conditioned and stronger, the horse will be able to hold the gait for longer periods. The transition you are feeling is just a broken gait. Slow them down or speed them up to get them into the gait you prefer Over time the horse will learn what gaits you will allow him to use and start to avoid the gaits that he gets corrected in. Remember to give him some slower speeds to rest between asking for the gaits. At first the horse may only gait a few hundred yards, after conditioning he may hold that gait for a mile.

I've got a foxtrotter that does what I call a Cantelope. Some kind of broken rough gait that is his tranistion between a foxtrott and a canter. He does it when he wants to speed up and I'm holding him back. But he is slowly learning that it is unacceptable.

Halcyon Days
May. 2, 2011, 05:00 PM
Well, to be blunt, it sounds like a mess to me. An all purpose saddle and a hackamore on a pacey horse is never going to work if gaiting correctly is your goal. If you let him "run" into the canter, yes, it's going to be a pacey, weird scrambled mess. If you get him to "jump" into the canter, you should get a true canter. If he can pace AND trot, you can get a better gait out of him, but it will require a balanced dressage position and true collection

May. 2, 2011, 09:44 PM
To start off - blunt is fine, HD, I wouldn't be posting if I lived in the US. I totally agree with you that in the US, the appropriate thing to do would be to posthaste go find a trainer with gaited horse experience and saddles and get a clue in person. And when we had this little guy trained to be a solid citizen I'd find him a person better matching his size and find myself a ride that matches my size better.

Haiti though is a rare place where we truly don't have any of that - trainers, saddles, experienced people, US-style alternative homes, farriers, nada. If I don't work with him he won't get exercised, and if I don't keep him for me he'd almost certainly go back to being underfed and overworked in tack that gives him sores. So, I'm in one of the few situations where pro training and rehoming truly aren't options.

May. 2, 2011, 09:53 PM
Haitian gaited ponies are just the ponies here in Haiti, they do a stepping pace as well as W-T-C so that's the best way to describe them. According to some they aren't technically a breed because there was no planning to their breeding. They are just the Darwin-selected descendants of the horses the French plantation owners had. I haven't seen many that topped 13 hands. They do a stepping pace where both feet on one side come up together, and then set the rear foot down before the front foot. I don't have video of my guy, but this
is what he does as well.
People here don't try to develop the stepping pace at all, or train the ponies much at all. Stand, stop, go at the speed requested, left, right is about as much as the riders look for. No specific cues for specific gaits. Tack is a rough rope halter and one leadrope while riding sidesaddle on a pack saddle or astride bareback, no saddles and stirrups, no comprehension of balancing or collecting a horse. So while my guy Pepo is about 12 years old and knows the basics including yielding to my leg, he moves very 'green'. He's hardly been worked for the last couple years, so he's way out of shape as well. ETA - I'd rather we not canter yet until he proves he's better conditioned. He begged for our whole ride Saturday to stretch his legs, so I let him canter some to let him blow off steam and see how he did. I will be insisting from now on that he take it easy until I'm sure he can handle it without being sore the next day.

My camera phone is having issues so I'll need to take fresh pictures later this week and let you see him with and without tack. When I can get video I will.

Oh, and I'm not looking to get him in show shape or anything. Mostly, I want to make sure he and I stay sound and as comfortable as possible for the long haul, and for me to understand what I should be doing so I can give him clear instructions.

May. 2, 2011, 10:10 PM
Answering more questions - Tack-wise, he's in a hackamore because 1) no one here uses bits and he's never been trained to one, but especially 2) If I ever leave and have to leave him behind, I don't want to risk a bit in his mouth with a rider who has no clue what a bit can do. He'd get his mouth ripped apart. Now that he's well fed he has too much energy to respect just a rope halter so the hackamore is the safest solution I have found.

The AP saddle - since the horse's in Haiti I couldn't have a saddle fitter help me out much, so I wanted a saddle type I've used and understand the fit for. I've never put hand or butt on a gaited horse saddle so I had no idea how to fit one on a rather short-backed pony and didn't know anyone who could help me out on my short trip to the States. Ditto for western saddles. The AP type I am familiar with, and the Wintecs with CAIR were the most adjustable and self-adjusting of the options I could get hold of. So I took wither tracings to the tack shop and had a pony-owning staffer help me find the best fit I could without being able to put the saddle on the pony. Not the approach I'd accept in the US, but it was the best I could do for a horse in Haiti.

I'd have loved to at least see an Icelandic saddle or even a saddleseat saddle at Dover in Lexington, VA - but we drove through that part of the country on a Tuesday and they were closed.

May. 2, 2011, 10:31 PM
OK I'll try. I have had TWH,MFT and paso's and what I have found in gaited horses that you need to be very clear about transitions to canter. To go from a pace to a canter can be dangerous. as I read some of the other responses I think people are experiencing the counter-canter. Not safe, not good. strange as it may seem a gaited horse needs to"pop" into a canter and this is done from a four beat walk(being careful of the speed of the walk). simply the horse legs need to be in the correct position to pick up a true canter and this can't be done from a pace,rack. and so forth. IMHO so please be careful. I've had gaited horse with a non-gaited trainer and watched him knock the horse down while trying to get a canter by having the horse gain speed thinking he would go into a canter, no his legs just got discombobulated and he fell down. Remember in a pace both legs on one side are off the ground at the same time. A Pace is not ever safe for trail.
Collect your horse preferably in a ring or on trail using a hill, use your seat and legs to cue him to go froward but keep him collected and work him like you would a trotting horse to pop into the canter. A hill helps a lot or having a lead horse with a slow canter to help cue him.
Also you cannot use a hackmore on a gaited horse to teach gaits. You can't use a hackmore to collect a horse, its to severe and has no lateral cues. In other words
a hackmore is for a dead broke trained horse, ridden on a loose rain and used to slow them down when necessary. Now we're not talking about a bosal are we?
Yikes this is getting long but the poster who said gaited horses shouldn't trot under saddle is correct unless you have A MFT foxtrot.
Horse needs work , find a gait that feels good and work to keep him in that gait,stay in that gait. That will help you get the feel of him and learn to communicate with the horse. Only go faster when you have the slow gait nice and smooth and steady. No Hackamore!
good luck

May. 2, 2011, 10:47 PM
There's plenty of discussion on here about "gaited saddles". You'll find lots of folks consider them to simply be a marketing gimmick.

I've used many different saddles on Icelandics over the years, and an AP can indeed work just fine.

And if a horse has trot, then posting that trot is just fine. Like your pony, Icelandics have WTC as well as tölt and sometimes flying pace. We develop whatever the horse has, including the trot.

HiH, get yourself a copy of Lee Ziegler's excellent book (http://www.amazon.com/Easy-Gaited-Horses-methods-training-pleasure/dp/1580175627).

Good luck. :)

May. 3, 2011, 01:45 PM
An all purpose is FINE on a gaited horse. A horse is a horse, if it fits, it fits. There, end of the 'gaited horses need special stuff' mess.

You can also train him in a hackamore. That's fine so long as it's not got huge long shanks. Friend of mine is successfully showing her barefoot TWH in a bosal, went to it from a rope halter. This horse just needs to learn to walk.

He is likely sliding from the SP to a really P then going to the C :)

To improve his gait, don't C for a while. Until you can see 100% he's a walking machine. Why? b/c you really wanna emphasize that 4 beat 1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4 even, steady, walk and not the 12 34 12 34 beat that is a SP. You don't wanna encourage the SP...

To see just how much FW or RW he might (maybe) develop...
Do all you can to get him reallllly strong in his loins and hind end with lottts of walking firmly up hills, and politely down hills. He'll get better in that he'll get strong enough to maybe create a strong flat walk and eventually a running walk. The step pace (SP) maybe, just maybe, can become a FW or a RW if he gets so strong and steady in his 'medium' or working' walk...that he'll try to just keep walking on more firmly...into a four beat FW and after a while, a RW. Don't ever knowingly let him SP...just walk walk walk and encourage...walk. Big stout going somewhere...walk...and see how he goes. Make him WALK downhill, pacey horses wanna be lazy going down hills and slip into a SP. NO. WALK. Let him move out in the biggest walk he can UPhill...but down...slow and polite.

If you really wanna canter, find a fun, good safe hill and from a walk, do all you can to pop him into a canter from it, even if that's a bit of flagging his behind with your reins, and verbally kissing and clucking hurriedly. You really wanna pop into the canter.

oh PS- if you can ride on the beach, firm sand is great. Here we ride 'em in plowed fields to stretch that walk into the longest, biggest stride we can get.

Best wishes.

May. 15, 2011, 09:41 PM
Thanks, all. These are the kinds of things I didn't learn back in hunt seat land. For now we are walking hills with some trot (and a little SP) for conditioning. He will double as a packhorse with a handler/fallback owner who won't ask for any 'gait' but SP. I'll think some before asking him to never use something any other potential rider/handler will ask for without a second thought. I'll keep the balance issue in mind on narrow trails for sure, thanks for the warning.

Still no videographer, but today I got a couple pictures with and without his saddle so you can at least see that.

Since COTHers will ask: I've been working on the 'what's wrong with this setup' issues since I recently moved into this house. we're scouring Haiti for breeding stallion level fencing, so we can ditch the longline and rope halter (he's been on them his whole life, and knows how to deal with the rope as much as a horse can). Gelding is scheduled for June, can't be earlier. Sturdier water and feed tubs (and imported fencing if we can't find it faster in country) will come in a few months via container. The saddle was fitted to back tracings and my rear by the best person I could get, it's still too large for him but he swears he likes it and prefers it to anything else we have.