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Need help with a Tennessee Walker

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  • Need help with a Tennessee Walker

    Hi, new here. My dressage horse just passed away, and I am left with his buddy, a TWH. He is 6 but pretty green, and I owe it to him to get him rideable and well-trained. I plan on keeping him, he is a sweetheart, and I know dressage would be good for him. BUT, how do I get a real trot out of him? I've asked all around for suggestions on trainers, but only get the names of western trainers and natural horseman types, and they all want me to ride with zero contact. Can anyone recommend a dressage trainer in the Upstate of South Carolina, who might be willing to work with us? I am sort of near Clemson. Not a whole lot of money to spend, so I want to spend it in the right direction. Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    You need to talk to Margot Kern up here in KY. She does gaited dressage and might be able to direct you. Your TWH may not be able to trot or have a tendency to pace, they've been bred for the head bobbing walk. I've known a TWH that was taught to trot as it didn't have a show quality gait, it was ridden Western.

    ETA, my apologies, I googled for Margot and either I've spelled her name wrong or she has moved on, but if you look for gaited dressage you may find a competent individual close enough to help you, whether your horse never trots a step dressage is still of great benefit.
    Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
    Incredible Invisible


    • #3
      Does he want to pace or trot, at liberty?


      • Original Poster

        Thanks, I don't know that I want to do gaited dressage, per se, I'm just way out of my element with a gaited horse! But I will google that and see what comes up.

        When he is at liberty, he usually paces, but I have gotten a trot out of him on the longe, so I know he can do it. I'm a little afraid of messing him up. I've just gotten Michael Shaffer's book Right from the Start which I hope will help me some.


        • Original Poster

          Wow, just googled gaited dressage--I'll be reading for days! Thanks for the suggestion, now just have to find someone close enough to help!


          • #6
            Originally posted by Amazona13 View Post
            Hi, new here. My dressage horse just passed away, and I am left with his buddy, a TWH. He is 6 but pretty green, and I owe it to him to get him rideable and well-trained. I plan on keeping him, he is a sweetheart, and I know dressage would be good for him. BUT, how do I get a real trot out of him? I've asked all around for suggestions on trainers, but only get the names of western trainers and natural horseman types, and they all want me to ride with zero contact. Can anyone recommend a dressage trainer in the Upstate of South Carolina, who might be willing to work with us? I am sort of near Clemson. Not a whole lot of money to spend, so I want to spend it in the right direction. Thanks in advance!
            They used to show TWH's in seven gaited classes and the trot was one of the diagonal gaits that was required, but... Why on earth would you want a walking horse to trot? That is like asking a quarter horse to rack... They have gaited dressage work tests available at nwha.com.


            • #7
              My twh that i do gaited dressage with will hard pace in the pasture and sometimes trot on the longe line. If you are hellbent on teaching him to trot....if you collect him and raise his back enough, and get him laterally flexible....he will trot. Probably. But....why teach a twh that is born to gait rather than trot...to trot? Not being rude in how I am asking that...honestly...but i would think one would get a trotter if the wanted to trot.


              • #8
                Don't you think the answer is that dressage is for every horse? I think the original poster wants to help her horse be an athlete.

                One of my childhood horses was a TWH. He would offer a trot easily and happily. His canter was lateral, though.


                • #9
                  Would you teach a trotting horse to pace?

                  I suggest low level dressage basics for any horse. But that would be done in his walks and his canter. No need to trot.

                  My TWH 'is' an athlete. You don't need to trot.

                  As one of maybe two posters on coth who does gaited dressage...i am simply participating in the discussion.
                  Last edited by katarine; Dec. 1, 2012, 08:11 PM. Reason: clarity


                  • #10
                    I've had 3 gaited horse "project" horse in the past year and a half. We pretty much have TBs only, for racing and when they are done racing, for dressage/jumpers/trail, so the gaited horses were quite an educational experiece for me! The first two kind of just fell in my lap--one was waaaaaay to much horse for her owner, the second was rescued from a very bad situation by a friend of mine who had no idea how to fix her. The third I bought at auction because I had so much fun with the first two that I wanted another one to play with!

                    I agree that dressage is excellent for them, but I sure wouldn't try to teach them to trot. That's the fun of gaited horses--the GAIT!

                    The first one I had was a Saddlebred/Missouri Fox Trotter cross, very tense and very pace-y. By getting her to relax her top line and learn to stretch into the bit at the walk and the canter thru dressage (lateral work especially!) she ended up with the nicest rack. (OK that sounds really bizarre if you don't realise we are talking gaited horses!)

                    The second one was the neglected one. She was a registered TWH and actually very well bred I found out later! She had a lovely running walk, but was lacking so much muscle from the starvation, that she could only hold it for a few strides before falling into some kind of disjointed pacing dohicky gait. LOL With her, we spent almost 1 1/5 months, just walking with soft contact to the bit, asking her to stretch, stretch, stretch, with a few steps of leg yield, shoulder-in, and haunches-in every dozen steps or so to build up her wasted back. She ended up being an absolutley beautiful mare with such a big heart. I was actually upset when I sold her, even though she went to a super forever home. The lady actually put me in her will as the caretaker of her horse if anything were to happen to her!

                    The third one was also a registered TWH, just green as grass. I used dressage ith her just for her basic education. THe lady who bought her was strictly a gaited trail rider. She said it was the softest, best broke trail horse she'd ever sat on.

                    So, yes, use dressage. But NO, don't try to teach them to trot.



                    • #11
                      Ditto the above; classical training is good and fine, and if you get a copy of Lee Ziegler's book Easy-Gaited Horses, she'll give you tons of theory and practice exercises specifically tailored to your TWH.

                      However, if the horse does not trot naturally, you don't want to go there; one of my Walkers was able to trot--just like a box full of rocks on a buckboard! His flat walk and running walk were divine, so the trot was certainly not what we did!

                      Dressage as training platform, and dressage as per the requirements of the showing discipline, are two entirely different things.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by shall View Post
                        Don't you think the answer is that dressage is for every horse? I think the original poster wants to help her horse be an athlete.

                        One of my childhood horses was a TWH. He would offer a trot easily and happily. His canter was lateral, though.
                        Yes, well, she specifically asked how to get the horse to trot. And, TWH's are just as athletic as any other horse, while "in gait"...


                        • #13
                          Many years ago I attended a clinic devoted to using dressage techniques to train Walkers. One of the horses was so lateral it could NOT canter. It was a lovely stallion owned by one of the photographers for THE VOICE (the TWH breed magazine).

                          The guy doing the clinic was a real professional and, using two dressage whips, a lead rope, and the wall had the horse trotting in under 20 min. It was not a great trot, but it broke the horse's pacyness and it was able to do a rather respectable canter. The entire evolution took less than half an hour.

                          But the horse remained quite lateral. It would NEVER have been able to compete in a Dressage test.

                          Do the gaited dressage. Don't force a square peg horse into a round peg discipline.

                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão


                          • #14
                            Contact Claudia Coombs. She's in Fremont, NC. Too far away for regular lessons, but maybe close enough for a clinic and if nothing else a good resource. She shows both TWHs and warmbloods in dressage.



                            • Original Poster

                              Thank you all! I see I didn't even know enough to ask the right questions, but I have learned much from your replies. I've only ridden him at the walk, because I'm terrified of screwing him up and you can see how abysmally ignorant I am of walking horses. I didn't get him on purpose, he just sort of ended up mine through happy accident, and now he's all I have. I just want to make sure he is well- and correctly trained!

                              The advice I've been given locally is "just set his head and he'll do it by himself" which seems backwards to me? I did send an email to Claudia Coombs, thank you for that lead, duecavalle! And I will look up that book, Lady Eboshi, thank you also. But seriously, all of you have been most helpful. Thank you.


                              • #16
                                I've had 2 TWH.

                                First was DH's who had a so-so gait.
                                He was registered as a Racking Horse since he could not be blood-typed the required 4 generations for TWHBEA registry.
                                Being totally ignorant of all things gaited, we expected him to trot and he did.
                                Turned out to be a most excellent Eventer with lots of natural suspension for the dressage phase and brave cross-country.
                                He had a Rocking Horse canter too.

                                He introduced me to the TWH personality and I was so taken that my 2nd TWH was bought on the strength of that.
                                This horse was registered - a breeding stallion until he was 8, I bought him as a recently-gelded 10yo.
                                BUT: he most emphatically Did.Not.Trot.
                                His gait was to die for - felt like getting a backrub.
                                But he crossfired at the canter - common w/gaited horses I was told.
                                I did some gaited dressage with him and enjoyed it. And my dressage trainer never had a problem working with us at the gait.
                                Even took him to a clinic with Jeff Ashton Moore, despite the Pooh-Poohing of some of the DQs on this BB.

                                If your TWH offers a trot, go for it and see if you can improve it.
                                If he doesn't, IIWM I wouldn't press it unless you can find a trainer who can get you there w/o stressing the horse.
                                Enjoy the gait - a good one is eminently pleasurable to ride.
                                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                                • #17
                                  You are welcome!

                                  I had a Missouri Fox Trotter for a time. A time when I'd decided I was no longer interested in showing dressage and all I wanted to do was trail ride. She was an amazing horse, built my confidence back up to a point where I actually wanted to ride again. Then a new and very persuasive friend I'd met through an MFT club dragged me kicking and screaming to a local dressage schooling show where they allowed gaited horses. I was petrified! LSS, we creamed the competition that day out scoring both gaited and trotting horses (at the time this venue allowed gaited and trotting to compete against each other) and I was bit by the show bug. I campaigned my little mare to training level when her lack of a left lead canter and my longing to show recognized brought me back to "trotting" horses.

                                  Anyway... IME, just ride your TWH as you would your old warmblood. At the walk and canter (if he has one) until someone can be your eyes on the ground for his middle gait, which may be a running walk, a fox trot a rack or even a trot. The old timers say the canter improves the fox trot and they are correct. Whatever middle gait your horse does well will be improved by the canter, and the walk too. Lee Zeigler's book is a great resource.

                                  My little mare was hard-wired to pace. She NEVER took a trot step, not even at liberty. Fortunately she had a wonderful rolling fox trot, but she did not come to me with this gait. She was young and very green and did a running walk at best. Our dressage work, asking for the engine from behind and suppling exercises brought her fox trot out. The "just set his head" advice will likely work to get him to gait if your TWH has had prior gaited training but he most likely won't be through like he's capable of being with dressage schooling.

                                  Sounds like you are off on a new adventure. Have fun!


                                  • #18
                                    That will be a hard road. Some walkers can trot if you pick up contact and make them round up and come to the bit but not all. I've had one that could trot with contact and rounding but my other one couldn't trot to save his life. He is tried and true breed for the gait and it was born in him. The easier ones to get to trot are the ones that were born able to trot and gait and they had to be taught the gait more so.
                                    Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole