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Gaited Endurance Horse ?

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  • Gaited Endurance Horse ?

    Sorry this might be a bit long and involved .....

    I have a little arab x saddlebred mare (National Show Horse) who is quite tiny and not at all flashy - she's clearly never going to be a show horse, and I"m struggling to find anything else she might be good at ! We've now got down the list of possible disciplines as far as Endurance - sorry to say, that was NOT top of my lists. As it turns out, we've really taken to it and are loving doing the training, logging the miles, getting into learning more about nutrition etc etc.

    Well, then I met this new buddy who could be a real good contact. He has trained saddlebreds for many years, both for show and trail and I explained to him at length how my non-gaited saddlebred x goes - which is to say her back feet stomp up and down and at any pace apart from canter, she covers almost no ground (so ... ummm ... Endurance is not looking likely as a career for her either then )

    Well, he was saying that even at 6 years old, it was not impossible that she could be encouraged to gait. Now, I don't ride gaited horses at all, but of course, they are incredibly common round these parts (Tennessee). So - would a comfortably gaited horse be an advantage in endurance ? There are obvious advantages for me, I think, as it would be less wear and tear on my dodgy knees over these longer distances, right ?

    Does it sound feasible to try to encourage her to gait ? She has shown absolutely no sign of it at all, and I've had her from a 2 1/2 year old - but she does have a really peculiar walk and trot (We work a lot in dressage lessons to help her use her back end more effectively and this does help to some extent, but she definitely haas the odds stacked against her, and there's no way that dressage would ever be 'her thing').

    And finally - does a gaited horse use its back in the same way that we encourage a non-gaited horse to do ? The TWHs that I see round here all appear to be 'leg-movers' in the dressage sense. If I encourage her to gait, am I in fact encouraging her to become a leg mover, and abandon all attempts to get her more engaged ? Will it ruin her canter, for example.

    I know there are people doing dressage on pure saddlebreds - I will ask around on other forums of course, but does anyone know if it's possible to do dressage successfully on a 5-gaited saddlbred - I think that would answer my concerns if true.



  • #2
    ok a TWH has a neutral back to run walk.

    a racker has a locked down or tight back to rack.

    notice neither is 'rounded up'- nope. not part of the deal.

    a NSH who's never shown a propensity to gait...won't , not to my mind. Besides,the saddlebreds aren't particularly 'naturally' gaited...their saddlerack is trained in, not so much born in.

    a gaited horse exhibits a more lateral walk...think about how a donkey walks, or a camel...the two left legs are more in time than in a normal walk. The trot shouldn't be different at all. She sounds like a leg mover all ready...if she doesn't have a lovely pure walk, you don't have a lovely dressage prospect from the start. If she's pounding posts at a trot and not reaching and driving- that's not what you want either, and gaiting goal won't change that.

    Encouraging her to really WALK on is how you'd hunt for a running walk...and it'll improve her walk anyway.

    Sorry but that's my 2 cents. I don't see her gaiting in my crystal ball.


    • #3
      I don't know a ton about gaited Saddlebreds/NSHs.. but 6 sounds awful old to be teaching the gait. I thought it was taught really early in their careers, like as they are learning their basic gaits as a 3/4 year old. But I could be wrong.

      As for trying to find a career for your mare.. who cares if she won't be the best? It sounds like you're both having fun with the endurance thing, and as long as you're enjoying yourself, that's all that counts! If I ever got the chance to try endurance with my mare, I'd totally do it. And she's a stout little QH, hardly ever seen in the endurance scene. But she loves trail, loves going out and seeing new things, and loves to GO!
      Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


      • Original Poster

        Thanks guys - yep, pretty much what I thought - 6 is too old, and she has shown no tendency to do it anyway !

        Well, there is one more light in the sky from my new buddy - he's also got lots of good ideas about how to encourage her to simply walk out more. Now so long as that doesn't involve any stiff-backedness, that has to be good because at the moment, her terribly slow walk is a real hindrance to us ever making the distances in time.

        The hunt for a career for this mare is quite complex because, alas, as a rule, we're not having fun at all. I mean, we are right now, learning the endurance thing, but no - she's not a keeper, I'm afraid. Not a good fit for me, not an easy girl to get on with and I have other youngsters to bring on who have more potential in the things I really like. Poor mare, she's a sweetheart, but realistically, to ensure her the best hope of a good future, she needs to find something that she's at least ok at !


        • #5
          I have asked this question before and never got a response. Can a gaited horse be a good endurance horse?


          • #6
            Most ASB's are not "naturally" gaited. The four beats you see in the ring are man made, however, there are some that do have a natural four-beat saddle gait. They are not the ones seen in the show ring.

            The rack is an inverted stiff gait.

            The running walk is round during certain phases, when the hind comes under, the head goes down, the back rounds up. It flexes down though, when the hind pushes off, the head comes up, the back flexes down. Lots of movement in a big overstriding horse, you can see it very clearly during a good flatwalk. And a good, loose-rein walk should not be "lateral".

            I agree with the previous poster, who cares if you do not win or even compete. Find something that you and the horse have FUN doing and go for it.


            • #7
              Can a gaited gorse be good at Endurance? Yes

              First let us define "good" .

              If good means finishing first at the Old Dominion 100 and Tevis, then a gaited horse is probably not your best option.

              If "good" means having a fun time and completing 25 and 50 mile rides on a regular basis, then gaited horses are fine for that. At the recent Santa Fe ride from New Mexico to Kansas City, one gaited (TWH) horse carried a middleweight rider for 8 straight rides of 50-55 miles.

              I ride an 11 year old Arab gelding as my main endurance horse. My backup horse is a 10 year old MO Foxtrotter. He does very well at LD (25-35 mile rides), but is slow at 50 mile rides. He did three 50 's in 2007. None under 11 hours. (my Arab does 6-7 hour 50's) He has finished 2nd at a 35 mile ride and is usually mid pack for those rides. As my backup horse, he is not ridden as much and is not as fit as my Arab. But he does fine at the sport. He enjoys it and is fun to ride.

              I know people who have even done lots of rides on tiny Paso Finos. It is all about getting your horse fit. Most gaited horses will not pulse down at vet checks as quickly as most Arabs. You just have to train and plan for that. Also you have to determine your horses speed at different gaits. If it travels at 5 mph, you will have a tough time. I use my Foxtrotter in about 6-7 different "gaits".

              As for the mention about Quarter horses: The horse with the most (10) completions at Tevis? An AQHA horse.
              The oldest horse (26 years old) to finish Tevis? An AQHA horse. This year a Paint horse top 10'd at Tevis.

              When your horse and you are out on trail, the papers, breeding and bloodlines don't amount to squat. It is about training, planning and pace. If your horse has heart and brains, you are almost there. If you have a sound horse of any breed with heart and brains, that you like riding a long time, then you can do Endurance with that horse... or mule.

              Hope this helps

              Paul N. Sidio
              Spokane MO


              • #8
                Thanks for the info. I have a young Rocky who I trial ride. As he matures I would like to expand to something else to keep it interesting for him and me. I understand the fitness aspect. I have never done any endurance riding so it will be a learning experience for both of us.


                • #9
                  Paul Sidio,
                  You need to come back and ride our brand new 2008 Old Dominion trail! We are of course offering Cavalry again. You know we're moving the ride location?

                  Gaited horses in endurance - Lot's has to do with the horse's "gait". Paso's may have a lot of up/down without much forward. Some horse's gait is lower and longer which IMO would be preferable. Also, does your horse switch to a trot when needed? Some Walker and Walker crosses will do that and it helps cover ground quicker as some types of footing and terrain isn't good for a "gait" and is done better at a trot, then the horse can switch back to a fast gait on smoother ground. A guy that competed a TWH/Arab cross told me that is what his mare did. Also, is your horse thick and chunky with a wide barrel or deeper and narrower with a radiator build? The radiator built horse will dispell heat better and therefore is more suitable for endurance.

                  I wouldn't want to be dead last ride after ride, but I'm happy to be in the middle as long as my horse is happy and healthy. Well, actually, I love speed and being up front but I also love enjoying the ride with friends and love my horse. So you not only have to evaluate your horses capabilities after competing for a while, you need to evaluate if you're happy with what your horse is capable of. Just try it and see!!

                  Bonnie Snodgrass


                  • #10
                    I think they could be. It depends on the horse and the condition. I do LD rides on my TWH's, they are both foundation, big-boned and stout. I do not push them to win, we ride to finish. They vet out just fine. I am not a serious competitor at LD, though, we just do it to get out and socialize ...


                    • #11
                      Kate no one's suggesting any work that would encourage a stiff back, and any horse's walk can be improved by just riding more - encouraging a swingy back and relaxed topline. Does her saddle fit well, or is she hampered by it? if she's farting around loose in the pasture, what's her perferred gait? Walk? Trot? or lope everywhere? what I am failing to convey about a running walk, that another poster explained better...is the horse can't realistic be asked to be 'on the bit' b/c you want her free enough in the face to nod that head and really WALK...There's a freedom they need there to stride out and the back will rise and fall with the pumping of her head.


                      • Original Poster

                        Ah - lots for me to think about again. Thanks everyone. My comment about the stiff backedness was aimed more at errmmmmm ... well, I dunno how to put this but my new friend trained saddlebreds for show, and while he gave it up because he didn't have the heart to do what it took to win big, even so, he's still likely to be more chains and shoes than I am... I'm just kinda wary and a little defensive for my mare !

                        I really like the description of the gait with the back rising, and then falling - that seems to make a lot of sense - that would account for the very noticeable head-bob on the TWH wouldn't it ?

                        Her saddle is a constant cause of concern for me and her, and accounts in large part for why she's now 6 and still very green. I'm used to a culture of saddle-fitters, where you can call your fitter and have him pop round every 6 months to adjust and reflock and perfect your saddle. I really struggle here, because I don't know enough about saddle fit, and can't seem to pay someone to simply fit saddles The current solution that we're trying is a Heather Moffet treeless saddle with the extremely expensive suber-pad under it, which is made of many tiny cork granules which apparently mold to the horse's shape and movement.

                        Needless to say, I'm being pretty cautious with this thing and trying to listen out for signs of discomfort form my girl. She was off for 3 months over the winter to recover from the soreness caused by out last attempt to get a saddle to work, and has had the go-ahead from her chiropractor to get started again. Saddle fit, I have to say, is becoming the absolute bain of my life. What does everyone else do ? My current level of knowledge is that I know when a saddle clearly doesn't fit, but that's about it


                        • #13
                          If you have to teach a horse to gait you don't really have a "gaited" horse.

                          Can a "gaited horse" be a good endurance horse.


                          In 1999 or 2000 the top "enduro" horse in Brazil was a Mangalarga Marchador (to the enormous irritation of the Arabian community ). It was not, however, a laterally gaited MM horse (called "picada" horses) but a diagonally gaited MM (called a "batida" horse). The diagonal gait takes less energy than the lateral gaits and is easier on the horse (if a bit tougher on the rider). MM horses are very active in this sport in Brazil and I've heard of some performing in Germany.

                          From 1991-93 six MM horses ridden by three men (61, 62, and 64 when the trip began) rode 13,000 plus miles in just over two years, setting a long ride record that might still stand. They didn't go fast, but they went steady (16 miles a day, each and every day, for just over 25 months). I'd call those horses "endurance horses."

                          Having said the above, I don't think that most North American gaited breeds would be suitable as "endurance horses" as most are lateral. Foxtrotters might make the grade; I don't know enough about them to really say.

                          Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raça, Uma Paixão