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Missouri Fox Trotter People, Please Advise

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  • Missouri Fox Trotter People, Please Advise

    Please tell me how to help get one to gait under saddle.

    He is a youngster, about four, and he has been used for trail riding. His owner sent him to a 5-gaited-Saddlebred trainer early on. I don't know why.

    He will foxtrot in the pasture, but not under saddle.

    I am thinking it is a question of still getting him balanced with a rider, since he is so young.

    But since I have known only one Missouri Fox Trotter before now, and he was a seasoned trail horse, and since I know nothing about schooling them, I wanted to ask here.

    A friend of mine has him now. She is an experienced trainer and rider but not of gaited horses. We want to give this youngster a good experience while he is at our barn.
    Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
    People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
    "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique

  • #2
    Most of the (non crank/spank type) training books I've seen say to 'flat walk, flat walk, flat walk' to start.

    Kinda like an extended walk on contact. Going back and forth between their 'regular' walk and doing a 'going somewhere and meaning it' type walk.

    They seem to have to develop their butt/back muscles to gait w/ a rider up.

    Good site (altho doesn't talk a lot about foxtrotting):


    nice gaited discussion board:


    book - lee ziegler - easy gaited horses.


    • #3
      The best advice I've heard is from Liz Graves, Lee Ziegler and Anita Howe. Walk walk walk. Arena is ok, out in the real world is better. They need to develop the muscles as well as balance to both carry a rider and gait. I walked my boy for several months, about 3 days a week - we worked on turning, flexing, leg yields, all the normal things you teach a young horse - but all at a walk. One day, he offered a few steps of gait. Over the next few weeks, he offered it more often and we worked out our cue for it. Don't push for more gait or speed right away - they have to develop it.

      My horse was barefoot and we used no gimmicks - actually we didn't even use a bit, as my preferred headgear is an english hack. But a snaffle is a very appropriate bit to start with. Check out the books/videos by the above trainers/authors.

      If you have a dressage background (or even if you don't), Larry Whitesell is a good clinician and he has a comprehensive set of DVDs that will help you beyond the basics of starting gait.

      Have fun with your MFT!

      Last edited by trailpal; Sep. 18, 2012, 12:53 AM. Reason: oops, forgot to sign!


      • #4
        Not much to add, since both previous posts offer good advice. The websites and book mentioned are reputable and invaluable.

        Originally posted by Wellspotted View Post

        He will foxtrot in the pasture, but not under saddle.

        I am thinking it is a question of still getting him balanced with a rider, since he is so young.
        I just wanted to get a little clarity, since terminology and understanding of gaits can vary tremendously:

        What gaits does the horse volunteer in pasture? Does the horse trot and canter in addition to gait?
        Are you calling his, um, "intermediate-gait-other-than-a-trot" fox-trotting because he's an MFT, or because it's technically a fox-trot? (http://gaitedhorses.net/Articles/FoxT/FoxTrot.shtml)
        You say he doesn't fox-trot under saddle, but it's necessary to know what gait he IS performing before you can get the best advice. Trouble-shooting a pacey gait is different from trouble-shooting a trotty gait.

        Some things I've experienced you may find helpful (or not. I don't know your background):

        Lots of people call the gait their horse is doing after the terminology associated with that breed. In reality, gaited horses of various breeds perform any number of gaits on the spectrum and getting them to perform the "signature gait" of their breed often requires some training of horse and rider. That's important for showing. Pleasure riders need to go after what is comfortable and balanced.

        The gaits I've seen most often under saddle have been a fairly square rack and a stepping pace, although fox-trot is a pretty common natural gait, too. Horses who gait at liberty but not under saddle are more often going more lateral, not more diagonal. The weight of the rider tends to cause the horse to travel in a more ventro-flexed (less round) manner conducive to lateral movement. So, that's all to say, I'm curious if this horse is actually racking at liberty and pacing under saddle. If he is fox-trotting in pasture but trotting under saddle that's really a different scenario.

        In any case, a nice active flat-walk usually the way to go with a young horse.
        An auto-save saved my post.

        I might be a cylon


        • #5
          How do you know he's not foxtrotting now? The smooth foxtrot has been pretty much bred out of them, it's hard to tell the difference between a foxtrot and a regular trot now. Don't expect the gait to be smooth, there's enough bounce to post.
          In memory of Apache, who loved to play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MjZAqeg7HyE


          • #6
            It's all been said already Best wishes on your young project.


            • #7
              I have a horse that never gaits in the pasture. I always thought he looked gaited but thought he was probably a mix of some gaited breed that didn't gait. What a pleasant surprise when I started trail riding him and he gaited. At first it was more of a pace but then he settled into a foxtrot. Some experienced gaited folks told me the gait. I wouldn't have a clue.

              I did lots of walking in his early training. Now that I know he's gaited, if he starts trotting, I will bring him back to a walk, collect him, and ask for him to gait out again.

              Good luck.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks, everybody! I plan to get out to the barn later this week and/or this weekend and will know more about the young guy then (and have more questions, probably!). I've been pulling extra hours at work this week (which is good in a way but means I haven't been able to do any work with him yet).
                Last edited by Wellspotted; Sep. 18, 2012, 09:05 PM.
                Founder of the People Who Prefer COTH Over FB Clique
                People Who Hate to Rush to Kill Wildlife Clique!
                "I Sing Silly Songs to My Animals!" Clique


                • #9
                  long and low or a bit of low deep and round
                  ask him to use his body 'well' like you would ANY horse- no flopping along nose strung out and ass draggin
                  from a decent walk with good push and engagement of the rear...ask for a bit more
                  if he breaks into a trot or pace
                  half halt
                  ask again

                  when they say walk until he gaits it really means Really Walk, no dawdling...and if available- lots of hills and walk/halt transitions that are sharp and engaged. You don't dawdle into gait- it's work.


                  • #10
                    Make sure he knows what you are asking for when askf or collection. Get him used to tucking that chin slightling and rounding out his back when you slight pick up the reins.

                    Teach him that doesnot mean to stop, But rather to give and tip his nose. Ask him to walk out, faster and faster and collect him up. When he breaks into a trot, half halt and regroup, As long as he gaits and holds it, you can relax the cues.

                    Mine gelding always did much better when he got excited. I would often split off from the others I was riding with so his herd boundness would kick in and his motivation notched up. Then instead of trying to speed him up into a gait, I was more allowing his gait as the max speed. His personal motivation to catch the others helped him to hold that speed. He was always on the brink of wanting to break into a canter, but would stay collected and knew the fastest I would let him go was the foxtrot. So he soon learn to hold that gait.


                    • #11
                      I've trained a few young horses for trail and all the advice above is good but it must be said that the best horses will gait naturally when asked and not allowed to pace or trot. You must video the horse under saddle to see what he is doing if you can't tell and don't have a friend to watch who knows gaits.
                      If you know someone with a good gaited horse one of the easiest ways to get your horse gaiting is to trail ride together and follow the other horse as close as safely possible. I used to have a friend with a wonderful horse that didn't mind a nose up his butt so I took my young out with him. They seemed to want to move like he did and if they got pacy or racky or to fast then they'd run up his horse and back off and gait when given no other choice. I can't describe it well but did this with three different young horses and found it simpler to work with the other horse in front. A old fashioned technique was to ride in freshly plowed fields, makes the horse balance themselves and use their rear end just don't work them too fast, sand also works well.
                      My MFT did the foxtrot naturally but I found her running walk more comfortable, she also racks, 4 beat trots, flat walks but will not dog walk, canters of course. She now 22 and still a pistol.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by HillnDale View Post
                        Lots of people call the gait their horse is doing after the terminology associated with that breed. In reality, gaited horses of various breeds perform any number of gaits on the spectrum and getting them to perform the "signature gait" of their breed often requires some training of horse and rider. That's important for showing. Pleasure riders need to go after what is comfortable and balanced.

                        Read the above post again as it is very good information.

                        My foxtrotter rarely foxtrots on the trail. It is a difficult gait to coax from him and really is not that smooth.

                        His best gait is a single foot/rack. It is smooth and oh so fun. This is the gait I encourage and what we work for.

                        It is important to have someone ride your horse who knows the gaits, recognizes which gait(s) come naturally and then work to perfect that gait. I can't always recognize the gaits from a picture or even watching a horse, but I always know the gait when I ride it.

                        Sometimes the preferred gait is the rider's choice. My horse will foxtrot very well and I could work on that gait IF I wanted to; but I prefer the singlefoot for trail riding so that is what we do. He also trots and canters.

                        Most gaited horses - regardless of breed - have a natural gait they perform the easiest, be it rack, running walk, pace, stepping pace, foxtrot, etc. You have to find that gait, decide if you like riding it, and then develop it.

                        Like Painted Horse said, sometimes gaited horses will gait better when they are motivated. The best gaiting my husband's foxtrotter does is when he's headed for home - haha- or excited about something. He also racks but he is such a calm horse it takes a bit of encouragement to get him to rack.

                        Last weekend we rode with a couple endurance riders who were riding arabians, and trying to keep up with them on the trail was the best exercise for our gaited horses and really encouraged the gait, since they were "motivated".

                        Good luck. I love gaited horses and our foxtrotters are wonderful.