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Is riding a gaited horse really easier on your back?

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  • Is riding a gaited horse really easier on your back?

    I took Alice out this past weekend for a beautiful ride with a group from our barn. About halfway through the ride (Alice is a haflinger with pony gaits, ie, jackhammer trot), my back was killing me from the base of my neck to about my bra strap. I keep threatening to sell Alice for a gaited STB, but so far her sweet face and temperment keep me from putting her on the market. Plus, would riding a gaited horse really help with back pain anyway?
    One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf

  • #2
    not quite gaited

    I used to own a quarter horse mare that I rode on trails. She was very heavy on the forehand, somewhat choppy gaits, and overall a physical effort to ride. I could ache for a couple of days after riding her. I finally sold her and got an arab mare who is as smooth as silk. The difference is unbelievable. This mare is so light in the bridle, and it feels effortless to ride her. I am almost never sore after a long ride.

    So while she isn't gaited, I am a firm believer that a smoothe horse makes all the difference in trail riding.


    • #3
      I've always heard they are good for people suffering from bad backs. I have a good back, but I would consider one for my next horse, plus I heard they have pretty ground covering strides.
      MnToBe Twinkle Star: "Twinkie"

      Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!


      • #4
        Ya can't beat a gaited horse! Several of us gaited owners swear that going for a ride HELPS our back if its aching! I think you need to test drive some. Some have nodding walks (TWH) and could hurt a back I believe. Paso Fino....no movement there.


        • #5
          How your back feels depends on the individual horse. I get a lot of back pain if I ride a TWH -- the big rolling gait just kills me. On the other hand, I can ride my Paso Fino all day long with no problem. I also have no back pain with my Arabian mare -- she has a very nice smooth trot. So gaited may not be the answer or it might be. Best thing is to try out different horses and see what fits.


          • #6
            How do you ride her trot? Sitting or posting? My arab had a huge trot-I had to post, or 2point on her, but she was a great trail horse! I rode a friends gaited horse, and it was alright...personally I enjoy posting or sitting the trot. I feel it's 'really riding'. If I wanted to glide along, I'd drive a cadillac on the trails.
            Equine Massage Therapy Classes and Rehab for Horses


            • #7
              Where I live, gaited horses are the mount of choice for the over-fifty set. I'm paying attention, since I'm rapidly approaching the half-century mark myself. They all say the gaited horses are easier on one's back.

              Hmph. Looks damned uncomfortable to me. They all ride with their feet braced forward, hair flying straight back like a windsock in a gale. Horse's hips going like Carmen Miranda. Think I'll keep my paint horse and my draft cross.

              But if you really decide to sell that haffie, let me know.
              I'm not ignoring the rules. I'm interpreting the rules. Tamal, The Great British Baking Show


              • #8
                Originally posted by MassageLady View Post
                How do you ride her trot? Sitting or posting? My arab had a huge trot-I had to post, or 2point on her, but she was a great trail horse! I rode a friends gaited horse, and it was alright...personally I enjoy posting or sitting the trot. I feel it's 'really riding'. If I wanted to glide along, I'd drive a cadillac on the trails.

                I can sit to her slow trot and post or stand up for her faster trot. She doesn't have a huge, extended trot. The Paso Fino is the cadillac!


                • #9
                  IMO your upper body posture has the greatest influence on you degree of back pain. And your stirrup and leg position greatly influences your upper body posture. I've injured both my upper spine and lower spine and have found that the most comfortable position (also backed up by the chiropractors) is to have a nice erect posute with a slight hollow in the lower back. Slouching, rounding over with the shoulders or lower back will aggrevate damaged discs, pinch on nervers or just plain make your back muscles ache from increase work.

                  Now, when riding a gaited horse, You can just sit so easily upright, because you aren't having to post. Same with riding western as long as you aren't posting or 2-pointing, your upper body can be very upright. Of course your feet may be way out ahead of you.

                  Most saddles are constructed with the stirrups hung too far forward to get your legs under you with shoulder, hip and heel aligned. Endurance riders have figured this out and most saddles consturucted for serious endurance riding have the stirrup hangers moved further back so that the riders can post more vertically and keep their upper body upright. This is the reason that typical english saddles really aren't ideal for endurance riding, the stirrip bars are too far forward, yes, even the dressage saddles. The bars are part of the front metal arch of the tree and besides causing the rider to have to tip forward to 2-point they concentrate the riders weight onto the front of the saddle.

                  The BM Sport Saddle, endurance model, has the stirrup hangers much firther back. The Sensation and Freeform treeless saddles have moveable stirrup hangers and many of the treeless saddles can be customized when they are being built for you. The saddles that are based on a "western" type tree can also have the stirrups hung further back but the correct tree must be used.

                  If your upper back aches you are probably rounding your upper body and leaning forward. If your lower back hurts you are probably rounding your lower back and/or leaning forward. But most of us "think" we're straight. Have another person watch you while you trot around an arena, posting. Are your legs truly under you and your posture upright??

                  I tip forward from old habits after years of riding hunt seat. I'm much better since switching to treeless saddles but I find that when riding for miles on rocky/technical trails that I start hunching over because I spend so much time focusing on the trail surface in front of my horses ears! I was at the Equine Affaire Expo last week and participated in a Becky Hart seminar based on Centered riding. a big bunch of us got in the arena with her and did some dismounted exercises. One was hard eyes/soft eyes. I over concentrate my focus on those trails and really tighten my upper body. No wonder I get sore across my shoulders. I'd love to find an instructor to work with that used similar techniques.



                  • #10
                    I think it depends on your back and the gait of the gaited horse, not very helpful, maybe, but would suggest you ride a few. I have TWH with a big trot that when collected or extended is pretty comfortable. The running walk is way comfortable but it might make you a little seasick....My other horse is a racking mare and even after a year and a half since I first rode her I laugh in delight every single time she racks--something about the gait seems to connect directly to the pleasure center of my brain. I also get tickled when she "wicky wacks" a much frowned upon mixed gait. She can trot but seldom does under saddle. When she does, its pretty smooth. I think the way gaited horses are put together and "wired" just makes them a smoother ride no matter which gait they are using. They are not necessarily "easier" to ride, though, which is where people who cant be bothered with learning how to post mess up--they transfer sloppy non gaited riding to the gaited horse and its still sloppy. The feet forward chair seat thing is partly from the saddleseat show tradition. You do need to sit heavy and back a bit to elicit some of the racking gaits--when exaggerated that seat is as silly and counterproductive as the ass in the air "hunt" seat you see sometimes.


                    • #11
                      I have a TWH and non-gaited horses as well. I also broke my back in two places about 4 years ago. I actually seem to do better on the trotting horses than the TWH- although the sit and glide is definetly fun!!
                      "As soon as you're born you start dyin'
                      So you might as well have a good time"


                      • Original Poster

                        I might be tensing up and leaning forward. I never thought about it. Our last ride I had to make Alice ride last as she just wasn't in the mood to trail ride and kept threatening another horse. I may have reverted to the "defensive hunch" that you see most riders do when they feel their horse is about to do something.

                        I ride her in a big horn haflinger western saddle, and do post the trot. I have to, as her pony trot would knock the fillings out of your teeth if you try to sit it. I did ride a Paso my mom had last year. He was so hot you had to blind fold him to get on, but once you were mounted, he was all business. And very smooth, too.

                        I was wondering why you see so may TW riders (well, the ones I see on RFD TV, LOL) ride leaning back with their feet pushed forward. I would think that would put them behind the motion and would be hard on their horses' backs.
                        One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. - Virginia Woolf


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Orn1218 View Post
                          I used to own a quarter horse mare that I rode on trails. She was very heavy on the forehand, somewhat choppy gaits, and overall a physical effort to ride. I could ache for a couple of days after riding her. I finally sold her and got an arab mare who is as smooth as silk. The difference is unbelievable. This mare is so light in the bridle, and it feels effortless to ride her. I am almost never sore after a long ride.

                          So while she isn't gaited, I am a firm believer that a smoothe horse makes all the difference in trail riding.
                          That's funny, because it's my mom's Arab's really springy and animated trot that can make me a little sore. But my QH's smooth, flat-kneed jog keeps me comfortable.

                          I guess it depends on what feels better as a rider, and how the horse goes.
                          Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


                          • #14
                            My Arab, POA, and QH are as different as night and day. The POA and the Arab are both a dream to ride. The QH...eh, not so much. Though she is much more comfortable than some I've ridden. I don't personally care for the movement of gaited horses for riding. I just like posting and I love a good, solid, true canter. Everytime I've cantered on a gaited horse it felt disunited and awkward. I don't like the surfing feeling of a gaited horse, but that's just me. But I could see where the gaited horse would be so much easier on your back and joints!


                            • #15
                              In my case yes,yes and YES.

                              I am a farrier (with resulting back) with a slight scoliosis, and arthritis in 4 vertibrae, both sacro-illiac joints and both hips.

                              Not only is riding my Paso Fino easier on my joints than riding my other horses, it actually seems to help a lot, somewhat with my back, but a LOT with my hips.

                              When they start to feel particularly cranky, an hour or so on the trails at a good clip on Tiempo can bring days of relief.
                              I recognized with despair that I was about to be compelled to buy a horse ~
                              Edith Somerville and "Martin Ross"

                              "Momma" to Tiempo, Tucker and Puff, RIP my beautiful Norman 8/2012


                              • #16
                                Oh my goodness, I love my gaited horses and I can't even imagine going back to a non gaited breed. I'm 32 and discovered gaited horses 4 years ago. I can actually get off after a several hour ride and move my arm where as before when I rode a trotting horse my right arm (injured in a fall many moons ago when I was a kid) would be dead and so sore, I wouldn't be able to lift it.

                                I ride Missouri Fox Trotters.

                                I will say this though, gaited horses are individuals and while they may perform the signature gait of their breed it may be uncomfortable to you. The best way to find that out is to ride different horses. I've ridden two MFT's that killed my back, not while riding but I was sore afterwards, they had to much action in their movements. Had I ridden those horses first I never would have bought a MFT. Now I have two.
                                Missouri Fox Trotters-To ride one is to own one

                                Standardbreds, so much more then a harness racing horse.


                                • #17
                                  All Breeds

                                  You can get a smooth gaited horse in just about any breed. I have written ponies and horses that are just put together right and it is like riding silk. My husband has a TB that when his brain works has some of the smoothest gaits I have ever ridden. I am including some Walkers and SB in that list. Not all running walks are bouncy and not all drafts are heavy on the front end. Just keep trying and you will find one that suits you.


                                  • #18
                                    Yeah, I find myself having to lean back with feet forward to get my Spotted Saddle rack. I do not like this but it is the only way I can do it with her.

                                    However, her walk is not comfortable to ride on. My Arab is so smooth at walk but her trot needs some working. I think that once she gets into better shape, she'd trot more smoothly.

                                    I am really thinking about getting this book, The Rider's Pain-Free Back by James Warson, MD - it directly addresses the issue I have now...I have bad back but I want to go endurance. In the book, it details on how we ought to ride, what we need to do, and what exercises will be good for us.

                                    Like what the other says, ride the horse at all gaits and get the one that is the most comfortable at all gaits. Good luck
                                    Last edited by Prieta; Nov. 16, 2007, 01:37 PM.
                                    Will get a dream horse!
                                    More riding, swimming, and rowing, less posting


                                    • #19
                                      I have a TB I adore.

                                      However, I cheated on him once.

                                      I rode a friend's Peruvian Paso. It was amazing. Crossing deep footing that would have my horse, Willy, lurching this way and that, I felt nothing. With one foot on the ground at all times, theirstability is greatly increased. And the gaiting... well, you just have to try it.

                                      Granted she was a high quality Peruvian with well-developed gaits - so it does make a difference what horse, not just what breed.

                                      I had fantasies of adding to my stable. If I was crossing the mountains, spending all day in the saddle, hopping on and off my horse all the time, I am sorry, but Willy would be staying in the barn and I would ride Esperanza!

                                      When my life depended on a quick getaway or covering a lot of miles, then Willy would get the nod.

                                      I have read of a woman who foxhunts her Peruvian because she has back issues and that is the only way she can stay in the sport!
                                      Publisher, http://www.endurance-101.com
                                      Blog: http://blog.seattlepi.com/horsebytes/


                                      • #20
                                        I ride an Azteca. Bought him for my back

                                        I love to trail ride, and take dressage lessons. I had a wonderful Hanoverian mare, but her strides were too big, and couldn't ride without pain.

                                        My trainer suggested an Azteca. (Andalusian/QH cross) He is sensitive, sensible, and very smooth to ride, but not gaited. I've gone out on long rides with no back soreness, plus equitation/dressage lessons and feel better than ever in the past 9 years of riding. He is a wonderful, willing partner.
                                        An Andalusian would do just as well, but the Azteca's are more affordable.

                                        I also bought a thinline pad, the very thin one recommended for rider's with bad backs. That helps too.

                                        Good luck in finding a smooth horse.
                                        Last edited by nmazteca; Nov. 16, 2007, 12:11 PM. Reason: Left out info