A gaited horse is one who can walk, trot, or run with the correct pacing. A horse trained to gait well has more ways of walking than an untrained horse, but getting a horse who consistently gaits well takes regular, patient training. If you’re willing to put in the time, you’ll be rewarded with a great ride. Here are some tips to remember when properly training your horse.
The first step in any training any horse on various horse gaits is to make sure the horse is comfortable. You need your horse to pay attention to you and the training, and not that ill-fitting tack that’s bothering them. Make sure they have freedom of movement through their back and that you are comfortable on them.
Young horses are not going to learn to gait consistently overnight. This is to be expected, as you are teaching the horse not only the gait itself but also how to communicate with you. A young horse is also not as coordinated or in control of itself as a more mature animal.
A horse that is rushed through its training is likely to be stiff and will eventually need to start training all over again. Be patient and allow a full season.
Nail down the basics
It’s all well and good if your horse can gait as you want, but it’s not all that useful if the horse can’t also turn, slow, and stop on command. Don’t worry about gait training until your horse is steady and consistent with all the basics.
Learn your part
Your horse will learn to gait more quickly if you are a good rider. The typical rider seat is too far forward for a horse to smoothly gait, so learn how to sit slightly back, with your toes, feet, and shoulders in the right position. Each horse is unique, so you might have to adjust a bit as you feel your horse is more or less comfortable, but it’s crucial you learn and practice the general idea.
Walk, walk, walk
When a horse walks, they are using all the same muscles they use for any faster four beat gait. This means that regularly moving your horse at an energetic walk will help them get in shape for gaiting. It’s also easiest to move into gaiting from a walk.
Whenever you train any animal, consistency is always key for the best (and fastest) results. Here, the consistency needs to come in those moments when you move from an active walk into a gait. Once your horse is working the walk consistently, it’s time to increase collection.
Encourage the horse to regularly push the speed of the walk, gently reining them in every time they breaks into a trot or canter. Constantly bringing them back to the walking movement is crucial here. Allowing the horse to move at a trot will undermine the training.
Use the ground
Use the ground: if you’ve ever noticed how much more difficult it is to run on sand than on pavement, you understand this concept. Because some of the kinetic energy of your “push” is absorbed under the foot by shifting sand, you don’t go as far with each step as you would on more solid ground.
Use ground to your advantage when training your horse to gait. You want your horse to propel from the hindquarters in order to do this right, and walking up hills or through sand encourages just that. It will spurs on helpful muscle development.
Consistency and patience are most important when it comes to getting a horse that gaits well every time. Don’t give up, don’t give in, and enjoy the process!