Willful Horse Wants To Trot
I have two Rocky Mountain geldings, one of which is seven and seems to have a mind of his own. I've owned him two years this month. He has had a trainer working with him, though she lacks knowledge of the gaited breed, and is better at dressage. She has never ridden him through out his training and would instruct me as I rode him. Black Jack, my horse, has some TW in his background and seems comfortable trotting!! But when he does so, it's like he forgets I am on him and when I try to slow him down I have difficulty.
I purchased the bit you recommended for him, but he seems to dislike perhaps the bulkiness, I'm not sure. It was like the one used on your display horses that day, though thicker. I have put him back into the wonder bit, that has the snaffle mouthpiece.
I had purchased this horse as a green broke lad, and I wonder if I'll live long enough to see promise in him. I have an indoor arena, and can ride him daily, but how can I bring out the best in both my horse and me as we don't have knowledgeable gaited horse trainers in my area of Connecticut.
Brenda, do you take horses on your site for training purposes?
Peg Z., Connecticut
Sounds like you've had your hands full. Without actually seeing your gelding, it's impossible for me to say what the exact problem is. I can share with you the most common cause of behaviour such as you describe.
My very first thought is that this is most likely a saddle fitting problem. Most owners are quick to say, "Oh no, that can't be, because. . ." However, we've discovered that a a large majority of the gaited horses we work with are uncomfortable in their saddles, and the behaviour you describe is VERY typical of a horse with pain in its back. Very few, for example, can comfortably be ridden in a rigid tree western type saddle. They need some sort of flexible, or treeless, saddle system because of the greater flexibility required in their backs, both laterally and back to front. A horse that has pain in its back often tends to try to 'rush' through that pain. It is also the MOST common reason for horses with natural gait much preferring the trot or pace.
If you bought the gaited horse bit from us, and it has the mullen mouth with roller bearing in the center, there should be little long-term problem with it. It's not overly bulky. (Check out the bit FAQ's page to see if you're working with the same bit.) Your horse may simply not like it because a.) it has more authority than the bit he's used to, and b.) it encourages him to 'round up' and collect properly, or c.) it's hitting a tooth or teeth in his mouth. If he's uncomfortable in his saddle, collecting up only causes more pain. So he would try to avoid the bit. Your wonder bit allows your horse to go in a more hollow backed position. This is not good for him, long term, but does ease his discomfort for the moment. It is another reliable sign that the problem may originate in your horse's back.
Before you do one other thing, you may need to seek the services of a good equine chiropractor to help work out the kinks in your horse's spine. Also, get his teeth checked. Then, ride that horse in some sort of flexible saddle. The very BEST saddle on the market for gaited horses is a new 'Imus 4-Beat saddle we have designed together-but these are custom order, and you need to make a change now.
If you usually-or can easily-ride english, then try a saddle seat saddle on him. Hunt seat does not work well for gait, because of the generally forward position. If you simply can't borrow an appropriate saddle to try, then at the very least buy one of the Supracor saddle pads now on the market. They are pricey. . .but repay your investment many times over in the form of comfort for the horse. If, however, the saddle is a VERY poor fit, simpy changing pads won't help for long.
I wish I were there to give you a more personal assessment. However, here are all the things that point to the saddle fit problem: rushing, tending to trot, 'having a mind of his own,' uncomfortable in a bit that would cause him to properly collect and round up his back, happier in a bit that permits a more hollow frame. So my bet is that if you eliminate back/saddle problems, you'll be able to encourage a better all around attitude.
Now, to answer your question about me taking in horses for training, most owners need to learn how to train and ride their gaited horses themselves, as it is not generally cost effective to use a trainer for the long term.
The lack of knowledgeable gaited horse trainers is a problem over most of the country. I expect this will change, as the trainers become aware of how prevalent these kinds of horses have become. The problems I'm seeing now are that people are trying to take too many training shortcuts, rather than learn the simple basic training techniques that work to produce a good, long-term saddle gait. The other problem is that traditional trainers aren't willing to recognize that what works for trotting horses isn't as effective when training for gait. But. . .I digress.
Once you get the saddle fit situation under control, you'll need to patiently work through any attitude problems that may exist as a result of your long-term, bumpy start. Please be patient with your boy. . .BUT. Be sure you've got a horse that you can genuinely work with and enjoy. Sometimes there is simply a need to find another horse that we are more comfortable with. If that's the case, it's a kindness to yourself and to the horse to move on, and each of you get a new start with another partner.
Best wishes for a GREAT new year with your horse!