How Do Gaited Horses Have to be Ridden to Maintain Their Gait?

My name is Mary K. -I LOVE your site!!

My husband & I have had TWH for 30 years now. MOST of the training I did myself because I didn't want my horse abused by other trainers  (our first stallion was abused in the "performance" methods. I quickly removed him but not before damage had been done. I learned a lot over time and was lucky enough to have Roy Larson as my teacher (he trained many Olympic riders and steeds). We won most everything we entered which includes many regional championships, state championships (etc.) so I assume that means my training must be at least reasonable.
Anyway to make a long story short…


We bred a friend's mare and now we have a dream of a black beauty filly. I've been doing all the training myself and she's coming along fine. She's 2 1/2, is 16 hands+ and weight is 1200. The vet had us on no exercise at all until a few months ago due to her pasterns being too steep. Surgery was looming over us since she was 3 months old but he has given her a clean bill of health now (accept I'm still not allowed to do any round pen work or work for too long at a time). Her bones were not growing fast enough to keep up with the soft tissue and caused knuckling over. She still has very steep pasterns but she is sound and doesn't trip anymore.
I have two questions….


First, will those steep pasterns require special training for her running walk? (She seems to do all gaits equally…sometimes she paces, sometimes trots and also does a beautiful running walk) but all equally without favoring one gait.


Second, since I was not able to do much in her groundwork (except for manners etc.), I never got her trained to park when she was tiny enough to manipulate her body due to the tremendous strain it would have put on her legs. Any suggestions as to how to teach her now at 1200 pounds. We have her trained to back and move away from pressure. She can be completely voice commanded without any tack. She is quite headstrong but listens and obeys very well.


Thank you for your time and I truly look forward to your response.
Mary K.


Since your horse does the entire gait gamut (from trot to pace), the running walk shouldn't be a problem for her, or require anything special because of her pasterns. I would suggest that you never even think about putting any extra weight on her shoes, because of the additional joint stress. You might even consider allowing her to go barefoot behind, and placing keg shoes in front. That sometimes helps a running walk horse. You will definitely want to teach her how to balance herself, or collect up, very correctly. This will help to keep her weight over the top of her legs, so they act like good columns of support. If she moves all stretched out, it will likely cause problems with her joints later on.


For that exact reason, I don't think it's a good idea to teach any horse to stretch out, or park. It's very hard on their joints, so all I ever do is ask them to stand square. Given your mare's special circumstances, parking out is a particularly bad idea. You'll have a challenge keeping her from developing side bones and other sorts of unsound-nesses related to steep pasterns, without the extra stress of parking her out. I would suggest that she be taught, simply, how to stand square.

Lots of luck with your girl!