An older trainer told me that gaited horses should not be ridden in gait for more than five minutes or so at a time, because it’s too hard on their bodies. Is this true? My friends and I love to do a moderately fast gait for a couple of miles at a time, but I don’t want to do anything that will harm my wonderful Spotted Saddle Horse, Beau.
You can gait your horse at moderately fast speeds for much longer than five minutes at a time. I’m sure the trainer must have been talking about gaiting ‘all out,’ or at top speeds. Even then, it’s OK to go for ten minutes or so–providing you are frequently working your horse in good form the rest of the time to help keep him in top physical shape.
The damage from fast gaiting comes from riders who expect their horse to go at a flat out fast gait most of the time, without proper conditioning before hand. Riding the horse frequently in a pace or stepping pace is also a poor idea, as it does not help the horse’s body to become properly conditioned to support the work of a fast gait. Such horses may become hollow backed and suffer back, hock and stifle problems from being worked too hard at gait. Animals who have been encouraged to develop their natural fox trot, rack, or running walk can be kept in better form (and condition) than a horse that is permitted to pace or step pace.
Happy and Smooth Trails!