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natural gaited horse training

  • In this video, Brenda Imus explains how to bring out a horse's best natural running walk.

    tennessee walking horse running walk training

  • 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!

  • Brenda Imus discusses and demonstrates simple methods to bring out your horse's best natural gait.


    gait training video

  • We have compiled a list of the most commonly asked training questions about gaited horses - and Brenda Imus has taken the time to answer them thoroughly. Learn how to train and ride your gaited horse naturally, without using any harsh methods, devices or tack.

  • How to train and ride your gaited horse using simple and easy-to-understand techniques that are sound and natural. The gaited horse training articles and videos in this section are chock full of information on how to get your horse to perform an evenly timed 4-beat gait in sound form.

    Each article in this section offers an overview on a particular aspect of gaited horses. Some of these have appeared in print publications, others are unique to this site. All of these articles were written for you by our late mom, author and clinician Brenda Imus. 

  • 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.

    Pretty mare! We have a lovely 12 yr. old TWH mare that looks MUCH like her, except without the star. She also stands at 16.1hh.

    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 RW 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 pretty 'black beauty'!
  • A while ago I was talking with a fellow who owns a gaited horse breeding and showing facility. He was telling me about a recent clinic that had been held there.

    "By the end of the day we had every one of those horses gaiting," he said proudly. As we discussed this further, I realized that the primary objective of the clinic had been to get horses bitted in such a way, and then driven into those bits in such a way, that the horses all would be gaiting. This man was no doubt exceptionally well intentioned. Nevertheless, I winced inside as I imagined the all-too-common picture of these horses rushing around with their backs hollowed out, their noses either exaggeratedly tucked in, or pointed skyward, and their hocks all strung out behind..
    More recently a woman at one of my clinics simply could not understand why I kept asking her to slow her horse down whenever she pushed him into gait. She believed that he was the epitome of what a gaited horse ought to be: smooth, fast, and (in her estimation) quite flashy looking. That was not what I was seeing. I was observing an animal whose back muscles were deteriorating from inappropriate tack and riding. He was stiff and over-flexed at the poll in resistance to his rider’s hands, which were connected to a tortuous bit that she absolutely swore by. I also was seeing an animal who would be a physical wreck by the time he reached his early teens unless his rider experienced a change of heart. Guaranteed. 
    Another rider at a Gaits of Gold clinic had a horse whose front feet were so long that he was displaying significant lameness through the shoulders. She and her farrier had determined that the poor boy wouldn’t gait unless he was ‘properly’ trimmed and shod. She was convinced that the stilted front action contributed to the gait.
    Extreme, you say?  Unfortunately, these types of problems, as well as a score of others, are very much the rule rather than the exception when it comes to gaited horses. Even some very prominent gaited horse trainers are now teaching that gaited horses should not be ridden in a collected frame. One such article in a magazine that is supposedly devoted to naturally gaited horses illustrated the proper way to ride a running walk with a photo of a ‘Big Lick’ horse. I have to believe these people simply haven’t taken time to discover that gaited horses not only can, but should, be ridden with an appropriate type and degree of collection–which is to say, energy or impulsion generated from the haunches that is transmitted up through the back, neck, and poll, and collected through the bridle. It is this proper generation and subsequent collection of energy that ensures the gait, as well as long-term soundness.


    Note that I said proper collection. We’re not talking about the kind of collection that is obtained by highly trained dressage horses, here. Nor am I referring to the false collection obtained when the rider pushes the horse too severely into the bit, before its body has been conditioned to soften, round out and flex. Quite the contrary. What we are striving for is an animal that will produce a consistently fast, loose, swinging walk with plenty of impulsion from the back end. As the horse gains strength, consistency and speed at that walk, the rider begins to request more speed, and increased collection through the reins. Gradually–without the horse ever losing the overall swinging action natural to the four-beat walk–he is ridden strongly up into the bridle. Yes, strongly! A gaited horse needs to work off the bit. 
    However, this degree of collection should not be attempted until the horse is well fit for saddle and bit, and is conditioned to give his entire body to his rider’s hand (you canwatch my gaited horse saddle fitting and equitation video and also watch my bitting demo here . It’s not enough just to crank the horse into the bit–to do so is to invite pain, stiffness and eventual unsoundness. When the rider takes up on the reins while still requesting vigorous forward motion, there must be subtle but extraordinarily important corresponding actions throughout the horse’s body: haunches lowering, back rounding up, flexion through the neck and poll.
    This sounds much more difficult than it actually is. The most important thing a rider of any kind of gaited horse can do is ride their horse at a fast, consistent and swinging walk. What I mean by swinging is that there is action through the loins, back, and neck. In fact, the head should never lose the head and neck action produced by an active walk. The second that happens–even if it seems as though the horse has kicked things up a notch right into a smooth saddle gait–you can be certain your mount has stiffened up his entire body. And why not? Once the horse has been ridden near his fastest walk speed (what I call the ‘breaking point,’) it’s much easier for him to stiffen up and churn his legs than it is to engage his entire body in the very real work of producing a faster walk in good form. Like people, horses tend to be lazy–especially when not well conditioned to a job. 
    Quite honestly, these problems are usually more the rider’s failing than the horse’s. Maintaining an active walk at the breaking point can be very challenging until both horse and rider have become habituated to the practice. Because this is such hard work, it should not be attempted for longer than 10-15 minute stretches until the animal is well conditioned. Break up this work with circles, serpentines, and uncollected walking on a loose rein–but do not permit your horse to indulge in a slow, dragging walk at any time. He needs always to work off his back end. 
    I’ve been accused of teaching only the running walk using this riding technique. Not true. This method of gait training will work to develop your horse’s very best innate gait regardless of what that gait may be. This is because all saddle gaits are a variation of the walk. As the animal gains condition and speed at the walk, the timing will tend to change in accord with his natural conformation and ability. When the work is done properly, it’s nearly impossible to tell when the horse has ‘shifted gears’ from fast walk to his best natural gait. (The Spanish say that a horse with such smooth gait transitions has ‘good thread.’) One of our clinic riders demonstrated this before a large group of auditors recently. It’s fair to say that everyone was amazed when it was pointed out that her fast walking horse had actually slipped into a remarkably smooth, correct fox trot. Once people have the opportunity to observe horses performing their gaits correctly, they realize that anything less is just a poor imitation of what gaited riding should be. Even fairly average looking horses are beautiful when moving with animation and good form. This particular rider received a wide round of applause–which is not uncommon! 
    Beauty, however, is not the main objective of riding in good form. A stiff, undeveloped horse being improperly trained and ridden will likely suffer a number of physical as well as temperamental breakdowns. There may be soreness through the mouth, tongue, jaw, shoulders, poll, neck, back, loins, gaskin, stifle and hocks. This is NO exaggeration. He may be carrying an inordinate amount of weight on the forehand, his muscles will be undeveloped and/or developed improperly, connective tissue and joints will be inordinately strained. This is particularly true of hock and stifle joints. Not surprisingly, these latter problems are the most commonly reported unsoundness conditions among gaited horses in general. You might compare it to a worker who has lifted heavy weights all day for years on end, but never learned to do it properly: eventual physical breakdown is nearly inevitable.
    The damage to such a horse’s psyche is equally bad. A very well known clinician once told me that the worst clinic he ever conducted was one he had promoted for gaited horse owners. "The horses were all ill mannered and disrespectful," he said. "They were exploding all over the place. It must be something in the breeding." I informed him that he had probably been working in an arena full of horses who had been coping with pain and discomfort most of their lives. How would he expect such animals to behave? I think it is a testament to our horses that so many of them do manage to remain kind, respectful, and docile, even under the very worst of circumstances. 
    On the other hand, a gaited horse who is correctly ridden is strengthening connective tissue and generating correct muscle development. He’s learning to use his legs as a proper base of support under his and the rider’s weight. His joints are not being unduly stressed, and he is not in pain. Because he’s comfortable and able to carry weight easily, he enjoys a pleasant frame of mind. He is likely to remain sound well into his twenties.


    Now doesn’t all that make you want to take your horse out for a nice, active walk?
    For more of Brenda Imus' in-depth training information, check out her The Gaited Horse Bible ($29.95)) available HERE
  • Hi,

    My coming four-year-old TWH does the stepping pace when we gait fairly slowly. However, when asking for any speed, he breaks into a hard pace. I've had him for about a year and walk him about 98% of the time. I've started him slowly and have gradually asked for more reach and speed at the walk but as soon as he breaks into gait, its pace,pace,pace. His gait gets very rough when going downhill. That is his gait of choice in the pasture as well. He likes to travel with his head up high so I'm sure his back is far from rounded. I've been trying to get him to lower his head and round his back but so far, no luck. Any suggestions?

    Plan to take this slowly. Your 4-year old is still very young to be performing proper gait at speed. I wouldn't expect it. What you're doing now is totally appropriate--but more on that later in this answer.

    The first most important thing to do is make sure the animal is comfortable. The fact is, most of the horses I deal with are in pain, and their owners don't know it. You can't hope to obtain a good, fluid gait if the animal is stiff and sore. They need to be very well fit for saddle and bit before gait training can progress.

    Most traditional types of saddles are not appropriate for our horses. Walking horses used to be ridden only in saddle seat saddles. Today most riders prefer a trail saddle, usually western. A good running walk (or fox trotting) horse really should have a saddle with some kind of flexible tree. I want every single gaited horse owner to own a saddle that really works for them and their horses.  Learn all about the Imus 4-Beat Saddle here.
    Please, do NOT purchase a saddle just because it's touted as a 'gaited horse saddle.' I've found that many of these simply do NOT work very well-the horses need more flexibility than these generally allow.

    If you cannot purchase a different saddle, then at the very least invest in an open cell style pad to alleviate pressure points. Most gaited stock need so much more flexibility through the loins, back and neck that it is almost certain that a rigid tree system will cause pain, and limit an animal's ability to obtain and sustain a good quality gait. Supracor puts this pad out, and I've been very impressed by it. It's not cheap--but costs much less than an unsound horse, or an entirely new saddle. 

    All this may sound like just so much product 'hawking,' but I assure you it's not. I never intended to do more than offer instructional information, as I'm a teacher at heart. But it's been painfully evident that our horses desperately NEED products that allow them greater freedom of motion and flexibility throughout their loins and backs, and bits that are effective, but not painful. So this business has had to evolve to offer products to address these issues, so that I could get one with the business of helping people to train for gait.

    The downhill pace is very difficult to take, isn't it? You deal with this by using a good, limited action three piece bit (NOT a 'walking horse bit'), and then use each rein to pick up the horse's shoulder just as that side's leg begins it's downward arc. It takes practice, but this will change the timing of the gait, and encourage the horse to shift his weight more backward. . .which will solve the problem. Be patient with yourself and with him, and this technique will prove very useful.
    May all your trails be happy, and smooth!
  • I’ve had some folks e-mail to tell me that they’ve gone to a trainer or clinician who used light weights and other gaited training devices to seemingly good effect. They became convinced that such artificial training aids are effective, and harmless.

    I beg to disagree.

    There's much to-do made about the fact that the devices used in these instances may be very light weight. What most people don't understand is that, unlike humans, horses have no muscle in their lower limbs to lift weight. This means that a horse uses a finely tuned leverage system based on soft tissue – tendons and ligaments – to lift its legs. Adding weight will therefore easily cause exaggerated motion in the leg, which quickly 'enhances' the gait. It also places incredible stress on those vulnerable soft tissue structures.

    Also, because there is no muscle in the lower leg, the strain on the knee and shoulder (or hock and stifle) is phenomenal. Only 6 oz.? Think about that being equivalent to 6 pounds by the time the torque reaches the shoulder (or hock). Then imagine that action being repeated 60 times every minute. The horse's leg has effectually lifted 360 lbs. during that one minute. Weights on two legs? 720 lbs. a minute.  A fifteen minute workout is equivalent to a marathon! Sorrier still, a weighted shoe is a permanently installed device, so the horse has no opportunity to get relief from all that heavy lifting. It would be tantamount to our asking a person with an above-the-knee prosthetic to wear heavy shoes – except, of course, human legs carry much less body weight than do horses’.

    The next point generally made is that these devices help young horses learn to gait, and can be removed once 'muscle memory' has been established.

    This is also untrue. Muscle memory can and will be forgotten within a relatively short time after the action devices are removed. Have you ever been roller or ice skating for a couple of hours, and noticed upon taking off your skates that your ‘muscle memory’ was dictating that you move as though you still wore skates? How long did this effect last? Since the training devices on gaited horses are left on for a lot longer than a few hours, the muscle memory will last longer than this – but in the same way, the effect will eventually be lost. In addition to this, the young horse who hasn't yet developed muscle memory is the one whose finely balanced, vulnerable structures should especially not be subject to weights, chains, or badly conceived trimming angles.

    From a trainers’ point of view, these techniques work very well. The horse proves his or her ability to provide a dramatic improvement in gait. Then the horse (hopefully!) has the action/training devices removed. . .goes home. . .loses the gait. . .and comes back for retraining later in the year. The poor owners generally assume the problem is all their fault. After all, the trainer can get the horse to gait!

    About training chains. They chaffe, and the horse will quickly lift its leg to try to rid it of an irritant, thus changing the timing of the gait and giving more lift in front. It's an instinctual action brought on by the horse's sense that anything interfering with its lower legs puts it at risk, and should be shaken off. As usual, the horse is right in regard to understanding what constitutes a danger to itself. The horse will suffer physical strain if the amount of lift with each stride is greater than that for which it is conformed. Once again, the trainer is depending on an instinctual avoidance response, as opposed to gradually and logically bringing the horse to a place where reason and sound riding techniques prevail. Also again, any muscle memory developed in response to the artificial device is eventually forgotten once the device is removed.

    Folks: make sure your horse is comfortable, and then work the walk. It's easy, long lasting, great exercise for you and your horse, a good relationship builder - and guaranteed not to cause any of these all-too-common physical or mental problems on down the road.

    Watch: Gaited Horse Saddle Fitting and Equitation

    Watch: Bitting the Gaited (and non-gaited) Horse


    1.  Don’t expect your young, or new, horse to gait very well right “out of the box.” Young horses need time–often a full season or two–to correctly develop the necessary coordination, muscles and neurological memory to be able to obtain and maintain a consistently good quality 4-beat gait. The same thing is true of a newly purchased horse. Many gaited horses have been rushed through training. This results in stiff, poorly gaited animals that need to be brought back to basic work under saddle. That’s your job. If you take the time to do it right, it will pay rich rewards for many years to come.
    2. Don’t neglect the basics. (Ground work, line driving, stopping, bending, etc.) A gaited horse is still a horse, and needs to know much more than how to cover ground in a fast, smooth manner. A horse that can gait super fast becomes downright dangerous if he gets so undisciplined that he won’t respond to your turn, slow down and halt aids equally as fast. Give your horse a few months’ of basic training before even thinking about the gait.
    3. Consistently ride your horse right up to–but not beyond–the point where he wants to break to trot, pace, or gait. I call this the ‘breaking point.’ As you practice this technique, make transitions between an active, swinging free walk and an increasingly collected fast walk. This is called walking your horse into gait, and is the single most important riding technique one can use. Over time your horse will be able to increase speed and his ability to flex and stretch, until one day his collected walk is so fast that he’s actually performing his best natural gait, in the best possible form. It’s really that simple, but does take time.
    4.  Make certain the saddle fits, not just when the horse is standing still, but also as it moves. When gaiting, each one of your horse’s legs needs to move independently of every other leg. This requires tremendous coordination and a high degree of suppleness through the body. The muscles of loins, back, and shoulders in particular need to be able to stretch and flex freely. Often a more flexible, well-fitted saddle can dramatically improve a horse that’s not gaiting properly. For more info on this subject, check out my Gaited Horse Saddle Fitting and Equitation Video Here.
    5. Learn the basic mechanics of how bits work (you can watch my video here) then choose one that is humane, effective, and fits your particular horse’s needs, like our 2nd Generation Imus Comfort Gait Bit. Stay away from severe gaited horse bits. I also discourage the use of so-called ‘Tom Thumbs,’ or any other kind of bit that incorporates both a broken mouthpiece and a shank. These bits teach a horse to get up behind the bit to avoid the nutcracker effect of the broken mouthpiece compounded by the pressure of the shanks. Choose a curb bit that permits your horse to relax and enjoy the feel of your hands through the reins and bit.
    6. Learn & practice gaited horse equitation, as the way you balance yourself will greatly enhance, or hinder, the gait. The typical stock seat position, whereby the rider sits up on his/her crotch, generally places the rider too far forward to encourage gait. In essence, sit a gaited horse with your butt slightly tucked, shoulders open, elbows in, and feet slightly (and I do mean slightly) ahead of the vertical. Your toes should still not be pointing down, nor should they be pointed at the sky. Your foot should be almost level with the ground, with the toes pointing slightly up. Practice to see what works best with your horse, as they–and we–are all different.
    7. Work your horse at the walk, walk, and more walk. All of the intermediate saddle gaits are faster variations of the walk. Therefore, energetic walking helps develop all the necessary muscles needed for a four beat gait. It also helps to program your horse’s neurological memory to get him set, or established, in gait.
    8. About the trot and canter: Do not allow your horse to trot until the gait is well established. Simply check him back into the bridle slightly, and ride at the breaking point. A horse that is pacey may be encouraged to canter, as it helps teach him how to break up the extremely lateral action of the pace. A trotty horse, however, is likely to try to shortcut the very hard work of gaiting by leaping into a canter lead every time you ask for an upward transition. Therefore it is usually advisable not to canter such a horse until the gait is firmly established.
    9. Use deep going ground, and hills, to your advantage. Riding through sand, freshly plowed fields, etc., is a great way to teach the horse how to move with impulsion from the hindquarters. Hill work speeds up correct muscle development, as well as improves hindquarter impulsion. A pacey horse can be worked strongly uphill, as that encourages diagonal action. A trotty horse should be encouraged toward more speed when going downhill, as that encourages lateral action. (Always be careful not to speed up so much when going downhill that your horse loses its balance.)
    10. Don’t look for any ‘magic bullets.’ The only secret ingredient to developing a gaited horse is good basic horsemanship combined with many hours in the saddle. Too often riders run from one ‘horse guru’ to another looking for some magic formula that will cause their horse to suddenly become the magnificently gaited steed they envision. What usually happens is that the rider switches tack and alters riding techniques on a too-frequent basis. This causes confusion for the horse, and increasing frustration for the rider. Relax, enjoy the horse, practice these simple tips. . .and in due time, you’ll have the best gaited horse on the block!

    For more free gait training articles and videos please visit our Gait Training Library!



    Also from Brenda Imus:

    The Gaited Horse Bible:  Year-by-year basic training—from yielding in-hand to obtaining a correct flat walk under saddle—and advanced schooling—including flexion, collection, and lateral work to improve natural gaiting ability—is broken down into useful instruction that anyone can put into practice.

  • Does your gaited horse tend to trot? It can sometimes be more of a challenge to 'smooth out' the gaits of a gaited horse with a strong trot tendency than it is to work with a pacier animal. There are a few reasons why this is so. First of all, gaitedness is essentially based on the animal's ability to perform a laterally based gait. In other words, there must somewhere be the innate 'blood,' or genetic ability, to break from the strictly diagonally based trot to something more lateral. In the horse population as a whole, trotting blood is much more prevalent than pacing blood. It is also true that 'a trot breeds stronger than a pace.' If you breed a trotter and a pacer together, the resulting offspring will tend more toward trot than pace. Even young horses thus bred who demonstrate an intermediate gait early on tend to drift more toward the trot as weanlings and yearlings, becoming strongly confirmed to that gait before ever seeing a saddle.

    Now, therefore, you own a horse that wants to trot, trot, trot. You know this animal has some gaited blood, and should be able to do a good saddle gait. How do you bring it out?
    The first thing to do with such a horse is encourage it to relax. Don't ask it to gait at speed. A horse that is stressed will tighten up and do whatever gait is currently the easiest. So for at least one full week (sometimes much longer), simply ride the horse at various speeds at the walk while asking it to bend and give to your legs and hand. Soft and supple-as usual-are the operative words here.

    Once the horse has relaxed its mind and body, and learned to trust that you aren't going to push it beyond its ability, begin to ask for more speed. Since downhill inclines encourage more lateral action, try to work the horse at slightly more speed while riding down gentle inclines. Be careful not to overdo this! You might find yourself taking a bad tumble if the horse stumbles at speed on a steep hill. If the horse breaks to a straight trot (you'll know!) bring it back to a walk. When riding uphill, never ask for more than a strong walk-or perhaps an easy, relaxed canter, if your horse is mature. Do not allow the horse to trot.

    Heavier riders increase the tendency toward lateral action, so don't hesitate to use a heavy saddle, or allow a heavy rider to put some time on the horse. Weight, in this case, is a good thing! (We knew that had to be true somewhere in this world, didn't we?)

    These practices alone may help you obtain an acceptable intermediate gait-most likely it will be the diagonally oriented fox trot. If that happens, then simply keep working the horse as you have been, gradually asking the horse for more speed at gait, for slightly increasing lengths of time. Remember, however, that you're asking the horse to use its body in an entirely new way, and don't expect too much, too fast. If you make the horse sore, it will be less able and willing to cooperate with future efforts.

    If these simple devices don't produce an acceptable gait, then you're going to have to introduce your horse to lateral work. This teaches your horse to give you independent control of his fore and back ends. Once that kind of control is established from the saddle, when two diagonal sets of legs are working together in a hard trot, you can use your riding aids to literally 'bump' them out of synchrony. Voila'! Intermediate gait.

    Lateral work trains the horse to become increasingly responsive to the rider's hand, seat and leg aids. While this work requires diligence, it needn't be complicated. The payoff is in vastly improved overall horsemanship abilities, as well as in a greatly improved riding horse. I encourage all riders to learn some of these basic techniques, and teach them to their mounts. It is literally the difference between being a mere passenger who knows only how to stay up on top of a horse and make it do some general riding chores, and a true rider who enjoys a working partnership with the animal.

    Lateral Basics

    Start this work by teaching your horse, from the ground, to give to pressure. You can actually begin this work even with a very young foal-but horses of any age are capable of learning these exercises. Stand at the horse's side, holding the reins (or lead rope) and use your hand or a riding crop (gently!) to push the gaited horse's haunches away from you, while keeping its front feet in place. If necessary, you can help the horse get the message by standing with its front end 'trapped' in a corner, but with room for the back end to swing around. Once he knows what you want, work him in an open area. Practice this until the horse knows exactly what's expected-it may take several short sessions. Now (assuming your gaited horse is at least green broke) repeat the lesson from the saddle.

    Next, teach the horse to keep it's hind feet in place, while moving its front feet away from you when you give a slight push at the shoulder. Initially you might need to place the horse's haunches in the corner, with room for the front end to swing around, to help it understand your request. Again, once he's cooperating with you while you're on the ground, teach him how it translates under saddle.
    As with all work, keep the sessions to about 15 minutes. Be excessive with praise when the horse does what you want. If you or the horse gets excited or grows impatient, move on to something easier and more fun. An excited, nervous or impatient horse is not one that's in a learning frame of mind.

    Here's to a happy, comfortable horse-and a happy, comfortable rider!
  • The walk is the 'mother of all gaits' and every 4-Beat gait stems from the walk. This video shows how to get your horse to work at an active walk with impulsion, which will help build the proper muscle and neurological memory to produce an evenly timed 4-Beat gait.

    natural gaited horse training