First and Foremost: Basic Training Before Gait Training
Question to Bob Blackwell: "We've been talking on another list about the training of gaited horses.....
doing all the basic, foundation stuff first without worrying about gait.
Answer from Bob:
This is what I do with the horses that we raise. We talk to them and handle
them nearly every day of their lives. They get taught first off that WHOA means
stop! lock all4s! Do not move! from there we can rub them all over, handle
their feet, clip, etc. We teach them to give to pressure. If I touch them on the
neck they do not push back, they move away. If I touch them on the chest they
back away. If I grab their forelock or mane and start to walk away they
follow. In this way they are taught to neck rein, backup, and lead with no gimmicks
We saddle, bridle, pony, and pack them from weaning time on. When we start to
ride them it is no big change. Just a transfer of signals from the ground to
from their backs.
We start riding them their 3rd year. (although I think that the kids have
been on most of them sooner) We teach them to carry weight, get used to a moving
being on their backs, get their forward, backward, stop, start, and turn
commands. We give them full basic training and keep them quiet and relaxed. We work
them with lowered heads, rounded necks, and backs. We do not ask for any
speed or gait until they have the basics down pat. I don't worry that they won't
gait! I KNOW they will, it was bred in! When first asked for speed they might
trot but I have never had one to pace!
I have a 7 yr. old stallion that is still a work in progress. I got him as a
coming three yr. old. He had not had a lot of handling. He was halter broke to
lead and tie, he would load easily, and he had been saddled a time or two. I
gave him a full 30 days of nothing but ground work. I started to ride him and
soon discovered that he was too immature both physically and mentally. I
turned him out to grow up, I did keep him aware of his ground work. As a 4 yr. old
I rode him a little but we had other horses that needed time so that they
could move on. I did get him trained to drive. His 5 yr. old year saw him ridden
more but, clinics and other obligations cut into my time.
Last spring and
summer with my detached retina and losing Char's dad the horses didn't get much
attention til fall. We started two geldings and used Joe for a lot of stuff he
really wasn't ready for, but, he handled very well! I have not asked him for
much in the way of speed until the last few weeks. Joe has never had any tendency
toward lateral gaits. He travels in a relaxed manner with a level head set,
we clocked him this morning at 11 MPH in teeth clacking, ear flopping FT! I
realized that at 7 yrs old both Yank and The Witch were working in a spade bit
while Joe is still in a side pull or snaffle. We will be working 4 when the
weather breaks. Riding two and ponying two at a time as well as getting some
conditioning on the ones that will be making our big ride. Fun times coming!!
That was the long answer. The short answer is; Yes they get all of the basics
before they are ever asked to gait!