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. Your opinion?"

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 or props.

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!