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Icelandic Horse Connection

Lateral Movement of Foals

Foals can have very lateral movement for a while after their birth.

This type of lateral movement is not limited to gaited horses as non-gaited foals have been seen to exhibit this also.

Here are some of the reasons why foals go pacey, even those who have no easy gaits in their background:

[] Long legs, short body -- most creatures with this conformation do some variety of stepping pace because that is the only way they can keep from hitting themselves on a front leg with a hind (Camel, giraffe, some types of dogs, cats, etc.).

[] Long hind legs which put the hocks way behind the butt, preventing, obviously, much lowering of the hindquarters or rounding in the body.

[] Short upright neck, with no withers. Foals are always proportioned this way, and the lack of withers pretty much precludes stretching the cervical ligaments over them. These last two things mean that he is by nature stuck in a somewhat hollow frame for now and the foreseeable future. This is part of it, but since the foal will stay in this relative shape for a while, it is not all of it.

So, on to the "softer" systems that may be causing this:

[] Foals have relatively weak abdominals -- a little pot bellied.

[] A foal has an immature neurological system, that has yet to settle into specific pathways and so doesn't play as much as a role in what he does as the terrain he is negotiating.

[] And above all, he has the flexibility of extreme youth -- he can tie himself in knots, as can just about all babies .. so he has a lot of looseness in his back muscles that he won't have as he matures. This is the first "baby" thing that he will grow out of, even when his proportions stay what they are.

A Standardbred breeder of trotters adds that her foals do the same, and after about a month they go to trotting.

Lee Ziegler, noted gaited horse expert, clinician, judge, and author of Gaits Without Gimmicks, who wrote the above, also adds her feeling that since Standardbreds also come in "pacing" models, that some may feel the gene is hidden in these foals, but it is doubtful since the phenomenon also occurs in Thoroughbred, Warmblood, and other breed foals.

Icelandic Horse Foal, Lateral Gaits

Icelandic Horse Foal, Lateral Gaits

Icelandic Horse Foal, Lateral Gaits

This is is probably not quite as lateral.
Icelandic Horse Foal, Lateral Gaits

And a little canter.
Icelandic Horse Foal, Lateral Gaits

Karen of Windgait Icelandics says:

I've been watching my babies as they grow (quickly), making mental notes about their gaits as they change.

Have any of you other "grand-mares" been noticing what gaits your babies are doing at liberty?

About all of my foals mostly paced their first couple of days. I think that's pretty normal - I was an ad in a major magazine recently (don't remember the product) and a mare (appeared QH) was trotting along with her new foal at her side - with the foal doing a pace, or maybe a step pace. Landi trotted a little his first day, but now I see him step-pace too. He and Tifa have nice little flat walks - in fact I think they all do. Not sure about Isak's gaits yet - he's always harassing a sibling, sleeping or galloping, with little time to show off his intermediate gait(s)! I've seen Tifa do a good bit of running walk - in fact, that seems to be her preference. Kola was a little pacey at first like the others, but now I see her trot a good bit too, and I've caught a picture or two of her foxtrotting.

Interestingly, Landi also had a lot of what folks call "lift" - I call it knee action - his first few days. He trotted around like a little hackney pony! I've seen folks send in pics of their newborn foals lifting their legs, as signs of "talent" - I'm sure what we saw in Landi was simply the loosey-goosey joints of a newborn. I'm not seeing it any more. Sina has virtually no lift - she's a very efficient mover. I'm not a big fan of knee action, since it's a waste of energy for the trail/pleasure horse. I do believe Landi may have his mom's to-die-for canter, but maybe it's too soon to know for sure.

It's funny that we think it's so special when we manage to get a horse to do a flying lead change under saddle. The foals could all do them the day they were born. I love watching the babies. It just amazes me how athletic they are so soon after they are born. Such fun!

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