Equestrian Blogs > Montana2007's blogs > tripping gaited horses

tripping gaited horses

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Hi, Trailgaiter! Welcome to the funny farm.

Mr. Montana, what these ladies have said is all correct. Most of the farriers of gaited horses do leave the front shoes set back slighty. Also, the saddles can make a difference...Some walkers can use normal saddles. It also helps to set the western saddle back slightly. As long as the front does not go down hill. The girth should be back behind the leg a few inches.

I do have some experience with Walking horses. In fact, many of the hunters in this area use them for field trials over all these mountains and valleys. They were bred to ride on plantations, and for uneven terrain. I have found that those who come from the "Big Lick" (with those big padded up shoes) background have a very difficult time on uneven ground. These take a very long time to teach to pick up their feet.

As almost any breed of horse (without physical issues) gaited or not, a horse that stumbles or trips often is either not aware of where its feet are landing, or it is not in balance. This does not happen as often with horses that are allowed to "be out on the range" or who have been in large fields most of their lives. Those who are kept in stalls, or have spent a great deal of time in the show ring are usually the ones that have this issue.

There are many techniques that can be used to teach a horse how to balance better under a rider. This is what I have used with horses that are "trippy".

First, get four logs or round poles. They do not need to be tall. Place them 3 and half feet apart to start (you can build up to 4 feet) and let the horse walk through them. At first the horse will knock them all over the place. Walk the horse over those poles about 15 times each session until the horse can walk through without knocking them all over. (This might easily take a few weeks to a month) Than change the distance to 10 feet between poles and repeat. Do this only at the walk as the gaited horses may start pacing if this is practiced at higher speeds. The poles will teach the horse to become more aware of where its feet are landing, as it learns how to swing its legs from further up. (The hind legs step under more from the hips, and the front legs from the shoulder) The horse will also start stretching its neck, as it lowers its head down and forward. as it learns to look where they are going. This can also be done out on the "trails" by asking the horse to step over logs, branches, or any terrain that the horse will need to "look down" at. At first they will trip often, but most of them do learn to pick up their toes instead of dragging them...

Now for the main course. Keeping the horse balanced on all four legs while you are riding. It is simple (sure it is..) all the rider has to do is pay attention to when the horse "drops" in the front. First, do a short warm up to limber the horse up. Than, gently back the horse one or two steps until you feel when its shoulders come up. The front of your saddle will lift, and the horses barrel will get thicker under your thighs and legs. This "feeling" is when the horse is under your seat, or saddle. It is the foundation for all of your balanced work and is usually a signal to the rider that the horse is balanced evenly on all four legs. Next, let the horse walk forward and feel how fast it will "drop" you as its forehand falls. (heavy on the forehand) The saddle will go downhill, and the horse will not fill out your legs. Most horses do this in less than three steps. When the horse drops you, slowly pick up the reins and ask it to back those few steps until it is under you again. (Make sure you praise the horse when it shifts back to where it should be.) Than repeat the process over and over until you can feel the horse drop your seat, and than pick you up again as you re balance it. You will notice that you will shorten and lengthen and shorten your reins often during this process. Once you are aware of when you are being "dropped" you can do this exercise while the horse is walking. The difference is that now, when you feel the horse drop on its forehand, you will pretend that you are going to back and gently take up on the reins while asking the horse to shift back under the saddle. (Again, the horse will lose its balance in at least 3 strides) Keep doing this until you can keep the horse under your saddle more and more. This will take time as the horse will need to use new muscles while it learns to feel comfortable shifting back under your saddle. At first you will feel that you need to use more rein than you are used to. It is called a supporting rein and will get lighter as time passes. After awhile the horse will rebalance under the saddle as soon as you reach for a rein. You will also notice as you do this exercise, that your position and seat also begin to change as the horse will pick up its back and hold the saddle where it should be.

Than you can do this exercise over the poles. It is not as easy as it sounds but you will feel when the horse is out of balance. When you go out on the trails the horse will not be able to hold this balance very far at first. That is when you will need to let it fall down a little to rest. Than pick it up again when you notice the tripping start again.

You would also need to be able to teach the rider of the horse how to do this as a horse that has the tendency to trip needs to be ridden different than those who are aware of where there feet are...


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1 year ago
I have had gaited horses for years and ride primarily with people who ride all gaited breeds, I live and ride in very rough and mountainous terrain, the primary cause of tripping I have found, and many gaited owners will agree, is poor saddle fit. Gaited horses, I'm sure you are aware, have long shoulder blades and long stride, if you put a western saddle made for a quarter horse on a walker or similar build it will invariably interfere with his shoulders. Without even going into bar width etc., the saddle on a gaited horse has to allow for the extra travel of the shoulder blades, this is why so many saddles are now being made expressly for gaited horses, and we are experiencing the difference it makes. Gaited horses are the strong preference in my area for trail, and they have proven to be extremely sure footed on exceptionally rough and steep terrain, provided the saddle fit is correct, (we also use croupers and breastcollars due to the steep terrain) as well as the trim/shoes as you mentioned.
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Ok Montana,
I know you were asking Starhorse about balance issues, but I'm still going to jump in with my 2 cents worth.

I hope I can explain a technique my farrier uses. He's explained it to me several times. I'm not sure I can convey this back to you, but I'll try. not many farriers in the area use this "style," and those that don't tend to make fun of it when they see it. However he's used it on a couple of my guys, and he managed to keep one older pony sound and foxhunting lightly for 3 years. It's used mainly for soundness issues, but I believe it improved their stability as well. Hope I can make this make sense.

He trims and rasps the hoof following the natural shape and angle. He does not remove any toe. He sets the shoe back off the toe by 1/2"+. The toe infront of the shoe is not removed. (I'm so totally out of my element here). The premise being that in some horses with naturally longer toes - if shod conventionally adding a shoe to that extra toe length (not setting the shoe back) increases pressure on certain structures. By setting the shoe back you decrease the horse's break-over time and ease pressure. He did this with a 4 star event horse, and managed to keep him on the circuit. In Florida the owner used an on-site farrier. He evidently didn't like the style and reshod the horse conventionally with the shoe back to the tip of his toe. Almost immediately he went unsound. They had our farrier come down and reset shoes back again and the horse was able to continue competition.
This is definately NOT a pretty shoe job, but it gets the job done. This may be done out your way all the time, but it's rarely seen around here. I leave all hoof work to my farrier - I don't begin to think I can explian what he does, but I never second guess him. (he's shod for me for @15 years). He knows his business.

Also, I have ridden in Arizona a couple of times. I know - it's probalby a far cry from Montana, but I wonder if you have the same rocky terrain. I was amazed at how those horses handled the footing. My thought was that my guys wouldn't last 2 days out there. Their legs were like flint, so you may be dealing with a fittness issue. Like taking a western pleasure horse and trying to make him a reining horse in just a weekend. If your terrain is rocky, and this horse came from the softer, smoother and flatter footing along the east coast, then he's using a whole different set of structures. Fatigue could quickly become an issue.
Somehow I feel I'm preaching to the choir, but who knows - every now and then a blind pig gets an acorn. :-)

Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving