Ways To Get The Most Out of your Paso Fino's Gait.
Buying a gaited horse and getting the smooth as silk ride can be achieved with a little know-how. Just because a gaited horse is smooth doesn't mean he won't bounce you around from time to time. To get the smooth ride you must do a few things right so you and your horse can work in harmony & rhythm.
IMPORTANT FACTS - Even distance (spacing) and even timing (speed)
All four legs must move in perfect rhythm and even timing with each of the individual legs moving to cover the exact same distance to make gait possible.
RIDERS SEAT: Keep the rider's weight off the front end. Train or ride the horse with weight going on the hind legs. Train so they bring their rear feet up under the riders hips as much as possible. This is done with a good foundation training. (Legs yields and lateral work to a 100% before trying for gait). With the ground work done. Apply even legs pressure and the horse will naturally bring their rear ends up under to move away. (Hence forward). This also brings them up into the bit. For a more proper collection. Verses drawing their heads back with the bit and doing a detrimental collection (non-collection) (rear end will be more strung out behind horse, horse rough, and unstable on feet.)
For speed: Don't Lean forward, it causes more speed and anxiety. Instead: Reach your arms forward towards the horse's mouth to indicate the wish for more speed by letting them stretch their neck a little.
RIDER'S LEGS: When the rider's legs are forward they are at a disadvantage for controlling their horse and slightly off balance for unexpected movements. When riding gaited horses the tendency is for the riders legs to drift forward with the movement of the horse. Some riders haven't practiced centered riding therefore they can't get gait from their horse if riding in incorrect posture (keep working at it, your horses's gait will improve if you ride correctly). Also your back health will improve.
Leg aides: A horse won't move freely in gait if the rider's legs are clamped on. Likewise with a trotting horse with a rough trot. The movement will be softened if you decrease your knee pressure.
Leg aide: roll your lower leg verses pushing with leg.
SADDLE FIT: A gaited horse needs the riders weight to be further back so their shoulders are freed up. Quick sprints or jumps are not usually part of a daily routine for a gaited horse, so just slide the saddle back a bit. Forward saddle may contribute to a rougher ride.
Correct angle of fork in saddle tree is essential for comfort. Or buy "The corrector" by Len Brown (see web searches) which takes care of most saddle fit problems. We recommend the mid sized one. Can be used English or western and isn't too long for gaited horses, and will fit Quarter horse type sizes too. With "The corrector" system you eliminate a lot of saddle purchases. And Decrease the trottiness from shoulder pain in the gaited animals. And an improved trot in non-gaited stock. As a rule, short backed horses are more comfortable in shorter saddles.
BIT AND REINS: The horse should be trained to take some light pressure on the bit. And to not be afraid of the bit. (Fear comes with hard hands). As the rider gently holds the reins, and the horse rounds his back and drives his rear forward, there is a mild pressure on the bit. The whole thing is like a bow or suspension bridge. Energy gets transmitted through the whole system including rider which enables fluid movement and strength.
If the riders releases the reins at this point, the built up pressure is lost and all falls apart.
Hence rhythm is gone. Then so goes the gait.
Note you are not trying to bring brilliance in gait by pulling in on the reins!
Give a horse a break by letting them stretch their necks occasionally. Moving at a slow gait or flat walk will help release tension from the neck muscles. The back is released manner to, and it encourages them to round under during the next work time. Doing this in gait, may give you a more trotty gait, because of the weight transfer to the front legs.
With practice most horses learn to stay in gait on a loose rein as slower speeds, without getting trotty, because they learn to keep their shoulders up.
When a horse has a lot of up and down movement like the Tennessee Walkers, the rider must keep the rein pressure steady by letting their arms swing back and forth, or the rein pressure will go from slack to tight every step. This undoes the collection or "the bow".
Many riders feel that they can keep their weight off the horse's front end better if they hold their hands fairly high.
Since stretched out low hands and arms tend to make some rides lean forward.
I state: High hands, high head. Low hands, low head.
Tip to help keep rider from leaning too far forward, if that is your tendency, keep your hands on saddles horn spot area. Move only a couple of inches in any direction. With a horse well ground-schooled and with 100% leg aide responsive. The reins are rarely used in general riding. Relaxation of body, seat, belly & body is sign to stop. Add the rein to your legs in the arena and your gaited horse will rein on the dime!
HOOVES: Angles affect break over, and the angles of rear and front feet need to be in correct relationship to each other.
Note: A shorter hoof will speed up action.
One problem from trimming incorrectly: Having the rear feet too short can cause a horse to start forging. (Stepping on his front feet because of angle and increase in rear foot speed.) Rear feet should be slightly bigger.
While moving all horses need to move in a straight line like on a railroad track. That is not leaning or swinging their butts over. This requires a watchful rider. Only let your horse move his head around to watch the sites if they can maintain a straightness when doing so. Your leg on their sides should prevent the horse's butt from swinging out. Generally speaking when your horse moves his head to the right while looking around their butt's will swing to the left, causing them to take uneven steps.
In a gaited horse this means they drop gait as rhythm was lost.
Riding up hill puts more weight on the front legs and causes the front to quicken, making for a trotty gait, or a pacey gaited horse right.
Moving down hill puts weight on the hind legs, making the gait pacey or in a trotty gaited horse just right.
As a rider you can use these physics principles to your advantage by using a slight up hill or down hill grade to practice getting the timing of the gait just right. Do not walk a horse on the slope that causes the horse to fall into a pacey or trotty movement until they learn to hold their timing and rhythm in any terrain.
FITNESS: Horses need to gradually get into shape too. On each ride their may not let you sit real well until they start to relax and warm up. It is important to start out slow to avoid tension and injury. It takes concentration and strength for a horse to gait under a rider.
On every ride give the horse opportunity to find his gait. Ride on smooth and level ground that is not to soft or gravelly in a constant speed without turning; for longer and longer periods of time, on a gentle rein.
If a horse starts to get pacey, give him more slack in the reins and drive him forward crisply asking anything else for a while. You could also ride on a uphill slope. Note to: that to much pressure on the bit or anxiety about the bit can promote pacing.
A large, well ridden circle can help break up the pace, but a fast, small, and hurried circle in gait increases the chance of the horse striking his outside front foot with an inside hind foot, which at times can happen more often, with a gaited horse that moves each foot independently, then horse at a trot. Trotter move their legs diagonally together.
A trotty horse needs to be pickup and collected more, he needs to lighten the front end and use his hind quarters more. Exercises which help lower the croup and reach further with his hind legs help (like riding down hill), also going from a back up into a crisp gait can work well.
Engage the horses rear end by gently changing from slow walk to fast walk
stop to gait, walk to canter, and all of these back down to a walk, stop or back up.
The practice with shifting his balance over his hind quarter, and giving his head to the bit by tucking his nose (by breaking at poll), and responding to the rider's legs by moving his own legs underneath himself and pushing off with more energy.
Backing up hill, up a bank or out of a ditch can be a great strengthener when done correctly. That is without the horse raising his head in the air.
Legs yields, rein yields and exercises like shoulder in and reverse arcs (in a walk at first) all loosen the shoulders and cause the hind legs to reach further, lengthening the horse's stride, and getting him to carry more weight over the hind legs.
The most important exercise and movement is the Regular FLAT WALK. Most gaited horses are happier gaiting then walking, but walking encourages the horse to relax and stretch its neck, to lengthen its stride rather than getting quicker, and helps him get an even 4 beat gait. (The regular flat walk is 4 beat gait. = Paso).
Understand that if your horse gigs when saddled, mounted or asked to stand still with a rider, they may be uncomfortable. If not it may be behavioral, and they should be backed. Made to stand still until quiet. Then ask to go forward, if they gig; repeat the process. This works for rearing excited stallions to. But watch the bit pulling.
We don't recommend NOT riding your gaited horse until they are three. And then so very lightly. Four is a more appropriate age to be started with a rider. Gaiting requires strong back muscles and good posture. Gaited horse tend to be more refined and have less muscle mass for bone support.
If a horse is out of shape and asked to gait too long or fast, or if he moves under his rider with his back dished in and the underside of his neck bulging out, he can very easily get a sore back. Becoming difficult to saddle and mount, rush under saddle to get away from the pain, or even stumble because carries to much weight on his front legs. That is why it is important for a horse to learn to walk on a loose rein; to stretch and release his back muscles every so often. Moving in collection must be gradually increased.
Even for a trail horse, good horsemanship and an effort in riding to keep the horse's proper posture must not be neglected. Riding just on weekends does not count as regular exercise. With out being used more, it just adds to the stiffness or muscle/back soreing.
Energize that horse. The 4 beat gait, except the walk, demand a lot of energy and can not be performed by a lazy horse. You may notice that with some fright your horse suddenly finds a 4 beat gait. This is because they will lift their shoulders, and engage deeply with their hind legs while keeping the rear up under their bodies.
Set up and Establish a work out pattern for each ride. Warm the horse up slowly. A tense or hyper horse can be ridden in a small circles (figure eight) until he is warm and calm. After the warm up ask your horse to concentrate and really work for a while, so he sweats and breathers hard for 30 minutes or more. After which he should be allowed to cool off and stretch for a while, so he is mellow and relaxed when you dismount.
On long rides you can go slow and steady, giving him opportunities to stretch his neck and back. If you can't get him to do it any other way. Get off and walk him at hand for a few minutes every hour.
Picture each ride as a combination of aerobic exercises and strength building for your horse, during which you are his coach, and also a lesson for the the horse in controlling emotions, learning to dance happily and trusting with a gentle partner that Leads the way (you the rider). Warm up and stretch before, stretch and slowly cool down afterwards.
After all your ground work has been established.
Ride 100 miles in about (6 mile sessions) (about 12 miles each) in only a soft bosal or halter without a saddle. For the first (17 to 20) rides when trying to get lengths of rhythm to establish gait.
Lack of suppleness and flexing can cause a horse to go diagonal. A horse that does not relax into other gaits will most likely tense up and eventually begin to pace. Do not teach them to pace, it is nearly impossible to reverse. Another sign of not relaxing is the loss of even footfall and the increase in forward movement. Which in turn causes you to miss Paso Gait.
The sound effect for trot is ta-ta-ta-ta with a moment of hesitation between each beat.
The sound effect for trocha, is tra-tra, tra-tra, tra-tra, tra
The sound for Paso gait is paca-paca-paca-paca-paca
The fun will come with the exercises.
This all in the end makes for a happy gaited or non-gaited horse that will move smoothly.