Friday, June 10, 2011

Can every horse gait?

Already I can hear the uproar from aficionados of our beloved gaited breeds. “No! A gaited horse is anatomically different from a non-gaited horse!” I agree that there are differences. However, I have also experienced firsthand an Appaloosa that preferred a four-beat amble over a trot (I rode him for a week on a cattle drive) and our former pinto mare, Savannah (pictured), who I could keep at very fast walk for as long as I wanted. Both of these were stock-type horses doing a fast, smooth, four-beat gait with no suspension. That’s pretty darned close to gaiting, in my opinion.

But can every horse be taught to do this? I wouldn’t go that far. I think that many can if – and this is a very big if – the rider knows how to train for it and is willing to put in the time. Several years ago, I interviewed David Lichman, a five-star premier Parelli instructor and gaited horse specialist. He addressed this very issue.

Listen to interview with David Lichman on gaited horsemanship


Barbara said...

I used to ride an appaloosa stallion that could rack like a champion. His owner preferred that the horse never be seen in this gait as he advertised him as a stock horse.He also would stretch out for me to mount him and was a very comfortable flashy horse to ride.I prefer a very fast walk and encourage horses that I ride to adopt a quick walk and a slow trot that make it easier to cover the rough pastures in this area. I have ridden all kinds of gaits and love a good Paso as well. There are so many different gaits that whatever is comfortable for both of you is something that comes with wet saddle blankets. We have all ridden horses and wondered how their owners can tolerate the rough gait and some can be attributed to the horses natural carriage but it also can be their reaction to their rider's quirks or the saddle.Ride a horse for a distance of twenty or thirty miles and an easy gait makes a great deal of difference.It is not just the horse, it is how you can help him travel comfortably with as little interference with what is natural for him.

Kristin said...

Just like with all athletic activities, some horses are naturally talented at one thing or another. I don't believe gaited horses are anatomically different, but they have genetic tendencies to want to move in a gaited fashion. Trainers can choose to discourage or encourage that ability.

In my article on the historical jennet at , these early horses in Europe were often gaited until dressage gained prominence in the 1500s. After that time, jennets were bred to non-gaited horses and their offspring were discouraged from gaiting. However, the jennets that were brought to the New World were appreciated for their smooth gaits, which they passed on through many generations. Today we can thank the jennet for the Peruvian Paso, the Paso Fino, all the gaited South American horses, and our gaited native breeds in the U.S.