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step over a pole and stop, then reverse and back that foot over the pole. Do this with all four feet, slowly, until the horse is comfortable with the exercise. Always praise for a job well done or an at empt well intended. Ask the horse to walk slowly downhill,

stopping while facing downhill. Ask for some steps backing up the hill. Repeat from the saddle. Incorporate some basic pat erns such as

15-meter circles, fi gures of 8 and some dres- sage exercises that teach lateral work, leg yield- ing and shoulder fore. T ese exercises awaken the horse to be lighter on the forehand and more at entive to the rider and his own foot placement. T ey will also help smooth out a rough gait and ensure safe navigation over and around obstacles (roots, logs, trees, brush) while maintaining his at ention and focus. Remind the horse to keep his energy en-

gaged. T is does not necessarily mean going fast but paying at ention and marching as if heading somewhere with purpose. T is can be requested through a cluck, wiggle of the leg or a tap with a crop or stick. If you have followed the previous guidelines this should not create fright in the horse, just awareness that you are “requiring his at ention.”


Diane smiles: “Trust me, once you

experience the feel of being carried by a balanced, correctly gaited horse, you will crave it forever!”

As riders we have a responsibility to the horse

to allow him to carry us in this euphoric gait. If you are not a confi dent, well-balanced

rider with an independent seat and kind hands, fi nd yourself a gentle horse and a knowledge- able ground person. T ey can help you become more confi dent and aware of what is going on beneath you. Once you have achieved relaxation you can

begin “feeling” for the gait. Your ability to feel your horse is a mental as well as a physical task. A good ground person/instructor will be

able to tell you when your horse is in proper carriage and what gait he is doing. T is way you can start to put together the feel with the gait. Becoming more mindful of the rhythm of the hind legs at all gaits will make identify- ing and infl uencing four-beat gaits easier and more eff ective. Allow your ears to listen to the sound of


No mat er how many horses are sharing the trail, think of every ride as between you and your horse—you are partners. Gaited horses can peacefully coexist with trot ing breeds, as this Spot ed Saddle Horse mare demonstrates gait- ing down the trail with a non-gaited Morgan mare. Photo by John Nowell |

the footfalls. If on a type of footing that has some echo to it you will be able to hear a steady mellow contact of the foot to the ground, as if a plunger is being tapped down on the surface. Betsy: Even within the gaited breeds, you

will fi nd that every horse has his own feel but in general I would say that a smooth Paso has a gentle side-to-side rocking motion with a bit of a solid yet soſt bump on the extreme outside of each rock. I have been riding Paso Fino horses for over 30 years and I swear that I have ridden some that have no movement—incredible smoothness too hard to explain. Smooth as glass we would say. I think horses that have good hock fl exion along with natural front leg liſt are the smoothest. I once had a fi rst-time Paso rider tell me it felt like sit ing in an easy chair in your apartment while someone down- stairs is having a blowout of a party. Julie: T e signature gait of the Missouri Fox

Trot er is the foxtrot. T e foxtrot is a diagonal four-beat gait in which the horse has one front foot and one hind foot on the ground at all times. Because of this, there is no fl y time as in a two-beat trot. It is oſt en described as a walk in the front and a trot in the hind. T e easiest way to feel the foxtrot is to increase the speed of the fl at walk until you begin to feel a slight “bump-bump” in your seat. Keep light rein contact to maintain a neutral or slightly rounded and collected frame. T e natural fox- trot is a wonderfully smooth ground-covering gait that is very easy on the horse and rider. T e “feel” of the foxtrot will be a lit le diff er- ent with every Fox Trot er depending on the conformation of that particular horse. T e natural rhythm is oſt en described by the short dit y: “chunk-of-meat- and-two-potatoes.”

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