Monday, November 3, 2008

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Black and Blue

This weekend I attended a clinic for gaited horses. I have a client who has a Spotted Saddle Horse and she wants him to learn to "gait." Example:

Something Old- I can ride western pleasure horses

Something New- I can not ride gaited horses

Something Borrowed - Some very awesome new training ideas

Something Black and Blue- How I felt when I was done

OK, so when I first agreed to do this, I thought, "this should be pretty interesting, and relatively easy." HA! Oh my god! Talk about going outside your comfort zone!!

So my day began with me getting Neon out of the trailer and tied up so he could get "dressed." He stood nicely by the trailer while we tacked him up and I figured since he was somewhere new I'd take him for a walk and let him scope things out. We went into the arena and he went off the deep end. He was NOT a happy Spotted Saddle Horse. He went Ape shit! Immediately I started lunging him and he was bucking and screaming, and rearing and boxing those front legs straight at my head. It didn't take me long to realize that I wanted to vomit all over the place LMAO!!!

I lunged him for no less than 1 HOUR! And I'm telling the gaited horse trainer "I swear he never acts like this! I swear he's a good boy!" Like how many times has a trainer heard that??? A minimum of a BILLION!!! So anyway, I go to get up on him, and I can feel the fact the screws are still loose. Too loose to proceed without a fight. So I dismounted and asked the lady if there was anything we could do on the ground for awhile. So we took him to the round pen and she made that boy WORK!! Honestly, I'd never really thought about gaited horses or their trainers any differently than any other horse training. Well with the exception of actual "gaiting." So as I'm watching this trainer work with Neon, I realized that this was one of the most AMAZING experiences! Talk about broadening my horizons! She was a phenomenal trainer.
So everything was going FABS until she said to the owner of the barn "Hey, can you go and get the tack so we can get him ridden today?" I swear I almost vomited in my mouth, or maybe I did who knows... So we got him all tacked up and got back on him, up and down as if I was re-breaking this damn horse. Finally I was up for good, and he and I got into a few minor altercations before he decided that working was easier. So we're going and and the trainer is telling me "Well you're a trainer so I'm not going to be easy on you" *Gulp* So the trainer is asking me to walk him out, extend that walk. OK piece of cake, like a dressage horse. NOT! They expect gaited horses to really really walk out, and let me tell you how much pushing with the seat and thighs that takes!

So I've got him walking out beautifully, now it's time to find his "gait." Find his gait?!?!? So she has me trot him and then smooooooth him out. Smoooooth him out. Well I'm giving all the credit to the horse on this one, because when I smoooooooothed him out he was doing what is called a "Fox Trot" It's like a walk in the front and a trot in the back. It's a very smooth gait and can be very animated. It's like a western jog, but better. Absolutely amazing. So after our "lesson" is over the owner of Neon is way beyond thrilled! She really wanted to find his gait, and the gaited trainer found it. He did amazing by the time we were done. Everyone was really impressed with how smart Neon is. Well I'd already known that, hence why he didn't want to do jack shit in the beginning. The trainer who did the lessons, and clinics is one of the most amazing people I've ever met. She gave me fabulous ideas that I can use on both gaited and non gaited horses. Truly well worth it.

So after un tacking Neon, his owner decided to let him roll in the arena. He worked hard, he deserved it. In the mean time we stayed and chatted with the trainer and owners of the facility we were at for at least another hour and a half. They were just such fabulous people. So the owners of the facility invited me back to ride one of their Tennessee Walkers, so I can really feel what the gait is like. WOW!! What an experience!!!! Oh and by the way, while we're all chatting it up, Neon is STILL running around like a bat out of hell in the arena. Stopping, rolling, bucking, flying around! A trait I learned that day as a "Walker" trait. They rarely run out of steam!!! "oh fucking great!"
All in all it was fun, the trainer was amazing, the owners of the facility went above and beyond for us and I learned sooooooo damn much! Really a beneficial experience. I would highly encourage ANYBODY to go outside of their comfort zone at times and try something different. Doesn't have to be gaited horses LOL, but just something out of the norm for you and your horse. I think you'll find it's well worth it to explore un charted territory. Oh and I will be sure to post an update when I go back to ride an actual already trained Tennessee Walker! WAHOOOOOOOOO


TheHorseGirl said...

That's Pretty funky, i'd love to try something like that at wome point!

Andrea said...

"A trait I learned that day as a "Walker" trait. They rarely run out of steam!!! "oh fucking great!" "

DAMMIT, that is not a "Walker" trait. What barn did you go to? I hope you didn't ride a Big Lick horse and that the trainers did not teach you about shoeing and bitting gadgets and gimmicks, especially "fixing" them. I have over 10 years experience with TWHs, and they are supposed to be bred to be calm, quiet, and able to handle anything. They have lots of stamina and strength, but are not hot or showing the kind of behavior Neon did. The flat walk and running walk should be inherent, and the horse should be encouraged to perform both through proper exercise and teaching him to carry himself directly. If Neon is TWH bred (and it looks like he is), he should NOT be showing a fox trot--he should be walking, not trotting!

But, just as with every breed, there are myths and crap floating around. I wish TWH owners would stick with what the breed was originally bred for--then we'd have an amazing breed on our hands indeed! Oh well....

Trainer X said...

Andrea~ OMG thank you!!! I don't know CRAP about Walkers LOL, So he shouldn't be doing the foxtrot? He should do a running walk??? Oh crap I'm confused LOL! Hmmmm Any other info would be awesome Thanks!!

kestrel said...

I had a blast in Costa Rica, got to ride an old Costa Rica Paso stallion, in the fiesta parade no less. Wild excitement! Took a little experimenting to get the communication down (horse was incredibly patient!) but what a ride...Their breeding program is so much different than ours. A huge fiesta with over 1000 horses, probably 30% breeding stallions, and not a kick or squeal out of anyone. Riding right next to mares in heat. You get to the fairgrounds, and a bigass cannon goes off...shoulda seen how high I jumped. Any stallion that freaks is immediately cut. That's the price of admission to the parade.

CATALYST. said...

So, really, you talk about everyone who may seem a little less knowledgeable about horses. It seems to me that you are in that same boat.

kestrel said...

Well catalyst, since you're a student, you should realize that listening to knowledgable people rant about their pet peeves is a good way to learn what not to do.

Andrea said...

Hi Trainer X,

Hmmm, it's only been forever since I actually checked up on what I wrote on this post.... Sorry about that!

YES, ABSOLUTELY. ALL TWHs should be walking. Now, I will point out that every gaited horse can show any kind of gait, especially TWHs. There are tons of different names for the gaits, but it's all based in the footfalls and how the horse carries himself OR how the rider is manipulating the gait when riding the horse, either intentionally or unintentionally. The problem that we have in the TWH world is that MOST people (not all) think that just because the ride is smooth, he must be performing a running walk. This is the farthest from the truth. A TWH can only perform a true running walk if he is allowed to--that is, if he is relaxed in his frame, allowed to round his back and carry himself correctly, and to naturally overstride behind and nod his head and neck up and down in the front.

Check out my website at and look at the Gaits of the Walking Horse section under Gaited Horse Information. I go into a lot of detail and have a lot of videos there. Feel free to email me directly if you have any questions! And of course, ALL of you who read this are welcome to take a look! :)