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Gaited Thoroughbred?

From: Jael

Hi Jessica! Thanks so much for maintaining your wonderful website and for being so accessible to all of us less knowledgeable folk! Your articles have helped me in many ways.

My question may seem a bit odd. I have a seven year old Thoroughbred gelding who just came off the track in March '04. He's a lovely, athletic, good hearted guy and he is taking to combined training beautifully. Right now our primary focus is dressage, with lots of long trail rides/cross country sessions thrown in.

We live in Ohio where it is often very wet and snowy. During this winter (our first winter together!), we've spent a lot of time travelling through very deep footing, whether mud, water, snow, or some combination of the above. When we do, my gelding moves into this bizarre, high stepping gait that I absolutely can't identify! It seems very lateral or pacey, but it is so fast, smooth, and level that I am having a hard time establishing what he's doing! Is it possible for a Thoroughbred to move like a Saddlebred or Walker or some other gaited horse? Please end my confusion at this very strange behavior!

Thanks Jessica! Jael

Hi Jael! Don't worry, you're not crazy and your horse isn't either. Most horses that are used on trails develop a preferred "trail gait" that allows them to travel comfortably and easily. The gait may be a singlefoot, a running walk, a "stepping pace", or just about any known (or unknown) sequence of footfalls, but the horse goes into the gait without any signal from the rider, and the rider can then either say "Hurrah, keep doing that, it's very comfortable, what fun we're having!" or "I don't know what you're doing, so don't do it, TROT!" I've always enjoyed the various trail gaits that horses offer. It sounds as if your horse may be doing a rack - and you should probably just relax and enjoy it. There's nothing wrong with him.

It's funny that you would say "move like a Walker", because long ago, when I had one of the very few TWHs in my area, people were always asking about the running walk and what it should feel like. The best description I could come up with was this: "It feels as if you're on a really good, smooth, long-striding Thoroughbred, you're on your way back to the barn after a nice ride, your horse KNOWS that breakfast is waiting for him, and he wants to cover as much ground as possible with each step, and get there as fast as he can - but you've told him to WALK and he's too polite to disobey you and trot.... it's THAT kind of walk."


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