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Gaited horse?

From: Mary

Over a year ago we purchased a 3 yo. registered Missouri Foxtrotter filly. She was not started and I was going to start her myself. Well, to make a long story short, while I have ridden most of my life, and started many horses, I have only had experience with Paso's as far as the gaited breeds go. I never had to do anything as far as the way they travel. Just go through the steps like starting any horse, only they gait naturally instead of trotting. I have since learned all gaited horses are not ceated equal. There are apparently some gaited breeds that you have to work on their gait in some way. People who ride Tennessee Walkers say they have to work on their horses gait, but I don't know what they mean. I am absolutely clueless on what to do. I do have one horse that if you round your lower back, lean back a little to get off his front end, put your feet slightly in front of where they usually go, and collect him up to the point where you have light contact, he travels much better. I have tried this with the Foxtrotter. I have tried everything I can think of along the lines of different balance points, nothing makes any difference, so I know that isn't the way to go. I also encourage her to really step out at a walk. She has a nice walk with a good over reach with her hind feet. In the pasture she has a great trot with wonderful suspension - she can just hang in the air. But that isn't why I got her. Under saddle, I avoid trotting at all costs. Even when riding with other gaited horses, she still wants to trot, never gait, so I get left behind alot. She has a calm disposition and is very willing, I don't want to sell her I just want her to do her job. Any suggestions would be welcome. Thanks, Mary


Hi Mary!

The "fox trot" is a broken gait that's very easy on the rider AND on the horse -- it's generally described as the horse "walking with the front feet while trotting with the back feet." The other two gaits that you'd expect from a Fox Trotter are a fast flat-foot walk, much like that of a TWH (and there's a LOT of TWH and ASB blood in Fox Trotters!), and a soft, rolling canter. Like a TWH, a Fox Trotter should be a good choice of horse for a rider who wants to avoid bouncing (and so wants to avoid trotting!). But -- also like a TWH -- a Fox Trotter may need some help in developing and maintaining the desired gait.

It sounds as though she's a well-built horse with the right kind of walk and the right kind of attitude, but as you probably found out working with Pasos, sometimes you need help from a specialist! I've ridden Fox Trotters, but that was a long time ago, and I wouldn't presume to give you training or re-training instructions! But I do have a suggestion for you: get in touch with the breed organization and ask them if they have a training manual or videotapes, and if they have a list of trainers that they could send you so that you can get some local help.

Their address is:

Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association Ava, MO 65608, USA

Good luck!

- Jessica

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