Today I had a question on Meagan who bought a grey horse from me a couple of years ago and also has a little Friesian - Walking horse mix which is showing some signs of a gait, but then changes to a trot. Her question was how can I get this horse to continue the gait and not break into the trot. I do not begin to say that I am a trainer, but I have a fantastic gentleman who shoes for me Travis Craft that is and I have asked him that question. The answer is anchoring the back end of your horse.
For me there are a couple of reasons to do this and when I describe it to others I tend to ask them to try it themselves. If you are walking in high heels you move differently, the same with tennis shoes or sandals. It is all based on how your feet are moving in response to the footwear.
If you take the back end of your horse with this mental picture and put less heel and foot when trimming then follow up with a nice flat shoe (without heels) and a little more weight if need be then it stands to reason they'll move differently.
Next the front of the horse. Walking horses and gaited horses of all kinds move differently than those that trot in that their front end is lifted by their head held up higher, nose tucked in so that they can "shake their head" in the walk. This allows the freedom of the front of the horse especially when combined with the back being grounded. For me this means more heel on the front feet and shoes with heels depending on what your farrier says.
Then you follow up with the details in the saddle. Holding the horse's head up vs. letting it ride forward with nose pointing in the direction you are heading. If you mimic it with your body you'll see what I am talking about. Once again it makes you want to use your toes to walk instead of your full foot. You don't want to float across the ground if you are looking for a gait.
Another thing I look at is how you are sitting in the saddle. With a non gaited horse it will be forward in the saddle as you would sit at the desk working and with a gaited horse your weight is sitting back in the chair as you would at rest putting your weight behind the shoulders of your horse and helping to balance them a bit. For me my plantation saddle takes all the work out of it and I just sit back.
For me this bit of common sense from Travis Craft helped me enormously and I hope it helps you somewhat. I hope this has been helpful and the good news is if you are looking for the gait and finding it in the horse naturally, it shouldn't take much more to help them gain in time they hold it each time you ride. As they mature and gain muscle you will find it last longer and they get better.
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