Last Updated on February 28, 2022 by Allison Price
Ground-pole work is necessary to teach your horse how to gait. Even experienced pacers may find it difficult to pace over ground posts. Instead, they will perform a four-beat, well-balanced gait.
Do your horse’s gaits prefer to be performed in a trot or step pace? First, he may be experiencing stiffness or discomfort. Poor fitting tack, poor trimming, or teeth problems can all contribute to this discomfort. Before you start this retraining program, make sure to discuss these issues with your veterinarian.
Your horse may be more comfortable and healthy than he is if he is not. A trot or pace is easier if your horse is well. This article will show you how to train your horse to trot.
It can be difficult to train your horse’s pacing/step-pacing skills. Although these lateral (same side), shuffle-like gaits can be very harmful to his body in the long-term, they are extremely simple to do and almost hypnotic in their movement. This habit must be stopped immediately. Do not allow him to go at a snail’s pace. Perform the following exercises.
Step 1. Step 1. His head might be held high or overtucked, which is a form of false collection. He might also feel stiff like a plank. A friend can videotape you riding. You can then examine the tape to identify the characteristics of your horse’s pace. This is when his lateral sets or legs move in sync, or almost so. As you watch, compare his movements to what you feel in the saddle. Next, mount up and pay attention to these indicators. Ask someone to help you tell your horse when he turns pacey.
Step 2. Step 2. Half halt is when your horse begins to slip into a pace. The half halt is the same as the regular halt except that your horse will respond to your reins and seat aids by hesitating (indicating backward weight shift), and you ask him to move forward with your legs and seat. Half-halts will balance his weight over his hindquarters and lighten his front end. This simple exercise can greatly improve his gait.
Step 3. Step 3. Place 10-foot-long ground stakes approximately 1 1/2 feet apart from your horse’s body (chest to buttock), or about 10 feet for an average-sized horse. Ask for a working walk in an oval at least 80 feet in circumference. Push him until he reaches his “breaking point”, at which point he will usually pick up a pace. Perform a half-halt as you approach the poles. Then push him forward as fast as he can over the poles. If he is unable to stop and continues banging his feet on the poles – give him a quick check of the bridle, and then say “Quit!” If he keeps banging his feet on the poles, you can turn him around and go in the opposite direction. Continue to go back and forth on the poles until he completes one round. Praise him and immediately switch to a walking pace (or else he might be tempted to pace). Then take him back to the circle.
Tip If the horse is having trouble clearing the poles, increase the distance between them. Horses have different strides.
Step 4. Perform a serpentine pattern. Your horse should be outfitted with a snaffle bit, which allows for independent side-to-side movement. Next, work your horse in a serpentine motion around the ground poles using a long, low-reining leading rein. You’ll notice a higher back and better balance as he looks down at the ground poles. This helps break up the two-beat pace and establishes muscle memory for the desired gait. This exercise can be done for 15 to 20 minutes each day for several days. This will usually be enough to establish your gait.
Step 5. Step 5.
Step 6. Step 6. Begin by moving uphill. Begin by cantering him up the hill. Then, bring him down to a walking pace before his gait becomes a slow crawl. Keep his weight evenly over his hindquarters by cantering. Soon, you will be able ask for some more canter steps at the top of the hill.
Caution: A canter-challenged pacey horse could be a problem. Crossfire could mean that your horse may hit his front foot with the hind foot. This can cause injury and even a fall. You should immediately take him to a walk if you feel him pushing you out of your chair with each canter stride.
Trot is a diagonal gait in which one set of legs moves in tandem with the other. You can retrain your horse if you do not want to work over ground poles or at the canter. Ground-pole work can increase diagonal action and can cause injury. (See Step 4). (See Step 4.)
Step 1. Cone work. This will encourage flexibility and hindquarter impulsion. Both will help your horse to move in a smooth manner.
Step 2. Step 2. He can maintain his speed while not trotting by using half-halts. Although he might be confused at first, he will soon understand what you are asking if you remain consistent with your cues.
Step 3. Step 3.
Step 4. Step 4. He might be able to cheat and canter when he is cued to. You can feel him walking in a canter stride if you are able to control it with your reins. If he does, it’s possible he will develop a difficult-to-break hybrid gait.