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All Iberians are gaited
 Moderated by: DrDeb  
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Joined: Thu Feb 24th, 2011
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 Posted: Mon Apr 18th, 2022 02:20 pm
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Dear Dr. Deb,

I was reading around in the archive and came across an interesting post in 2007, where someone asked you about horses going wide behind. You talked about going wide behind as a response to not being ridden straight, and talked about how all ideas are gaited, have a tendency toward ambling, if someone has the eye to notice it. After staring at my Andy at liberty for awhile I am thinking that at the trot if he’s trotting in a short-strided quick tempo, he can tend toward the kind of “sewing machine”action of his front legs and the trot gets towards a diagonal four-beat, with almost three feet on the ground. Do these horses have that “gaited gene” that I’d heard was discovered in the last few years, or is it other factors? Where I bought my gelding, the breeder had a very beautiful palomino stallion he retired from breeding because he had a long back and passed long, weak backs to his offspring. It seems like a long back might allow for the four beat more easily because there is more time for the pelvis to flex each hind leg?

Could you please tell us more about this, and what I should train my eye so I can see this? Very interesting.

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Joined: Fri Mar 30th, 2007
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 Posted: Mon Apr 18th, 2022 03:56 pm
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Jennifer, you are laboring under some old ideas that are also, to some degree, a reflection of the absolute prejudice of the post-Napoleonic era to horses that can amble. By "post-Napoleonic" I refer to the sea-change that occurred beginning in the last quarter of the 18th century and culminated with Napoleon's "new style army" of the early 1800's in which ambling horses were most definitely not preferred. Rather, horses that trot and show no tendency to amble became preferred at that time, and the old ambler-gallopers became classified, in the minds of many military officers, as inferior -- almost jokes, fit only for country bumpkins. This prejudice persists to this day and is the main reason why competitions/performances by overtly "gaited" horses does not occur at the Olympics.

This flies in the face of several facts:

1. Ambling horses learn to carry a rider in self-carriage and collection more easily than does any trotter. The trot gait is the most difficult of all gaits to teach a horse to round up softly in.

2. Ambling horses are often tremendous athletes, with wonderful stamina and very fast reflexes, excellent balance, and great capabilities for lateral work.

3. The old Iberian breeds (i.e. the Andaluceno) and the New World breeds that are derived from them (i.e., the Pasos, Criollos, and Mustangs) are among the best-minded of all horses, due to the fact that for 2,000 years they were selected for goodmindedness.

4. The Iberian breeds have experienced essentially zero selection for racing, but instead have been selected to be pleasure-riding horses, horses suitable for the mounted bullfight, or else for cattle work in the style of what is now called "working cowhorse" which requires as much collection as Grand Prix dressage. As a result, their conformation is consistently better balanced and more nicely shaped for riding, and this especially refers to the overall body balance, which is consistently close to level (whereas in breeds selected for racing speed, it is downhill because it needs to be downhill).

So, now, to answer one of your questions: yes, a certain percentage of Iberian-bred or Iberian-derived horses carry the DMRT3-STOP gene complex that permits ambling. Please go over to the EQUUS Magazine website and order the back-issue with my article concerning this in it. What you'll be asking for is Issue no. 507 (Winter, 2021), and the article is entitled "Gait Keeper Genetics".

As to going wide behind: to "go wide behind" ("duck gaited") means that at a trot, a harness horse leans into the bridle and stiffens its neck, tilting forward out of balance; then because this severely delays the breakover of the fore hoofs, in order to avoid stepping on its own heels the animal spreads the hind limbs so that the flight of either hind foot is outside (wide of) that of the corresponding forefoot. Racing pacers rarely are duck-gaited because the nature of the gait does not put them in danger of interfering, whereas the trot gait does.

There is also "passing gaited" or "side gaited", which occurs when the trotter proceeds forward with its body angled off to one side between the shafts. If his butt angles off to the right, for example, this will cause the left hind limb to fall between the two forelimbs, while the right hind limb will fall wide of them. So this is another way a trotter can avoid interference while also not rounding up softly and not going to the bit properly.

Lastly, a long back does not do what you suggest at all. It's a disadvantage when it comes to weightbearing, although under a lightweight rider it can be an advantage in terms of lateral work. If the stallion you refer to had not only a long back but also less than the best coupling, or was deficient in some other way, such as having crooked hind limbs, calf knees, small round joints, or insufficient substance, then the man who owned him did the right and ethical thing by gelding him.

Write back with any further questions you may have, or especially after you read the article suggested. Cheers -- Dr. Deb

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