I have a Missouri fox trotting horse. I am interested in the biomechanics of the fox trot and other and other “easy gaits” and how to best support my horse in smooth gaits. My horse seems fairly spastic in his movement and is often rough as we speed up. As a new rider, I have heard and read a lot of conflicting opinions from the experts about the best way to encourage smooth gait (versus, most usually, a rough pace).
I would love to have your thoughts about a video excerpt on the Missouri fox trotting horse from the XXXX show (I would include the link, but I understand links aren’t allowed here) - at 8:30 minutes, XXXX asks, "With this bred, you want them somewhat on the front end, is that correct?" The Missori fox trotter trainer answers, "Right, that's correct. Especially when they are trotting, you'll feel them kind of drop down on that bit on their front end in order for the back end to come up and start trotting."
That does not make sense to me and I wonder if you can interpret? Or give me a different picture? Having the horse on his front end – doesn’t that seem antithetical to collection??
Jdancer, links are allowed here so long as I approve them. If somebody puts one in and I think it's a dog, I just pull it out as soon as I see it.
You will note I've deleted a name you named in your post; naming names is not allowed here unless the person is someone of whom we approve. The particular individual you had named is a complete know-nothing, a media nabob, an entrepreneur, and a wannabee. We will have nothing whatsoever to do with him.
As to the question you ask, the first thing I'm going to tell you is "welcome to common horsemanship." By which I DO mean "common" -- as in "common as dirt." You will hear everything from A to Z from any and every type of trainer, for the simple reason that there are no standards for the education or development of trainers.
There is also, particularly in the gaited horse world, no standardization whatsoever for terminology. One man's foxtrot is another man's fox-walk or country gait or flat-foot walk.
Neither does it make the slightest difference, or it ought not, to you as a beginner. What you should be focusing on with your horse is not whether he is "smooth". Your horse will do as he does until you have the skill to change it -- if indeed it is changeable at all -- but as a beginner this amount of skill is just what you do not have.
What you DO have and what you should be focusing on is getting your horse hooked on and focused; teaching him to come to you at call; teaching him that he can and should turn to you for his every concern.
You should be focusing on learning how to turn, so that your horse gains the ability (which many so-called gaited horses lack) to bend with fluid ease. This will require you to learn what "untracking" means and also to learn about twirling the head for the purpose of releasing tension or "brace" in the neck, jaws, and tongue. If your horse has been going "against" a bit -- especially if it is a shanked bit -- I can 100% guarantee you that you have a problem to solve in this area.
You will also, particularly because you have a so-called gaited horse, want to learn how to cause him to step back one-step-at-a-time. This is part and parcel of getting the softness, of learning to operate all the time within the envelope of release. Many horses that have been ridden in gait are so stiff that they almost cannot perform this (vis., the spectacles of rearing, running backwards, or freezing you may see at any 'gaited' horse show when (if) they are asked to back).
Long and short, what I am telling you is that there is zero difference between what a so-called gaited horse needs and what any other horse needs -- except that, if your animal has spent much time in gait, he is almost certainly stiffer and heavier on the forehand than his non-gaited cousin.
It is absolutely not necessary for a gaited horse to go on the forehand or to go hollow or stiff or to lean against the bit in order to gait. These are merely descriptions of the techniques and standards of ignoramuses who call themselves trainers -- ignoramuses for the very literal reason that they know nothing of the right way to get things done. The right way used to be fairly common knowledge, but after about 1930 in the gaited horse world, all the old men and women who knew it had died and left no apprentices to pass it on.
You will therefore have to learn it from us. I myself own a so-called gaited horse -- "so called" you notice I keep using this term -- because we do the exact same things with Oliver as a Rocky Mountain horse as we would do if he were an Andalusian or a Thoroughbred. There is absolutely zero difference.
Had you realized that when most horses passage, they are in gait? Or that Spanish Walk is a form of rack? Or that the Icelandic Tolter can perform seven different gaits?
There is more music in heaven than you might have had in your songbook, Horatio.
Write us back if there is anything on this list of ideas that you would like to begin learning. -- Dr. Deb