What should I do with my hands during different gaits?

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What should I do with my hands during different gaits?

Post by Sunny Admin on Sat Feb 20, 2010 3:52 pm

I am going to try out a TWH mare, and am totally new to the gaited horse. I have been watching videos of TWH at the flat and running walk, and have one big question. What should my hands be doing in the different gaits?
On a non-gaited horse this is what I do: In a normal walk, I follow the head nod with my hands to keep the contact with the bit steady. Then when we step up to a trot, the horse's head is more still, and there is no longer a need to "follow" with the hand. At the canter, I would again follow with the hand.
On a giated horse: What I am *seeing* with the running walk (or maybe the rack?) is that the rider's hands do not seem to follow, but the horse nods the head within the restriction of the bridle.
I am so confused. Help!
~Melody
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Re: What should I do with my hands during different gaits?

Post by Susan Brown on Sat Feb 20, 2010 5:23 pm

SUSAN: Hi, Melody,

You say you're confused, but I'd say you seem to understand all of this quite well!

First I'll talk a bit about the "transition" of gaits in the TWH. The flat walk and the running walk are essentially the same gait, same footfalls and timing, the only difference is the speed and more pronounced action of the running walk. So when you are riding your walker, in contrast to the walk/trot/canter horses, we don't want to actually see any transition between gaits. I like my horse to start at a "dog walk", very gradually speeding up, to whatever speed I wish, even if that's a fast rack. Therefore it's like accellerating a car in an automatic, just push the pedal, no need for shifting gears. With the rack, I do find that it helps them to elevate the head a bit, and you will find a little different feel. But the only thing I do is encourage them to lift the head a bit as they move past a running walk, if that's what you wish to do.

Now as far as the movement of the hands, you were right about not moving them forward and back with the nose. If a TWH's nose is moving forward and back, like a chicken's, that is incorrect. They should bring their heads up and down, in a nod in a flat or running walk. Or just pretty much staying elevated in the rack. So your hands will hold soft, but still, with soft elbows, close to the level of the mane. The horse will learn to be very comfortable moving up and down from your hands like a folcrum. If they are not comfortable with your hands holding still and your reins relatively short, you can put them in side reins for a while to get them used to it.

It can be a lot of fun learning all of the ins and outs of gaited horses. So many people with walk/trot/canter horses think all you do is just sit there on a gaited horse and do nothing. To me, it's more interesting and challenging as you try to learn all the nuances to each breed, gait, and horse in different terrain and situations. It's fun!

Melody, enjoy your ride!
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