One of the many things I'm pretty fussy, and outspoken about, is saddle fit. Gaited horses are just that. Horses with extra gaits. They walk, they trot, they have a running walk, a rack and a canter. Some gaited breeds have even more gaits. What they don't have, is a need for a special saddle or equipment. They just need, as do all horses, a saddle that fits. If a saddle fits, it fits. Some gaited horses have high withers, others not so high. Just like other horses. Some are wide, others are narrow. Just like other horses. Some have big shoulders, some don't. Some are tall; some are short, just like other horses. Why "experts" too often insist folks need "gaited horse saddles" is way beyond me. Except as a selling tool for their saddles … And yes, I've seen the big name gaited horse saddles, and no, I've not been impressed. But I'm a simple fella. Either a saddle fits, or it doesn't. Simple.
|My mare Kessy and her saddle. Just a little endurance type saddle built by Larry Wilson. Has a Western tree, weighs 18lbs. Just a blanket, no pad, breast collar, or crupper. I've had this saddle a long time and Kessy is the third horse he's reshaped the tree to fit.You can read a bit about Larry HERE.|
What makes a saddle fit? A horse needs to be able to move under the saddle, while the saddle stays put. It's in the tree, or the flocking. Yup we need room at the withers, the shoulders, the spine. It can't be too long, too short, too wide, or narrow. It can't bridge, rock or pinch. It must be well balanced, can't lean forward or back, and certainly not to the side. But isn't that the case for all horses? If your saddle fits, a blanket will do, no pad required. It's not the saddle that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.
But what about all those gaited horse bits? I ride bitless. Have for years, with many different horses. I use a little noseband hackamore. Discovered it in my endurance days. I love it, and every horse I've ridden has loved it. Often I've ridden in a halter only. I really got a kick out of the times I'd ride a horse for the first time and the owner hands me their bridle with a "Walking Horse" bit and I say, "I'll use this," showing my little bitless rig. They always doubt it, then often say, "Wow, he never gaited like that for me!" It's not the bit that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.
What about those special shoes? And I don't only mean only the horrible stacks and such they do to TWHs. There are the nasty plantation shoes and cog shoes and others, all causing damage to the foot, the joints, the legs and back. I ride barefoot. Have for a lot of years. Since before it was really catching on. And no long toes or high heels either. A gaited horse's hooves should look just like any other hoof on any other horse. "He needs longer toes to gait," they say. "Hogwash!" I say. He needs healthy feet, just like any other horse. It's not the shoes or the trim that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.
What about the other "stuff?" There are lots of gadgets, gimmicks and attachments out there some people insist are needed to "teach" a horse to gait. Many of them too nasty for me to mention. Some not so nasty, but equally unnecessary, and to some degree, harmful to the horse's biomechanics. It's not the stuff that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.
An exciting note I'll share here, in my travels doing my "Therapy For Therapy Horses," clinics I have several times helped what folks call, non-gaiting breed horses discover they could indeed gait. Arabian and Quarter horses to name the breeds. Click HERE to read about one of those fun times, Lilly's Surprise. And each time we had this experience, I only knew the horse a few hours, and their owner was riding in their regular tack, all I did was talk them through it.
So there you have it. A gaited horse is no different in what it needs from any other horse. They need love, respect, honor and a trusting rider who cares. Sit your horse, relax and say, "Gait please," and watch the world glide by.
Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry