The Savvy Station

Eight Principles of Horsemanship Pertaining to Gaited Horses

par Parelli Professionals sur May 22, 2024

Eight Principles of Horsemanship Pertaining to Gaited Horses

By Jenny Trainor - 3 Star Parelli Professional

I have competed at horse shows since I was a little horse crazed girl.  When I was 10 years old, I started trading cleaning stalls for my lessons. The barn jobs gradually grew to include cooling down and warming up the training horses and then to doing exercise rides.  Eventually I was the top amateur and juvenile rider in the northwest, in 1988, at 14, I earned my dream trip (from Oregon to Tennessee) with my trainer and her clients to The Celebration, the World Championships for the Tennessee Walking Horse, and that year I won my first of 4 World Championships.   It was such an amazing experience for me that now that I have my own daughter, I wanted her to be able to experience The Celebration.  The horses at The Celebration today are much better than when I was a kid!!  In 2019, I bought a talented 2-year-old named Blue Gin Delight. He is a cuspy LBI/LBE and I’m sure his lack of interest in doing what his previous trainer wanted was how I ended up with him.  He is not one for being told what to do!  I restarted him using the 8 Parelli Principals and of course the psychology and techniques that I have as a 3 Star Instructor. As Gin developed, I had hopes that, Tana, my daughter, age 10 would be able to share in showing him with me!  In order to get to that point, I knew he would have to know his responsibilities really well because Tana may not understand hers as well. Preparing Gin, now a five-year-old for me to show was easy but I had to focus more on him being mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared to take care of Tana and not push him to the full extent of his talent. It was very important to me that Tana be safe and have fun and experience the idea of celebrating the Tennessee Walking Horse.  That was my goal!  I rode Gin in 3 classes prior to Tana’s class and placed in all of them.  The competition at the Celebration is very tough; I was very pleased! In Tana’s class there were 18 horses! Gin was super good and later a respected trainer congratulated me on Tana’s safe ride, saying that the Gin bred line of horses is one of the most difficult lines she has in her barn and she would never have dreamed that he would take care of her as well as he did! Thank you, Parelli!  Tana came out of the ring with a maroon participation ribbon and a huge smile she was so happy you would have thought it was blue!

  • Horsemanship is natural. 
  • So are gaits, as long as your horse carries the Gait Keeper Gene. Not all are created equal, and knowing where your horse lies on the Gait Scale can help to refine his gaits and set him up for success.

  • Don’t make or teach assumptions.
  • If you want to gait, don’t allow what you don’t want. If you let or allow your horse to trot or pace and don’t want it, you are teaching an assumption.

  • Communication is two or more individuals sharing and understanding an idea.
  • Does your horse know what gait you want? That means if he is pacing or trotting and you don’t want him to, do you have a way to tell him that is not what you want?  This also helps him figure out what you want. 

    You do--- it’s the four stages of relaxation!

          Stage 1- Lift your rein or relax your rein

          Stage 2- Steady rein

          Stage 3- Partial Disengagement

          Stage 4- Full Disengagement

    The real secret is being able to use this on the ground as well as in the saddle 😉

  • Horses and humans have mutual responsibilities:
    • Humans:
      • Act like a partner, not a predator.

    Turn your horse’s head loose when he is doing what you want.  Don’t pull back on both reins to try to get gait! 

    • Have an independent seat and feet. 

    Ride the gait you want, not the one your horse, decides to give you!!!

    • Think like a horse.

    Your horse doesn’t care if he is smooth for you to ride.  You have to help him understand that it is important to you.

    • Use the natural power of focus.

    Teaching your horse to choose the gait you want is not hard. You just have to focus on what you want. When it isn’t what you want, do something about it!

    •  Horses:
      • Act like a partner, not a prey animal.

    If your horse is emotional, take care of that first before you worry about gait.  However, sometimes a bad gait will promote prey animal behavior (high head, tight back, and uncomfortable gait), so helping your horse focus on something (which could be a good gait) will help them act like a partner. 

    • Maintain gait.

    In level one and the beginning of level two, I suggest to all my gaited horse students to consider their intermediate gait as anything between a normal horse walk and a canter. Once you have better control over your skills and your horse’s understanding, this is not good enough!!  Gaited horse people need to become more particular and better at recognizing when their horse changes gait. It is not necessarily about speed: it is about footfalls, beats, and power.  This can be done on the ground as well as in the saddle!

    • Maintain direction.

    If you don’t have to maintain gait, don’t try to direct your horse because your gait will change when you try to change direction!

    • Look where you’re going.

    Obstacles, varying footing, and terrain will affect your gait.  Understanding HOW is important to help set your horse up for success!  For example, pacey horses do better going uphill but have a terrible time going downhill, whereas trotty horses do better going downhill than up.  Of course, Pat says, “never say never and don’t always say always, usually say usually…”.

  • The attitude of justice is effective.
  • Use phases to help your horse understand what you want. If you scare him, he will get worried.  Tension is usually the enemy to good gait.  Relaxation is very important!

  • Body language is universal.
  • Do in your body what you want your horse to do in his!  Make the right thing easy, the wrong thing difficult.

  • Horses teach humans, and humans teach horses
  • Are you teaching your horse what you want him to do, or are you letting him do whatever he wants? Educate your butt!  If it is uncomfortable, that is not what you want! Do something about it!

  • Principles, purpose, and time are the tools of teaching.
  • Be consistent and use psychology to help teach your horse the gait you want and keep at it.  If your horse has not been gaiting well for years, it will probably take some time to get it to maintain its gait well.  You are always teaching your horse. It’s just a matter of what you are teaching him.

    Hopefully, this will give you some help.  If you want more info, please contact me. I have a virtual course for gaited horse students, and I am happy to do a clinic in your area if there is enough interest! or (406)599-0644


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