Gaited Horses - Introduction
To bounce, or not to bounce, what a terrific question!
It’s really quite a debate amongst many riders. Some argue that it simply is not natural to have a gaited horse, a horse should be walk, trot, canter, gallop. Actually, this was my argument for a long time whilst sitting atop Bonanza, my favorite Quarter Horse.
I had ridden a few before, but wasn’t overly impressed. So I resigned myself to ignoring the looks I got from posting in a Western saddle. And so it was from January until May when I took Bonanza to a fun show. There Bonanza and I were outnumbered by all of these gaited horses. “That’s okay Nana”, I told her in the practice ring. “You can’t help being bouncy.” I looked around at these riders riding their gaited horses, looking like they were riding Cadillacs instead of horses. And then there was me on a Quarter Horse. The minority. But I couldn’t help wondering what I was missing. There must be something I overlooked in these horses. They do seem pretty popular. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, Bonanza was ace at the show. I was very proud of her!
Meanwhile, back at the ranch..er...barn, I asked my instructor (Debbie) if I could switch to gaited. (Hey, even a die-hard Quarter Horse fan can’t stay in the dark forever!) Besides, I wanted something with a little more “get-up-and-go”- this is certainly not Bonanza!
Anyway, I could have sworn I saw Debbie crack a smile before I even finished the sentence. (Perhaps she was as tired of trying to get me to sit to the trot as I was of trying to do it.) At any rate she introduced me to my new mount, Mandy. I found out very shortly after getting on that Mandy is all the “get-up-and-go” I could possible want. And then some!
Mandy is a Tennessee Walking Horse mare. She is five gaited. Dog walk, flat walk, and Mach 1, 2, and 3! A mere brush with the legs and she moves. But along with the speed comes the smooooooooth. (I feel I need to point out here that if she tried to gait too fast it gets rather bouncy, so speed does not always come with quality!)
One of the first things Debbie warned me about was not to cue her too loudly. I only made that mistake once! She flies!! I spent months refusing to ride anything responsive and fast and anything gaited. Mandy is both of these. And I love it!
These horses, these gaited horses, are a lot more versatile than I first thought and they really are a lot of fun. I would encourage anyone to give them a try! And now, after my long winded speech, I invite you to read our trainer interview, breed profiles, and check out the biographies on all of the wonderful people who helped me put this section together. First up, the Paso Fino! Happy trails!