Gaiting your horse is by far the most complex version of Saddlebred training. Teaching your horse to perform the four beat slow gait and rack are strenuous manoeuvres and breed specific. The Saddlebred’s conformation comfortably allows for it to naturally elevate the weight off its fore quarter and hold its carriage from the hind quarter. Before engaging in this process, your horse needs to be muscularly toned, physically co-ordinated and mentally mature. We recommend that your horse is taught by a registered Professional Saddlebred Trainer.
When your horse is ready to learn how to rack, he will be encouraged to use his muscles differently in comparison to the trot. In the trot, the horse tends to have a rounded frame and neck collection. When we introduce him to the rack, he needs to uniquely control his frame from the hind quarter, slightly freeing the front quarter, presenting a slight uphill posture. His head carriage elevated just above vertical.
Once the horse is familiar with the new frame and comfortable at the walk, he is ready to be introduced to a new way of striking his feet in terms of a four beat lateral cadence. You can start your horse on a slight downhill, ensuring he has a smooth working surface for secure footing. This encourages a four beat shuffle that progresses into the rack. At the base of the decline turn and walk your horse back up the hill, the slight incline, with a low head carriage encourages a change in muscle usage, allowing fatigued muscles to recover while still engaging the hind quarter. Move at a speed comfortable for your horse ensuring that he has mastered his gait before acquainting him to a definite slow gait and high speed rack. We recommend short sessions with plenty of down time, walking periods and relaxation between gaits.
After months of toning and teaching, the horse should be able to perform a slow gait and propel into the rack with ease. The slow gait is a lateral movement with an uneven four beat cadence, 1-2 pause 3-4. The rack, a faster four beat gait with an even cadence, 1,2,3,4 in succession. Executed correctly, the horse will carry its entire weight independently on one leg at any given time in the gait.
It is of utmost importance that you maintain optimum core muscle strength while teaching your horse to rack. We recommend the frequent use of trotting poles during the gaiting process. This will soften the horse’s top line, lengthen muscles in his back, open the vertebrae and increase hind quarter strength. Be vigilant at all times, if your horse is developing behavioural disorders, he might not comprehend your instruction or he may be experiencing physical exhaustion. Revert back to ground work and allow his mind and body to catch up to his new exercise regime.