Saturday, January 31, 2009
This goes in the all-too-large category of Crazy Things People Do To Horses.
John is a gaited horse. This means he has a smooth 4-beat 'walk' that can accelerate to extremely high speeds, and he has this in common with several other horse breeds who vary their type of gait but are all smooth to ride: Icelandic Ponies, Tennessee Walking Horses (the most tormented breed I know), Rocky Mountain Horses, and John's designer breed (made up out of a political controversy among the Rockies): Kentucky Mountain Horse, etc.
Take a look at the horse in the photo, with a blue ribbon awarding what has been done to it. Look at the shoes on the front feet, look at the bit, head carriage, etc.
Welcome to the world of gaited insanity. People like the gaits, but they also want MORE: a head flung up to the stars, feet flailing in a similar direction, hollow backs, tails sticking straight up in the air so the hair waves like a fan out behind.
Here's a horse being offered for sale. How comfortable is he? This is one of about six sale photos with the same exact head carriage in all: "I hurt!". I have removed the evil expression on the rider's face.
Tennessee Walking Horses have a huge fan base and their shows have been regulated somewhat of late, but you still see many people who think this kind of shoeing is really neat:
This young lassie is all dressed up & ready to show her pretty horse, whose tail did not come from the hand of God looking like that. Check out the angle of the horse's front feet in those kegs. And then calculate the number of years or months until breakdown of the joints & ligaments.
Here's what wins, obviously:
My friend Kathy calls this type of competition "Evil Old Men Slumped Over in Tailcoats". But sometimes they aren't men...
All this insanity around gaiting makes it strange to own a gaited horse and be relatively clueless, as I am. Everyone and I mean almost everyone claims you must have a long shanked bit. You will find the religious belief that shanks are required. Are they? I really don't know but I doubt it.
Then there's the "gaited horse saddle" industry. There may be something to this, in that gaited horses need a lot of shoulder room so a slightly back-placed or Y-rigged saddle may be helpful. But fortunes are being made off people who think they can't get on their gaited cuties without a special saddle. Embarrassing story about self omitted here.
This high-headed look and upraised foreleg are almost a trademark of gaited horse competitions in the U.S. Here in Minnesota there's a group called Minnesota Walking Horse Association and they are promoting natural standards for especially Tennessee Walkers. It's refreshing to see them out and about, or at a show, with pretty horses just gaiting, flowing along, not flailing or grimacing...They go on group horse camping trips too, and I went along on one - what a completely fun group. They love their TWH's and let them just be.
I am very confused about what John should be doing. Everything from bit to contact to head carriage baffles me. Gaited horses don't just gait without some training and that training has to be kept up, but the contradictory schools of thought on how to do this could make your head explode.
Right now he goes best with a light contact on a snaffle bit, and when he is really warmed up, he gaits smoothly holding his head on a curved neck like a little palomino dragon; I can let the contact drop and he still keeps going in this frame. For awhile. Then will get pacey (two legs on the same side moving in unison in the same direction, very bumpy to ride) for a bit, then self-correct. He gaits best out on the trail.
Here's a good example of a happy gaited horse, outside and it looks like a canter, with a soft rider and no head constraint:
That's my goal. Not exactly sure how to get there.