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Training an ex pacer

Hi Franklin,

I was wondering if you had any thoughts or advice on how to retrain a horse that has been trained to pace. We have acquired a sweet natured 4yo bay standard bred horse,14.3hh for my 14yo daughter. Her trot is uneven and not consistent. She rarely canters and very quickly reverts to pacing. Any tips would be gratefully appreciated. Ideally we would like her to be able to go to pony club.

Regards, Angella

Hi Angela,

The basic principle that comes into play here is make what you wnat easy for the horse and what you don't want difficult. Also, the concept of 'positive reinforcement.' This horse is extremely habituated to it's way of moving. Pacing was its life. It will take time (don't know how long) and a lot of patience. It will take a very good rider as well. Someone with very good equestrian skills.

Basically, everytime the horse begins to pace she should be put into a very tight/small circle in such a way that she cannot pace but has to trot. As soon as she trots, stop the horse and let her rest along with a Good Girl. The rest and a little praise is the reward. Over time she will come to associate the fact that if she paces she has to work in small circles (not abusive but no fun). When she trots she gets a rest/reward. The reward must be well timed so the horse gets the association. This technique works very well over time to modify unwanted behavior.

To develop a canter it is basically the same proceedure. When the horse is asked to canter and does not, she goes to work in small circles/leg yields. Then you ask her again. As soon as she canters a few yards, put her away (the biggest reward possible). Ask for longer and longer canters over time and keep rewarding what you want when you get it. There is no quick fix to this situation. A lot will depend on the skill and timing of the trainer. Good Luck and please keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

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