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The Chicago Gaiting Problem

"Hello, I'm calling from Chicago to see if you can tell me why my horse won't trot correctly..."

"Well, it's kind of hard tell over the phone from 800 miles away, but let's see what we can do..."

"My dressage instructor doesn't like the way she trots."

Clue 1, I ask myself... Could it be the instructor had no input in the horse's suitability for the discipline and would be able to come up with any number of more suitable horses if the student was willing to consider getting a "better" horse??? Horses the instructor recommends are always better suited than the owner's selection.

"She's a Tennessee Walking Horse..."

"Oh, I think I see the problem, TWHs don't normally trot, they gait."

"She doesn't gait well either."

Oh??????? "Well, without seeing the horse I'd have no idea what to tell you.

"Would you come to Chicago to look at her?"

Sure, why not? If you are willing to bring me, I'm willing to give it a shot.

I arrive at a HUGE barn smack dab in the middle of Chicago and I'm sitting in the lounge waiting for the owner to show up. I get talking to some of the people who want to know why I'm there. "Oh yeah, that's the black & white TWH down at the end of aisle 57, you can't miss her!"

"Oh, I think I know the problem, it's not a TWH..., TWHs come in two colors, chestnut and bay," I remark. People start casting aspersions on my horse knowledge while looking for a rope and a tall tree all the while insisting she has papers and cost big bucks. Fortunately the owner showed up in time to rescue me.

We end up down at the stall and I see a lovely headed mare greeting us. The owner slips the halter on the horse and starts leading her out and I stop her in the stall door.

"See how this shoulder goes straight down, see how that shoulder rounded? That's a TWH shoulder, that's a stock horse shoulder." I had her bring the horse the rest of the way out into the aisle. "See how this hip goes straight down, see how that hip goes out around? That's a TWH hip, that's a stock horse hip, and they are on the diagonal. You have the parts of two different horses in the same horse, this horse is unable to trot or gait correctly."

To say she was displeased and wondering how that could happen is saying it lightly. How does that happen???" she demanded. I paid good money for this horse from a reputable TWH breeder!!!"

It happens when TWH breeders say to themselves, "Wouldn't it be neat if we could get some color TWHs? I know this guy down the road who has a Paint stud..." Some registries will register single parent TWH offspring as Walkaloosas, you name it, if it gaits, fine, if it doesn't it has one or more TWH parents..

Just like there are designer dog breeders all over who think they know how to develop a new breed of dog in a generation or two the same mentality exists in the horse world. Breeding becomes an emotional activity instead of a functional pursuit. They expect to get the best of both breeds and more often than not end up getting the worst of the breeding.

Many times the horse they end up with is completely unsuited for their dreams and they then began searching for cures. I have long lost count of horses brought to me with SI joint issues resembling the Grand Canyon with performance issue difficulties presenting a poor prognosis only to have the owner announce, "That's okay, she always always preferred to be a broodmare anyway."

When I was growing up before every farmer had a tractor all horses looked pretty much the same because horses had to be productive as soon as possible. If they weren't they were sent to the mink ranch, they certainly weren't bred. Then banks started financing tractors and a tractor could be left untouched in one spot for months and never had to be fed. Tractors never tired and so on. So instead of breeding horses for work horses were bred for emotion and emotional appeal or what we call character. Form follows function. Next thing you know we have horses of all kinds of conformation and characteristics.

And with them come all sorts of issues.

Mysterious horse issues are a specialty of mine.

I may not always be the answer but I should always be called, Marv Walker, 706 816-7190

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