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Yes, riding a "Gaited Horse" is completely different from riding a "normal" walk/trot/canter.
With a "Gaited Horse" the motion is lateral. Which means if you use your legs to grip AT ALL, you will move laterally with the horse, which will quite literally toss you from side to side.
You have to relearn to ride by balance, with "what will feel like no grip whatsoever~!!!"
Sit in the saddle (I will assume that you have a Western Saddle) and apply the weight of your body in an equal tripod....the tripod will be each of your feet, and your seat. Now practise just sitting there with NO grip in your legs, letting your legs hang at the sides of the horse RELAXED, LOOSE, W/O TENSION OR GRIP, and simply applying the weight of your body equally between each foot and your seat. "Think of your legs as more the conductors of the equal distribution of your weight, rather than a means in which to wrap around the horse and grip as much as is necessary to stay in position...or with the motion of the horse as is done in hunter/jumpers or western."
As the horse moves in the "gaited" motion, allow the horses' body to move freely between your legs, don't try to move with the motion, or you will start to toss and roll; but let your leg be relaxed, and allow the horse to simply move as is necessary to engage his/her gait. It does feel really, really weird at first. Once you learn to relax, more and more and more, you will simply sit back, balance between your three points, and allow the horse to move you along.
The reason that you toss & roll is that the horse's body is moving from side to side in order to move forward, and when you grip, you move from side to side as well, because the gripping with your legs, will have you follow the motion, rather than sitting back, relaxing, and allowing the horse to move.
That is why the Old Timers in the South LOVED the Plantation Horse, the rider simply sits back and relaxes, while the horse is working. Whereas riding (especially Hunter/Jumpers or western) the rider works in keeping with the horses' motion in order to not be left behind or thrown ahead....just to stay centered in the saddle.
The faster a gaited horse goes, the more you relax in your tripod balance.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|