What is a Gaited Horse. By definition a gaited horse is any horse who's natural gait is altered or enhanced through training. For the purpose of this discussion we will be referring to the American Saddlebred Horse and the gait known as the slow gait and the rack.
"Ride em out of a walk and don't let em trot". Bob Robinson
How long does it take'
It varies with each horse but I think you can see results in just 30 days.
The first thing is to evaluate your horse to see if he is even a candidate for the training.
Gaiting a horse takes time and you wouldn't want to waste it on the wrong prospect.
First of all your candidate should be broke to ride, wear a snaffle bridle and exhibit a strong trot. He should move forward and not balk or turn back when spooked. We have bred enough of these chicken horses over the years. Don't waste your time on them. They will always let you down.
I say a strong trot because a horse with a strong trot will learn to rack true. A soft trotting horse will tend to want to pace. If your horse is already ambling or trying to rack on his own you better get another horse or work on his trot some more.
There are several ways to do this but I am going to share one way that is easy on the horse and you wind up with a nice mouth. This has to be done at a walk a flat foot walk, no jigging.
Bob Robinson showed me this method.
Pick a spot a straightaway down you driveway or near the barn where the ground is firm. A slightly down hill grade is best. You are going to start out making a couple trips at the walk down and back in a strait line. After you have warmed up a bit start turning your horse to form a snake like pattern down the straightaway, a serpentine. Allow the horse to take four or five steps then turn his head the other way four or five steps back and fourth to the end of the straightaway making this snake like pattern.
This is going to get your horse bending and each time you turn you will be increasing his stride behind. Ten or fifteen minutes of this is probably enough. If you over work your horse he will resent it. He is going to use new muscles and these have to be built up and strengthened over time. Do this until it is easy for him. Couple of weeks
Start shorting up the steps. Turn him now every two or three steps the same on each turn one two three turn. 1 2 3 turn. The same on each side. As your doing this you should be gradually picking the horses head up to an elevated position. You will need to do this walking and swinging for another week or so.
Now your horse should be walking taking a good long step behind and should be able to easily elevate his head.
When you do this start the workout with the longer steps then shorten them up. Now we want every other step to turn. This will be confusing to him at first so don't push it. Start with the longer program and shorten it up gradually finally asking to turn every other time. Don't sit there and saw back and forth on his mouth if you did your work right you should be able to do this with a little finger. Your are going to start to here the beat. When you turn and then turn back with his head elevated you will hear a pit er pat er pit er pater. That's the sound you want. That's the start of it. You want to urge your horse to walk faster and faster without breaking into a trot or jig. All the time raising his head and turning left then right left then right. At some point he will break into a rack. Only a few steps at first. Great, build on that. It takes time remember you are developing muscles and strength. Don't insist he do it too long ,pick your spots start long then shorten up to ask him to turn every other step. Build on your success and soon he will be racking the whole length of the straightaway and loving it.
Shoeing can help a lot.
Have your shoer lower the heels on the hind feet. Every horse will be different you should not lower more than necessary I have had good luck with 50 degrees. Put on a flat shoe let it extend out behind the foot quarter to half an inch. Make the shoe 18 to 20 ounces. Remove the front shoes and trim the foot. If you want to leave front shoes on its OK too. Make sure they are light a 1/2" half round is good or aluminium racing plates .