((I've just started working on his largo. He's performs the corto with ease, and can go into a slow largo with no problem. It's when we go for more speed that he will sometimes try and break into a canter. What I've been doing is applying alternate pressure on the reins(normally two times on each one) and nudge him barely with my heel. Just enough to get his attention. He normally get's back on track then. Is this a good way to get the best out of his largo? I've watched him in the field and he does have some speed. It's not that I Need it, just that I want him to reach his full potential.))

@@If that is working, then use it. Getting his attention is what you need and the alternate tugs are good and keeps you from getting in a pulling match with him. Something else I do when I want to increase the largo is start off with asking for just a little more speed at a time. I do this by giving with the reins only a little at a time and squeezing ever so slightly with my legs or whatever cue you use to ask for an increase in speed say from the walk to the corto. If you give too much with the reins or move your legs too much that might be where the wanting to canter comes from. Also that could come from him being slight off balance a too much on the forehand. This is a problem with younger horses who are not balanced yet.

Backing helps with balance and consistency with the cues are a must. You can train a horse to any cue for anything if you are consistent. Voice commands help also.@@

((I'm also working a little on backing up. Any tips! He does ok with that, we're taking our time.))

@@I start from the ground with backing up. I stand in front of the horse or slightly to the side and ask him to back either from my thumb gently pressed into the shoulder point and using a gentle tug and release with the lead line and say "baaaack" or I gently tap the leg I want him to move with a long crop or wand and use the gentle tug and release with the lead line, saying "baaack".

If you use the crop or wand you can start with taps to the horses' lower legs and work up the leg to taps to the chest. Always signal the horse by tapping on the leg or chest area that corresponds to the leg you wish for him to move. This is a clear signal that asks for a specific leg movement.

A horse backs using a front leg and the opposite back leg. Tap the front leg or touch the shoulder that is opposite to the back leg that is a little in front of the other back leg. If the right rear leg is a little ahead of the left rear leg, touch the left front leg. Ask for only one step at a time keeping the head low. This teaches the horse to back in balance and also helps in collecting the horse.

To start out with the horse will probably take long steps but as he is able to balance better the backward steps will be smaller. The more you correctly back your horse, the more in balance and collected he will be.

As your horse accepts this willingly, you can move to asking for the back from the saddle. If you have a helper, they can ask for the back from the ground in front of the horse using the shoulder method, if you do not have a helper this is where the long crop or wand comes in handy, you can ask the horse for the back using the same gentle taps to the chest you used on the ground saying "baaaaack" and gentle using the pull/release on the reins. When the horse responds to this well you can use just the reins and the voice.@@

((This is my first paso so I'm going by my previous work with other gaited horses, common sense, a few tips from other paso owners and a paso book. We're doing pretty good so far, but I don't want to do anything to mess things up at this point. I'm working him in a jaquima, and several people have told me I need to bit him to finish him. I'm thinking about doing that later this summer just so he'll know what it is and how it works, but he doesn't really "need" a bit. He collects naturally, and responds wonderfully with the jaquima. He might do even better with a bit though, who knows.))

@@You don't "have" to bit a horse to finish them unless you are going to show or you have problems controlling him. If he is collecting using the jaquima that is great. Sounds like you are doing a good job with him. However, if you want to bit the horse their is nothing wrong with that either as long as you do what you have been doing and take it slow.

Don't let anyone tell you you have to do something you don't want to do or talk you out of doing something you do want to do, as long as you and your horse are happy working together. If you choose to bit your horse introduce it to him and let him wear it in conjunction with the jaquima and let him get used to it while you walk him around or work on some ground exercises like walking over ground poles. This lets him get used to it slowly while giving him something else to think about.

When he seems adjusted to this new sensation. You can mount and using the jaquima only, ride or work him as usual just letting him wear the bit. Do this until he no longer constantly mouths the bit. Then you can start gently using the bit reins in combination with the jaquima reins to accustom him to the feel of the bit. This may take several days. I would ride him with the combination bit/jaquima for several weeks or sometimes months, depending on how often you ride and how well he responds.

The thing to avoid is having to pull on his mouth for any reason. When you feel he is ready you can then practice riding him with just the bit reins, but having the jaquima on also in case you feel he is having problems with the bit. This way you can gradually work him over to the bit without hurting his mouth.@@


@@try this: get him to lower his head by placing one hand on his nose where his halter is and one hand behind his ears. Press gently down. If he doesn't respond try moving his head back and forth with your hands while you are still gently pressing down. When he lowers his head, gently massage his neck for a few minutes. Do this several times, lead him forward, lower his head, reward him with massage. You don't want the head too low, just to about wither height. Then try to get him to keep his head lowered as you walk, don't force just ask. This helps with establishing your dominance over him and his trust in you and when he will do this on command will solve a lot of other problems as it diminishes the flight/fight reflex.

Next, with his head lowered, place on hand behind his ear and one under his chin. Gently pull up and out with the hand under the chin to extend his neck, hold briefly, release and repeat. This opens his air passage and stretches the neck muscles used in collection, keeping them stretched and pain free.

Another thing to help with his neck pain and supplying is neck flexing: standing by his side, place one hand one the nose where the halter is gently bring the nose around to his side. You may have to place your hand on the side of his neck to encourage him to bend instead of turn to you. Make sure the head is coming around level and not with the nose tipped out or down. That is the key. If you have been doing neck flexing before, check to see where his nose is. It does no good for his nose to be tipped way up or way down.@@

Helpful Hint: Newest training tips are at the end.

((Are Paso Finos easy to train?))

@@Paso Fino training should be built in steps or grades. It's best not to skip any grades to get a solid basic foundation for a long positive relationship with your horse.

If a horse wasn't handled much when young, developing trust in people is a first requirement for a safe training experience. Alot of preliminary groundwork is important, such as lounging, sacking out, hobbling, flexing/suppling, long-reining, mounting/dismounting, and round pen work, all preceding the actual riding lessons. This ground training can be done before riding age lending to a smooth transition for mounted work. The first riding lessons should concentrate on turning, stopping, walking, and backing before asking the horse to move out faster. When the horse is accepting of all commands, let the horse move out doing what feels natural even if it means he is trotting or mixing gaits. Often, Paso Fino horses will not be in gait due to their lack of balance with the rider's weight and lack of muscle conditioning and coordination. This will usually change with time as the lessons progress as well as a steadier four beat lateral gait. The training techniques of John Lyons and traditional dressage methods also work well with Paso Finos. There are many videos and clinics which discuss these methods in detail. Also understanding horse behavior helps to comprehend why the horse reacts negatively or positively when being trained. Furthermore patience is a virtue and a must for a trainer of horses. Attending Paso Fino training clinics demonstrating various methods can help you decide what may be best for you and your horse.@@

((How can I get my green Paso Fino started in training?))

@@Basically to start you need to earn this horse's trust and get her to relax around you. Start with alot of competitive roundpen training or "reasoning" to help. Really until you have the horse's trust and it will relax with and without the saddle on and headgear, I wouldn't try to do much riding training. Sacking out can include a towel, plastic feed bag type, plastic garbage bag, tied bag with aluminum cans inside to rattle, drag an attached rope short and then a little longer but not a lounge line (too long). That should get you started for awhile!@@

((How do I start my young Paso Fino to train for halter classes?))

@@For halter, you should have your horse set up like a Quarter Horse standing square on all four, with its neck set to its natural carriage. The Paso should exhibit its natural gait (more collected if able to) when asked to move out. Work on the horse to stand still and square for short periods of time with the handler...5 minutes, so it will do so in the ring, when it will no doubt be distracted.@@

((What are some pointers on flexing my Paso Fino from the ground?))

@@Flexing your Paso Fino makes him supple or soft. Flex laterally only to the point of comfort to the horse; the higher the placement of the neck towards the saddle is preferred over the lower reach to the girth area. To stretch the poll, top of neck and back, flex vertically with head moving inward.@@

((What are some other groundwork cues I can teach my Paso Fino?))

@@Helpful groundwork cues include (1) touching with a crop where leg pressure would go, (2) teaching to back up and then to move forward afterwards, (3) getting horse to lower head to ground by teaching horse to yield to hand pressure over poll area; teaching submission to relax the horse.@@

((How does lounging help my Paso Fino?))

@@Lounging teaches the horse to round its back getting its hind legs reaching under its body, with a lower neck carriage. Rounding the back strengthens the back muscles which will help the horse to carry a rider. Lounging teaches forward movement which helps the horse to confront any fears it may have (otherwise which would result in balking or running away).@@

((How can I get my Paso Fino to improve its natural gait to be an even 4 beat lateral gait?))

@@The Paso Fino is a gaited breed, it drives from the rear and propels itself forward from the hindquarters working under itself. Since most Pasos do trot in the pasture, the trot is also a natural gait to them, more familiar and comfortable to them as they move relax moving on the forehand with their neck at a lower set than when ridden in gait. For this reason, when a Paso Fino is started in saddle training, the horse lacks the balance and hindquarters conditioning to carry a rider's weight, and usually leans towards the diagonal gait , a trot or a trocha. As the horse gets its balance by working the horse, first at a walk then a slightly faster  (probably diagonal) speed; it will eventually start working off its hindquarters.

Achieve this by riding the horse in circles, serpentines,  figure-eights, and reverses. The horse may resist due to this will take more effort until the horse is conditioned. Try short 10-20 minute lessons. to start. You can also ride the horse at a speed faster than a walk down a hill to help the horse gets its hindquarters under itself when being ridden, but WALK the horse up the hill otherwise it will be counterproductive to your gaiting effort.

You can also use a head lifter which attaches to the bosal and headstall. The headlifter goes under the chin and you will attach a set of reins just to it with another set to the bosal. The head lifter causes the horse to shift its balance towards the rear, while the bosal encourages the horse to tuck its nose.

Take it slow and practice until you get the practice of using 2 sets of reins  and are able to use each set independently of the other. The above exercises and routines should help to bring the horse into balance where it can achieve its natural Paso 4-beat gait. The horse may go from a walk to a slow corto easily if you do not push for more speed initially...just a little faster than an extended walk. From there when steady, ask for a bit more extension and speed.@@

((What are some exercises to help my Paso Fino relax under saddle?))

@@Rollbacks and circles are useful exercises to teach your Paso Fino to relax. A rollback stretches the muscles through the top of the neck down the back, hindquarters and hind legs. It can be executed by riding the fence line, then pulling into the rail. With the rein pulled wide, turn into the fence raising weight out of the saddle. The rollback exercise works off the hindquarters lifting the horse's front end.

Circles help the horse to bend and flex its entire body working out any stiffness. Be light in any leg pressure used.

Note: a pacy horse is usually a stiff horse, so you need to get the horse to relax.@@

((How can I improve my Paso Fino's training to stop?))

@@Training to stop uses lateral flexion to slow the horse down and then stop. Use the right rein, then left rein, not both at same time when stopping. When the horse stops, the horse comes with the hind leg under its body and rounds its body. The rider can raise off the back; head comes forward and down when stopping. Teach a verbal command with "whoa" for future riders.@@

((I want to show my Paso Fino with the "international" look of the tail, but want it totally natural and legal. How do I go about this?)) 

@@Regarding natural tail massaging ... first comb the tail out, part it down the center as per show, put baby oil in the part and then comb that out through out the tail before starting the massage. Grab a strand to hold the tail with (from the very end of the bone); then press on the tail in a downward motion, kind of stroking from the tail head to the tip of the bone, while holding the strand of hair at the end, to tip the end up. Do this from both sides, to keep the tail even, it should be done daily too. Twice daily is even better.

When you get done with the massage, you can grasp the tail bone (about 4" from the end and pull the tail down, while bending gently where your hands are -- bend the end straight out). Some horses are difficult  to massage,others are great. Some have very stiff basically "unmassageable tails", others will show improvement with in a few days.  It just depends on the horse.  *Thanks to Carol Todd, Larimar Paso Finos, British Columbia, Canada for this information on Paso Fino natural tail massaging.@@

((I trail ride exclusively my Paso Fino. My problem is that he refuses to flat walk and always wants to go faster than I would like. This happens leaving the barn and is more acute on the way back. The result is a pulling contest that is unpleasant and leaves my hands and arms sore. I would like to know the best way to correct this problem.)) 

@@For this problem, I would alternate a pull and release with the reins while maintaining a walking speed. If this doesn't help, walk the horse into continual circles alternating to the right and to the left, although not real tight circles. Do this for several minutes or longer to 10-15 minutes until the horse tires and settles to a more relaxed walk. Walk calmly for about 15 to 20 feet. If the horse is relaxed, walk farther. If it returns to wanting to go faster; repeat the circling procedure. Do not lose your patience; you can stroke the horse on the neck while circling to reassure it and keep it calm. This procedure will tire the horse, and it will eventually decide it is easier to walk calmly then walk in circles where it gets nowhere. Always walk your horse on the home stretch. Also, you can vary your way home, backtrack on the trail, go on side paths, serpentine a path, any direction so it is not a direct path home that the horse is used too. This is a habit that is more in the horse's mind, so you must break the routine he isused to. I don't believe switching to a bit versus the bosal would make much difference.

Additionally, if possible ride behind a calmer horse who will be the lead horse to set the pace for your horse. Try these training techniques individually or mixed to see what may work in your situation.@@

((How do I get my horse to flex down to stretch the neck and poll without her thinking I'm asking her to back? I have tried a suggestion to put my hand on the top of her neck while doing the flex, but she still backs up. I want to use her for trail riding, even though she is a nervous type.)) 

@@Flexing a horse equals softness in the horse's body. If your horse is resisting flexing, the horse is not relaxed. If you think about a horse in the pasture, it is relaxed and can flex and twist its neck and body in a number of ways without being asked or forced. The idea is to get the horse to be relaxed and comfortable being handled and ridden.

Too often, horses are rushed through training resulting in stiffness and even nervousness as they are not sure what is expected of them. From the ground, try stretching exercises with the horse's legs and massaging the back, neck and poll area to get the horse to relax its whole body. If the body is relaxed, the neck should be more flexible too. Since your horse is backing readily with a bit, her mouth is obviously very soft and responsive; try a soft leather bosal as the bit may be a distraction for her when you are asking for a vertical flex. Otherwise ask for this from the ground until she is comfortable with it, and she cannot get confused thinking she is suppose to back.@@

((My 4 yr Paso Fino had been trained for fino, but now that I am showing him in pleasure, he will not walk. What's the prognosis for him?))

@@A young horse that is trained to be fino when he is not naturally fino, may have mental problems due to being forced to do a fino type gait when it is not natural for him. Fino horses are discouraged from walking and to be "hotter" when performing. The young horse will be confused and mentally conflicted, causing it to become nervous when asked to walk for pleasure training. It had been previously taught not to relax when being ridden and now the rider wants it to be relaxed, and to walk. Big contradiction to the horse in his mind to which he may have been punished before exactly for doing what you want him now to do. Wouldn't it make you nervous if you were that horse?! With time, patience,and knowledge, the horse's true nature and talent should come forth, and it should become a pleasing, enjoyable pleasure horse.@@