View Full Version : Easiest gait going uphill

12-11-07, 12:13 PM
sorry guys - probably a dumb question, but I figure if I don't ask I'll never know.
I have always lived and ridden in dead flat country. But now have moved into an area where all the riding is either up or down hills.

I am riding an unfit, older mare. We are only doing very small trail rides (a couple of kms at most)- neither of us are as fit as we used to be, and it is purely for enjoyment. We take it slowly, walking for 90% of the ride (think of 2 old ducks out for a stroll). This is my choice. She is a dream to ride and happily walks, but frequently tells me that a hoon would not be a bad idea.

My question is what is the easiest gait for a horse to go up a hill. Most of the trail is easy - there is movement in the land but its not steep. However, there is one part which is about 200m long and is a steady incline. If I give her a choice, she takes it at a canter, but is puffing at the end. When we take it at the walk she seems to make heavy weather of the trip, but is better at the top.

I am hoping someone who does a lot of trail riding or endurance etc can help. I am not fussed either way (just enjoying the trip), but want to do whats easiest for her.


12-11-07, 01:01 PM
For my boy i usually just leave it up to him unless he's being naughty. But with an older horse i'd probably say a trot - its not as tiresome as a canter but it does seem to be easier than a walk. Most horses will rather trot up hills than walk.

12-11-07, 01:30 PM
They always want to get it over with quickly ...but in an unfit horse you can do some serious damage.
Endurance horses are trained to walk hills... up and down.
They are then trained to trot up hills..and then ( after a year or two)maybe perhaps sometimes occasionally ....allowed a little mad canter up a clean straight well surfaced hill...just for a bit of fun.

Only when racing for sheep stations is the well trained endurance horse allowed to trot or canter downhill .. and then with great care.

12-11-07, 01:33 PM
Hi Kerry :)

Man it was depressing to read this. I WANNA GO FOR A TRAIL RIDE! I love trail riding and we are lucky to have some beautiful bush. I would think that it depends on how steep the incline is... and 200m is a fare hill for an aged horse. Still, I would agree with the trot, and think you are doing the right thing just asking her what she prefers. I mostly canter up hills, but most of them are short and sweet max 70m up, but are reasonably steep. I love the fact that you care enough to ask :) I know myself I prefer to run up a steep hill, and you do puff a bit, but for some reason it's easier. Maybe walk until it becomes a bit more of a hill, then trot and as it inclines even more ask if she would like to canter and if she doesn't she doesn't, if she does she will.

Happy riding :)
So jealous!

12-11-07, 01:34 PM
thanks - I will definately stop the canter option (might as well confirm her thought that I am a party pooper).

I was worried about it.

12-11-07, 01:51 PM
sorry Jacki - didn't want to make anyone jealous :-)

can't believe how much fun I am having with her. Whilst I have loved riding the horses I have had in the past, they were horses with 'attitude'. I didn't really appreciate the difference between riding a horse that just goes looks at anything strange and keeps going Vs the horse that jumps out of their skin everytime a leaf uncurls.

I am just riding around the agistment property at the moment, but will be taking her out on the road in the next week or so, thus giving me many more options

thanks everyone for your help

13-11-07, 01:15 AM
I think you should just keep giving her a choice. IMO I feel that horses actually find it harder going up hill at the walk, especially if it is steep. Trotting hills is the best way to put muscle on them. I have lived on hills all our lives and have found that given the choice 9 out of 10 times they will canter.

We recently put down our old stock horse mare at the age of 30, and up until a few years ago she was still cantering the hills.

Having said that all our horses are used to hill country. If you feel that she is destressed, just canter in short bursts, with a good breather inbetween.

13-11-07, 01:34 AM
HI Tgh

I was told at my second ride, Kurrajong, we came 5th, not because I wanted to. but because another fellow rider decided to eliminate me by ramming my horse till he fell to his knees with the impact. (sportsmanship isnt alive in all endurance riders unfortunately) after a third attempt I became so afraid I gave my horse his head and we bolted. catching up with a guy on a buckskin. I was so scared I asked could I stay with him, he warned me he was riding to place did I still want to stay with him. considering the chances of going alone might mean I stayed with him.

he gave me my first lessons in endurance riding.

one of his points was to make up time on a ride trot the downhill but that a horse only had so many downhill ks in him. so never trot or canter downhill in training.

his other tip was at the top of a steep bit check the flanks. if they tremble, the horse is in trouble and slow down accordingly.

over the years I watched those flanks and sure enough those around me who didnt notice and didnt slow down invariably vetted out.

I cant remember his name but obviously he came 4 th at the 1977 Kurrajong ride if you know where the ride records are?


13-11-07, 01:39 AM
I have found the same as you.
I thought i was doing my horse a good turn walking with him up a part of a trail called Terra Bora, he became so distressed walking at the snails pace i was his legs were shaking.

so i hopped back on and he flew up it.

happy as a lark.

umm by flew i mean he did a strong trot, it was all rock.

13-11-07, 02:16 AM
Hi Guys
Question. Is there really such a problem with cantering or galloping up or down hill? Not that I am ever gonna canter down a hill I might add, and I will only trot down the little ones...hehehe. But my girls and my girlfriends daughter, all canter downhill, in fact my friends daughter and her palouse pony flat out gallop down hill...I cant watch. Not huge steep ones, but long sloping ones, even some I wouldnt trot down!

We mainly trail ride, and a lot of the rides we go on do include hill work, so I have never thought twice about cantering or even galloping up a hill. Obviously, like with Dozer (my new, green, unfit horse) I wouldnt just drag him out of the paddock and gallop him up a hill, but I would expect he will be cantering up there with the others within the next few months. Due to living in SE QLD, most of our trails are hilly and also due to EI, the only place to ride is our flat paddock or up a mountain, and we all love nothing more than a good hoon and so do our horses. Our rides apart from at the moment due to EI, are usualy 2-3 hours long and can include lots of trotting, cantering and galloping, with lots of sweat invloved as well. Our horses love it, are fit, sure footed and are worked bloody hard at times and no one has ever done an injury or fallen over.

All though Dozer nearly broke my neck and back yesterday at a walk!!! But thats a whole 'nother story...lol.

13-11-07, 03:06 AM
You put ENORMOUS strain on their front legs trotting and cantering down hill.

go running down hill tonight - down a steep hill - feel the double impact on your shins and on your pelvis. Feel how your muscles have to work twice as hard to keep you safe.

One of the reasons why some horses will get stressed if not allowed to gallop up hills is that they've only ever been ridden by hoons who insist on galloping up hills. This is why with young horses I only ever walk up and down hills. If I get an older horse who wants to hoon, it gets a quick andrew mclean lesson on 'thou shalt NOT jog and thou shalt NOT take off going up hills', you get the stop and go and the obedience set and even a 25 year old reprobate will get the idea that walking up and down hills is the goer.

Walking up and down hills builds topline beautifully if done correctly. You want the horse to lengthen his topline. So at first I'll do a lot of walk halt walk halt down not so steep hills to teach horses that I want them to walk down the hill with a lowered head position, not with their head up and nose as highest point. You teach that, you insist on an even rhythm and you'll have a sound horse all his days.

Nothing worse to ride than reprobates who have been taught by idjits to only hoon up and down hills.

13-11-07, 03:14 AM
Pretty much what that guy told me.

I noticed mine liked to trot Terra Bora where it was all rock yet when he found a wild animal track in the dirt to the side he happily walked it.
great track the scary bit was in one section there was a 18 inch gap he had to step over, miss step and it was freefall. I shut my eyes, and let him handle it.

It was a great little track, he would be ambling up and anyone else be scrambling and slipping on the rocks beside us.

dont recall anyone spotting us and copying though.

For anyone wondering where Terra Bora was it was part of the Tom Quilty Course at Colo.

yonks ago.

we did it 78 79 80 n 81
as i said yonks.

I followed that guys advice and that old horse was as sound as a bell till his death at 28. not even a windpuff

13-11-07, 03:23 AM
I didnt say we only hoon up and down hills, because that is NOT what happens at all. I am probably as far from a "hoon" as they get. None of my horses Jig and jog or carry on, and they are all ridden on the buckle, and apart from the new guy (who only wants to walk up, but trot down, and I am teaching him to walk both!!) all will walk, trot or canter up a hill at what ever gait we desire without argument! They will all even happily do this if others gallop off in front! So I guess I can safely say that none of them are "reprobates who have been taught by idjits"!

However, I certainly do not see a problem if we and they want to go for a "hoon" up a hill (or down in others case..but certainly not mine!!!!!!!) providing they and you are fit enough to do so. Sometimes its not all about educating them and building topline, however important, sometimes its about having a bloody good blurt and a bit of fun.