Trying to Teach a "Paint" horse new tricks

So, in a wonderful series of events, we were able to help out a close friend who could no longer care for her western pleasure AQHA that was well trained, loved (due to family issues).
This wonderful 11 year-old gelding is now with us at our Stables, and my 13 year old daughter who decided to change disciplines from western pleasure two years ago to “hunter/jumper” really wants him to “go along”.
Our gelding adores her and is doing a great job over the last 7 months.
HOWEVER… her trainer has been telling me that unless he can get his canter moving out of the “lope” phase, he really won’t be able to do much.
We have been working with him on many aspects of his conformation, his posture, he has been getting massage, chiro, etc, to help him as his muscles adjust to the “new” posture.
He seems to love his daily work, and the two have a blast going over little Cavalettis. But again, we are struggling to get him out the “Canter-lope” as we call it.
Any advice?

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QH and Paints can move. On the quarter mile some QH can outrun a lot of OTTB but don’t have the stamina to run the TB mile.

Your boy has been selected for his good mind by his former owners ans then trained to only go slow under saddle.

You need to find his go button. Do you have a safe field or trail you can gallop on? What does he do in turnout?

Have you checked hooves, there’s no navicular in front?

I bet he also does a jog not a working trot.

I would take a good minded horse like this out on our safe trail loops and do trot sets asking for more forward until he understands he’s allowed to move out. Then I would start adding in canter sets but only on days you already got a proper trot out of him

I have a Paint that has never done Western. She needs a 20 minute minimum warmup on trails every single day and then she can be quite forward.


My Paint gelding was professionally trained for, and shown in, western pleasure. But he hated it, so I got him and ended up doing competitive trail trials and western dressage. I needed a true canter for both of those disciplines and it took me a while to get one.

He had been drilled to death that “this is how fast you lope, this is where your head goes, this is how much contact you (don’t) have with the bit,” etc. He was also taught to lope with his haunches to the inside of the track, which is kind of common in the pleasure world. So first I had to teach him to travel straight.

Then, the first few months I trail rode with friends, we’d start cantering together but I’d soon be left in the dust. If I tried to encourage him to actually canter, and go faster, he’d get annoyed, as if I was purposely lying to him.

What worked for me was approaching it like teaching him a new skill, not completely altering what he already knew. So I’d start by doing a pleasure lope, then ask him to open up his stride— and also go faster— for short periods of time. Then I’d gently ask him to come back to western loping. So I was introducing the new concept a little bit at a time until he understood that it was A-OK to explore a new gear.

Eventually my gelding developed a wonderful canter, and did quite well in western dressage. Since he was brave and obedient, he also ended up perfectly happy to jump. At trail trials, when part of the test was to either step over or jump fallen tree trunks, my horse was one of the very few who actually jumped them out of a nice canter… in a western saddle. He wasn’t particularly talented in jumping, but he had cute enough style.

Everything will be fine. Just take your time, be consistent, and have fun! :smiley:


@Paint_Party has it exactly. I am going through this same problem right now. My guy gets so frustrated with us asking him to go forward. In fact downright angry. Ask for extension and you get more straight up and down.

My last lesson he kind of imploded. Crowhopping, tail snapping, ear pinning,teeth grinding and giant spook/rollback/bolt.

My coach got on and pushed him through, got some forward or at least off his forehand engaging through his hind end.

I was a little rattled but she is nothing but positive about him. She thinks he has wonderful potential and keeps reminding me collection takes more time to learn than forward. Have :yellow_heart:, your guy and mine will both be fine.


Yes you can get a stock type horse to achieve a correct three beat canter.

What you can’t do is get a horse with a naturally short canter stride due to conformation to have a naturally long canter stride.

Most quarter and paint horses are not bred or built (conformation) to have a 12’ or longer canter step. They are bred to have a quicker shorter canter stride.

Yes; they can open up the canter and go faster.

Unfortunately, stock horse conformation generally (as in not always) will limit canter stride length. As such, making it impossible for those horses to make the jump distances on 12’, 12’6”, 13’ distances; in some cases even if they are running.

This stride length is not directly related to horse height either. Lots of 16 hand stock horses cannot make the 3’ jump, 12’+ distances and if so; not easily. Some make cute quick jumpers but most get caught up on the striding problem especially as the jumps get bigger and the strides (distances) get longer.

I love, love, love quarter/paint horses and was involved for many years but learned the hard way putting a square peg in a round hole is tough. Not generally a good choice for a hunter or a jumper above the lowest levels.


I have only APHA horses.

Generally, the ones with more TB breeding are fantastic over fence mounts. The ones with more QH influence are more than willing, but less than capable.

My best horse cannot make the stride. He’s 16.1hh, but was bred to be deep hocked and stick straight front legged. He will win in all company in the APHA WP and HUS. He loses to ponies when we show the local hunter divisions.

If you want to be serious, it’s probably the wrong horse for you and you need to find one more suitable. If you’re fine adding everywhere and just having fun but not actually accomplishing much, then go right ahead with it.


My 15.2h AQHA has no issue making the lines; actually, he prefers making them in less strides. Which is why we do jumpers :grin:

He has a go button in there somewhere. My mustang started off life thinking he could only do the slowest canter possible. Every ride I would get off his back and make him gallop. At first he gave me a bit of attitude but once he figured out it was kind of fun he had that installed. Now he can hand gallop the jumps when I want him to.

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That was my Paint/APHA gelding: Game to jump anything, but jump an entire course above 2’3" and make the counts? Nope. Was never going to happen. :smile:

There are two beautiful APHA geldings I ride about once a week, English, for my (primarily western) trainer. They’re both great all-around horses, each a good 16.2 and they both do well at the big APHA shows in HUS with their ammy adult owners. But while they’re pretty movers with a longish stride, they lack the athleticism and natural balance for jumping a true hunter course. Most of this, I think, is because there just isn’t much of a market for an APHA hunter these days. There are lots of kids and ammy adults who compete in APHA HUS, English eq/horsemanship and showmanship classes, but jumping? Not so much. As a result, those bloodlines that maybe would have produced a decent hunter have simply died out.



Anyone who seriously competes is aware of this. I am a multiple APHA world and congress champion; IN THE ENGLISH EVENTS.

I grew up riding hunters. Y’all. There is a difference. It’s not good or bad. It just is.

If you have a competitive AQHA or APHA or ApHC horse that is good in the hunt seat, and doesn’t have TB influence, it will be difficult to make USHJA/USEF course strides. Full stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.

If you have an APHA registered horse, sure you can go out and do well. But if you have a Zippo, like I do, you’ll struggle. Some ATF crosses do well, but it comes down to the individual horse. Confirmation will make or break your ability to be competitive in the true hunters. My two Living Large (AQHA x TB) mares are phenomenal horses with big, 12’ strides. My two Zippo bred horses are absolutely not, despite being physically taller.

I reiterate - if you want to be competitive, in ANY discipline, get the right horse for the job. Trying to fit a square peg into a round hole isn’t going to benefit anyone. I have APHA horses tattooed on my arm; trust me, I LOVE them. But that doesn’t change the fact that they aren’t my first choice in the hunter ring.


I have a big Paint of unknown breeding said to be Paint x Appendix. She has a huge canter and is very adjustable, she can gallop flat out and keep up with OTTB in the pasture, but she moves differently than them.

She could have made an OK lower level eventer or jumper but I could never see her as a proper hunter because she has a high head set and if she’s not being lazy Paint, she really has a lot of power when she wakes up. I could also imagine her as a working cow horse, a roper maybe.

She would never in any universe be a Western Pleasure horse.

We found with my guy that at liberty he does not think collection applies. He gets out in the grass pasture and runs around like the appendix he is.

So Coach had a jump chute set up for some sale babies and we dropped the fences to crossrails and pushed him through. My guy easily made the stride.

Does your guy canter/gallop normally at liberty? Maybe, try free jumping and see if he can make the strides? If so you know he is able. If not you know where you are and can decide the direction to go. For me ( who really does not plan to go over 2.3’) it was nice info but not really important.

Even if he cannot make the stride, he sounds like a been there, done it guy, keeping your daughter safe and learning through the lower levels. There is a decent learning curve before making the stride becomes mandatory. If he can get the stride at liberty, then time and patience will help him find it under saddle. Bending, transitions, hillwork can all be very helpful.

So happy to see this response from you :slight_smile: I see you’ve really taken my commentary to heart about ability and comfort of the animal vs breed stereotyping a la the Morgan convo we had a few months ago.

Love to see it <3

I’m very disappointed in this thread. There are many APHA’s and QH’s that are competitive in the hunter and jumper rings. Just because our quarter horses don’t go around with big signs on them saying ‘I’m a quarter horse’ doesn’t mean we aren’t at the rated shows, kicking other breeds a$$es. Don’t stereotype a breed. It doesn’t help anyone and is false information.


A paint horse jumping a 4 ft oxer.

A paint horse kicking a$$ in a 3ft jump off

A paint horse happily making the lines in a (admittedly local) horse show

Did I mention this horse has won in good company in hunter classes at rated shows?

I was told growing up ‘he’s just a paint horse, he won’t make it anywhere’ so many times. Even by my trainers. The only thing that holds a horse back from achieving great things is the viewpoint of the rider who’s bum is in the saddle. Don’t stereotype a horse.


Use a verbal command. I let them go slow or forward as to what they want, then I say quick for more forward and slow to collect. So you are rewarding for both. Make sure you also reward for slow even when that is not what you want. That is for the mental part of the training.

To start with it might only be a step or two. Great reward and ask for slow again, reward and ask for forward again. It will come.

I don’t think anyone is saying that the breed as a whole can’t do it, just that there are lines that are bred to have a tiny, slow stride, and asking them to behave like an open-ring hunter isn’t fair to them.

(I have known a couple of “Warmbloods” who turned out to have lip tattoos… They were actually Appendix QHs who had raced.)


I’m very disappointed in this thread. There are many APHA’s and QH’s that are competitive in the hunter and jumper rings.

I’m the biggest APHA promoter you’ll meet. I’m a breeder. I go to convention. I show APHA. I’ve had APHA horses exclusively my entire life. I’m sitting here watching eight of them in my pastures right now. I love them more and promote the breed probably more than almost anyone on this particular forum.

But they, as a rule, are not going to be competitive with breeds who are bred and designed for the hunters. Hard stop.

I’m super happy you have a single exception to that rule. I have one, too.

Screenshot 2021-07-29 074020

BUT, it isn’t false information. Stereotypes exist for a reason. You can ALWAYS find exceptions to the rules, but if you go reread the original post, they’re already having enough time with this horse and all we have been saying is that this may be the wrong individual for what they are trying to accomplish.


Strange thing, training QHs and paints I’ve found more who excel in jumping than those that don’t.

I actually have two exceptions. And I’ve trained many more.

At what point does the exception become the QH who can’t do h/j competitively?

I stand by my original statement. The ONLY thing that limits a horses potential is the mind of the rider. If you think your horse can’t do the step, it can’t. If you think your horse can’t jump over 2’3”, it can’t. If you think your horse can’t win at rated shows, it never will.
But don’t say the majority of a breed can’t do something. Because we, and many, many others, will always be here to prove you wrong.

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Although, I’m not a current member so cannot view the entire list, USEF keeps annual lists of sires of hunters (not hunter breeding division) and jumpers. That’s a good source to see what bloodlines are performing well in USEF sanctioned shows, in the rated divisions.

I ‘think’ these categories track the ‘rated’ divisions; such as Children’s hunters and Adult hunters, so 3’+ in the hunters and Children’s jumpers and Adult Jumpers 1.10M+ in jumpers. That could include other rated professional and AO/Junior divisions as well for each category. Im not sure if these points for each stallion include the open jumpers 1.10M+?

*TB (Jockey Club) stallions may also be registered as APHA. APHA stallions may be dual registered AQHA.

The ONLY thing that limits a horses potential is the mind of the rider.

Just for posterity, because LOL.