FAQ on Smooth Gaits

Hi Smooth Riders. Goran Bockman here to help you.

Here is the place to leave questions on Smooth Gaits.

An Icelandics Fan
Admin of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman

1. How do I cue for the Tölt?

Imagine yourself sitting on a swing. How do you start it swinging?

Exactly, you push your seat back and then dig down and Thrust it forward right?

That’s the exact seat cue for Tölt. Then keep repeating that dig/Thrust motion.


Try this sitting on a chair. If you can move the chair forward, or tip it, you’re doing it right.

Coordinate seat and hands

Not done yet tho. You need to coordinate seat and hands too. This is where it gets just a little bit tricky.

Before cueing for Tölt, start by positioning yourself a little further back, in the saddle. ½ to 1 hand’s breadth should do nicely.

How to collect the horse

You now want to raise the front of the horse, especially its neck, before giving the final cue for the Tölt.

How do you do that?

Essentially you collect the horse, by pushing your seat forward, and doing half-halts, every two or three steps.

Half-halt cause the horse to tread deeply Under itself. You will feel like you’re sitting on a slight slope, if right.

Halts/half halts with no pulling on reins

You may want to learn to do halts and half halts, with no pulling on the reins.

I’ve described how here; https://greatergaiter.com/dig-for-the-golden-gait-and-find-the-tlt

You will also feel your horse lowering its back, yielding to the pressure of your seat.

The horse is now well raised in front. It’s neck is markedly closer to your face.

Do you know the breed of this horse?

Is it a) Cape Horse, b) Icelandic or c) Tennessee Walking Horse?

Now you increase impulsion by digging deeper and pushing harder, with your seat.

Ready to launch

Your mount is now ready to go, from a very collected walk, to the Tölt. It is now increasing its speed slightly, in order to transition to Tölt.

This is the critical moment!

Are your hands ready to yield? You’ve done it so well and now you give the final seat push, for transition to Tölt.

Hands prepared to yield

Hands are ready to yield, as you feel the horse pushing forward.

Yield, not drop the reins! Yield just enough so the rein loses contact with the horse’s mouth.

The time between last seat push, and yield of hand, is just a fraction of a second, but it must be right.

A delicate balance

There’s a delicate balance. If you yield to soon the horse will lose its balance.

It needs the support of your hand, until the leading hind leg has reached far enough, under it, to support the weight of your horse.

When you feel the push yield

When it pushes off on that hind leg, you’ll feel that push transpose, into the saddle, and move you forward. That’s when you yield!

If your hands yield too late, it hampers the horses forward motion. In effect you are, then doing a half halt, and the horse doesn’t reach “lift-off” so no Tölt .

Practice and soon it will work

But don’t worry. Keep on practicing and soon you will find the correct timing.

It’s helpful, if you’ve tried other tolting horses, so you recognize what Tölt feels like.

Horse’s cue to you

It will feel like the horse’s back suddenly melts, under your seat. Then you will feel it rhythmically pushing your seat forward.

The first push is the horse’s cue to you. Yay we’re tolting!

Watch the video and note how the movements at Tölt pushes the rider to and fro. Low hands.

Stay active. Keep the form high

Taking its cue, you keep on digging/pushing, leaning just a twinkle backward. Make sure you maintain its neck well raised, by frequent heave half-halts.

Stay very active with the half halts and keep dig/pushing with your seat. Should the neck lose too much height, the horse will start to trot.

Don’t push too hard

If you push too hard, the horse may take it as a cue to lope. If it starts to trot, or canter, just bring it down to a walk again and start over.

Build Tölt muscles gradually

A horse that has had little training at Tölt lacks the correct muscles for it. For that reason, don’t ask for too long stretches of Tölt, in the beginning.

Just Tölt, maybe 10-15 steps and then gently bring it back to a walk, and start over. Not more than five to ten minutes the first few times. Build the muscles gradually.

Hope this helps and happy Tolting my friends!

Answer: The black Tolter is a…. Cape Horse! A South African Gaiter.

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Expert Advice-Saddle-horse Training-Right From The Outset

Hi Smooth riders all. Goran Bockman here to help you out.

An Icelandics Fan
Admin and Gait Keeper of Greater Gaiter
Goran Omar Bockman

Today I’ll be talking about how to correctly start your Saddle Horse under saddle.

I will walk you through the process of starting off at the right foot, so you will be able to train him right, right from the start .

Create a training plan

A training plan is a great tool to help you progress in an orderly manner. That said, you created it and you can, of course, change your plan as needed.

Break down every step forward into many small steps.


Flexibility is crucial.

You will find, you often need to adapt your plan, to a flora of problems that arise, in the course of the training.

An example, you’re starting to teach the horse to lunge, but it turns out, he is scared of the lunge line. Perhaps he sees before him a flying Dragon.

You need to take a step back and desensitize your horse to the line (or Dragon as the case may be).

Fill every step forward with intent and consistency!

Every step in the training should be a stepping stone for the next step in the progression.

So, for instance, you begin to establish you leadership by briskly walking up to the horse, with your right hand raised.

In response your horse backs up. The very millisecond he starts to move backwards you say “back up”. Say it with authority, but not in an angry voice.

What happened?

What happened there?

1. You started to assert yourself as his leader, and

2. you established a word cue that you’ll always use, when you want him to back up!

Intent and consistency!

Establish your leadership

Make sure your horse is very clear on who the leader is. To accomplish this, you need to know it very well too.

Also ensure that what ever you planned, actually happens.

Not just sometimes but ALL the time! Let things take time. Stay patient and positive at all times. And yes LOVE him, but keep it firm.

Always have a Mini-plan

Part of your plan must be to have a mini-plan, for all you are doing. For every moment of training.

Read that again please and never lose sight of it. Always have a plan!

Always have what? That’s right folks à plan for every step!

Everything you do from now on is training, to the horse.

You can train it to respect and obey you, or to disrespect and disobey you. The best relationship is built on mutual respect and trust.

If the horse fails to obey you, never ever leave it there!

Why? Because that would be teaching it disobedience!

A happy horse is key! Below is an image of a key,  ie a happy horse.

Introducing Friða, an Icelandic mare, one month into the training here.
A 5 year old Icelandic just finding the Tölt.

Firmness and consistency, then, are keys to success.

The best leader of a herd is kind but firm and will never tolerate disobedience.

Kindness and rewards are equally important.

Keeping your horse happy and trustful of you must be at the forefront of everything you do.

Rewards encourage learning

So be quick to reward, if not with treats, as I prefer to do, then with an intensely happy praising voice.

Gently rubbing the horse’s sweetspots, at the same time, makes it all the more pleasurable.

Talk to him/her at all times

Talking to your horse helps to build trust and obedience, in him. It also, generally, calms him or her, and makes it less likely to spook.

Framework set!

We have now set the right framework. Following this framework will make learning easy and pleasant and, not least important, safe.

Firm and Consistent, but Kind and Encouraging; those are the indispensable corner-words of true Horsemanship.

OK so here’s my plan for

Week 1/ Day 1

Establish your leadership. From today your horse will become your happy and willing servant, and best friend too!

Here’s how I do it. I’m now assuming the horse is raw, but used to being around people.

Fetching the horse may be a challenge

First I fetch him in the pasture. Sounds straightforward right? Mmm, it may or may not be. Horses have an uncanny way of sensing that something, possibly life threatening, is afoot.

Assuming this is our first meeting I approach him at a normal pace. I confidently walk right into his space. No pussyfooting.

He doesn’t know me yet so will likely back away. Good, he should. But I also want to establish our friendship, right away, so I’ve brought some treats for him.

Tease his interest

If he’s (this imaginary horse is a He) reluctant to take it at first, I would give some to the other horses, just to tease his interest. Nope didn’t work. So I walk around him, treat in hand.

Patience and calm wins the day

Eventually he will succumb to the demands of his palate, and accept the offering. Let it take the time it takes.

On occasion, I’ve followed a horse for over an hour, just keeping up the smalltalk.

Finally, he will decide that I’m not out to eat him, or even beat him, but to treat him.

See there, high level horsey poetry lol.

Slip on halter as horse eats

As he was taking his treat I deftly slipped the halter onto his head. Give him some more, to calm any upset nerves. Keep talking in a low and soothing voice.

I’m assuming now that the horse has been led before.

So some treats, at suitable intervals, will keep him following me.

Stop and stay

From time to time I stop him. The word cue I use is “stop”, and I combine that with a visual cue. Normally I lift the lead rope as cue and stomp my foot to clarify.

Having given the treat, I face the horse and tell him “stay”. I back away a few steps.

If he moves I twirl the lead rope saying “back up” and again “stay”. When he obeys, lots of praise and more treats.

What is my intention?

What’s my intention with this training (yep basic training going on) do you think? Give it some thought please. I’ll be waiting right here.

That’s right! It’s about taking control of the horses movements! Replacing your horse’s plans with your plans.


This concludes day 1 of week 1. Your horse will have lots to think about, so when your happy with it, call it a day. Make sure you end on a happy note.
In the next article I’ll cover the rest of first week training,  and further, so stay tuned folks.

Please leave your questions and other comments below.