PERFECTING THE TOLT
By Hrodmar Bjarnason

Riders experience different difficulties keeping
their horses in a clean beat tolt. What can you do to
get your horse in a good balanced, beated tolt? The
general answer to such a question is, of course, for
all individual riders in such a situation, to improve
their knowledge and skill as a rider. To improve the
beat of the horse in tolt, the rider must understand
the movements of the horse's legs in tolt, as well as
what is happening in the horse's body when he isn't
going correctly in tolt. We have to know in what way
the horses move their front legs, respective to their
hind legs.
THREE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TOLT
Usually, we talk about three types of tolt; a
clean four-beated tolt; trot tolt, which is somewhere
between trot and tolt, and; pace tolt, which is
somewhere between tolt and pace (depending on how pacy
the horse is in his tolt).In a clean-beated tolt, the
horse has an even four-beated gait, in which the time
difference is even between every leg's ground touch.
The movements of the legs are the same as in walk,
with the following differences:
1. Every stage of the horse's movement is going
faster;
2. Instead of having two or three legs on the ground
at the same time, as at the walk, in tolt, the horse
has only one or two feet on the ground at the same
time.
3. The horse has to be more collected in tolt to be
able to carry most of his weight on his hind legs.
Then the horse is supposed to be able to tolt in a
good way.

In trot tolt, which is not unusual for four-gaited
horses, the beat is uneven in such a way that the time
difference between the lateral legs is longer compared
to a clean-beated tolt and, at the same time, the time
difference is shorter between the diagonal legs, i.e.
the horse is coming closer to trot in his movement.
The opposite is true for pace tolt, i.e. the time
differences are shorter between the lateral legs (the
horse is coming closer to the pace in his movement and
longer between the diagonal legs, compared to a
clean-beated tolt).To change an uneven beat into a
clean-beated tolt, we have to know how the horse moves
his front legs, in respect to his hind legs.

CORRECTING INTO A CLEAN TOLT
Understanding the mechanics of a true tolt, vs. a
trot tolt or a pace tolt is essential to correcting
the gait.
Trot Tolt: The most important thing to clean up
the beat is to delay the movements of the horse's hind
legs and try to keep the legs on the ground for a
longer time. At the same time, we try to let the horse
leave the ground as fast as possible with the front
legs and to return back to the ground fast, as well.
By doing this, the time difference between the
parallel legs starts to be shorter and,
correspondingly, the time differences start to be
longer between the diagonal legs.
Pace Tolt: The opposite is true to clean up a pace
tolt. There we have to delay the movements of the
front legs from the ground, i.e., keeping their front
legs on the ground as long as possible. At the same
time, we have to help the horse to move their hind
legs faster, i.e. the horse has to leave the ground as
soon as possible, with their hind legs. While it
starts to be shorter between the diagonal legs at the
same time. To change an uneven beat into a
clean-beated tolt, we have to know how the horse moves
their front legs, in respect to their hind legs. There
are certain differences in how the horse moves his
legs and this difference determines to what degree we
can change the horse's movements in front, in response
to their hind legs. As can be seen on all old shoes
from the front feet, they are always thinner in the
toe part. This indicates that the horse breaks over
the toe when the front leg is leaving the ground. The
hind leg goes almost straight up, and thereby straight
down to the ground as well, therefore, the shoes are
evenly thin on the hind feet. This kind of movement
makes the horse not as vulnerable to different weights
on his hind legs, compared to his front legs.
THE METHODS USED TO AFFECT THE BEAT
By increasing the length of the hoof in all
directions, the hoof will be heavier. When the rider
uses this method, it is important that all basic rules
in shoeing are kept. That means a correctly made toe
axis. Another effect from a bigger hoof is that a
longer toe axis delays the movement further, which
helps horses to find the right balance in tolt. Also a
bigger (wider) hoof makes it easier for the horse to
move and he starts to be more relaxed in his back.
A well-known method is to put heavier shoes on his
front legs, and let the shoe be as a natural extension
of the hoof. Horse's movements are affected
differently by increasing the weight. It depends on
the strength of the horse, as well as their movements.
A horse with rather big movements in tolt is more
easily affected compared to a horse with small
movements, so it more often needs a lighter weight in
the shoes compared to a horse with smaller movements.
A common method is to put boots on a horse's front
legs. The weight of the boots differs from 80 grams to
around 300 grams. Check how boots affect your horse,
and what weight suits him best. If boots affect the
beat positively in tolt, then it is often better to
put a heavier shoe on for about five to six weeks and
use the boots less often. A horse can become sore from
using boots for a long time. Using heavier shoes also
gives the rider the opportunity to use boots together
with them, if the horse is still pacy in tolt.
After five or six weeks, ask the farrier to change
back to the usual size of shoe, which is normally 8mm
thick. A new 8 mm shoe is almost as heavy as an old 10
mm shoe. To help to keep the balance of the horse in
tolt, the farrier should keep the hoof a little longer
than usual. This means, instead of taking away the new
growth of the hoof, from these last six weeks, the
farrier may leave an extra 1 cm. This prevents the
changes on the hoof from being too great which would
affect the movement of the horse too much.
The hooves of the hind legs are kept small and
light. In some cases, shoes made of aluminum are used
to make the hoof as light as possible.
Tolt Tolt: The following can be done:
The hooves of the front legs should be small and
light, which make it easier for the horse to break
over the toe. In some cases, no shoes at all are used
(if the ground allows that). Otherwise, shoes made of
aluminum are used. An alternative method is to trim
the hoof, so that the front part of the toe (about
half of the height of the shoe) is rasped off. This
makes it easier for the horse to break over his foot,
and faster as well.
Keep the hind legs heavy. As was mentioned earlier,
because of how the horse moves his hind legs, the
differences in weight has to be huge, if it is
supposed to affect his movements of the hind legs.
This means that the hoof has to be bigger and the
shoes have to be at least 10 mm thick.
As an extra help, have your farrier let the heel
be a little lower than usual. This can delay the
horse's movement of his hind legs, and affect the
movement in such a way that he brings his hind legs
further forward before he reaches the ground. Changing
the horse's movement through shoeing always gives a
very limited result if the rider doesn't use his/her
aids and his/her body in a proper way. The rider has
to know and understand the coordination between these
different aids in tolt as well as in other gaits.

Hrodmar Bjarnason, a native Icelander and well-know
trainer and competitor, owns one of the largest horse
trekking companies in
Iceland.  www.eldhestar.is