Horse Gait- What are the four paces of a horse? 

So, we may know how to walk, trot, canter and even gallop on our horses, but what exactly are they doing, what distinguishes a walk from a canter, other than speed?

Each of these paces are referred to as a ‘gait’ and they are different from one another because of the pattern the horses’ legs follow, known as their footfalls. A stride is one full coordinated movement within a gait, which contains the beat of the footfalls and periods of suspension.

Let’s take a closer look at the different types of Horse gaits!

Walk

The walk is a 4-beat gait with no period of suspension. The pattern of beats are:

  1. Offside hind
  2. Offside front
  3. Near side hind
  4. Near side front

The average speed of the walk is 6km/hour

Horse Gait

Trot

The Trot is a 2-beat gait. It involves 2 beats and 2 periods of suspension. The pattern of the beats are:

  1. Near side fore / offside hind
    Period of suspension
  2. Offside fore / near side hind
    Period of suspension

The average speed of a trot is 9km/hour

Horse Gait

Canter

The canter is a 3-beat gait which involves 3 beats and 1 period of suspension.

Unlike the walk and trot, the canter is a directional gait- meaning that the pattern of the footfalls is dependent on the direction, or leading leg, the horse is cantering on.

The leading leg is identified as the last foreleg to hit the ground.

Canter left direction
When cantering left the leading leg is the near side fore. And the pattern goes:

  1. Offside hind leg
  2. Near side hind leg and offside foreleg
  3. Near side foreleg
    Period of suspension

Canter Right Direction
When cantering right, the leading leg is the offside fore. The pattern goes:

  1. Near side hind leg
  2. Offside hind leg/ near side foreleg
  3. Offside side foreleg
    Period of suspension

The average speed of canter is 12km/hour

 

Gallop

Like canter, gallop is also a directional gait. It is made up of 4 beats and a period of suspension.

Gallop Left direction
When galloping to the left (racing Melbourne way!) the leading leg is the near side fore. The pattern goes:

  1. Offside hind leg
  2. Near side hind leg
  3. Offside foreleg
  4. Near side foreleg
    Period of suspension

Gallop right direction
When galloping to the right (racing Sydney way!) the leading leg is the offside fore. The pattern goes:

  1. Nearside hind leg
  2. Offside hind leg
  3. Nearside foreleg
  4. Offside foreleg
    Period of suspension

The gallop averages a speed of 24km/hour but can be as fast as 70km/hour as reached by the Guinness World record holder, Winning Brew, for highest race speed reached over two furlongs.

Interesting fact- Did you know a rein back, performed correctly will follow the same footfalls as a trot! It has the same two beats, with legs moving in diagonal pairs, but there is no period of suspension! So, you are almost trotting backwards! Crazy!

Written by Sharne Haskins.

The images were all made by myself in canva so no credit to other websites! I would be happy to maybe make some videos of Oliver walk/ trot/ canter to use for loops if you would like to add? There are however some really cool animations online which are awesome too!

Sharne

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