Horses have four gaits the walk, trot, canter and gallop which enables them to travel for many miles over varied terrain often with great stamina and speed. Each gait has the horses legs moving in a set order. The horses left hand side is known as their nearside with the foreleg being called the near fore and the hind leg being called the near hind. The right hand side is known as the offside with the foreleg called the off fore and the hind leg called the off hind.
- The Walk
The walk is a four time movement, which means that each leg moves on its own and in a set order. The horses near hind starts the pace off followed by the near fore, then the off hind with the off fore being the last leg to go down. When the horse is walking it should track up, this means that the hind hoof should fit into or in front of the hoof print of the forefoot. The average pace that a horse will walk is around 2 to 5 mph.
- Collected Walk
The collected walk is where the horse remains light and on the bit with even and active footfalls, the steps are shorter but with more engagement from the hindquarters to give a lively active march.
- Medium Walk
The medium walk
is where the horse lengthens out the stride and covers slightly more ground than when in collected walk. The horse should still remain on the bit and with even footfalls and with a marching rhythm.
- Extended Walk
The extended walk is where the horse lengthens the stride out to the maximum that is possible. The horse remains on the bit and the steps should be active and even with the hind legs extending as much as the forelegs, the horses frame will lengthen slightly during extended walk.
- Free Walk
The free walk is where the horse stretches down the rein to open out there frame. A light contact with the reins should be kept by the rider.
- The Trot
The trot is a two time movement, which means that the horse moves two diagonal pairs of legs at the same time. For example the horses near hind and off fore lift up off the ground at the same time as the off hind and near fore stay on the ground. On average horses trot around 7 to 10 mph.
- Working Trot
The walking trot is the horses natural pace, in the working trot the horse takes even steps with each diagonal pair of legs. The horse should track up by placing the hind feet in the imprint left by the forefeet.
- Collected Trot
The collected trot
is slightly shorter in the striding than the working trot but with a great deal more energy and the horse should remain light on the forehand and on the bit throughout with lively active paces and with engaged hindquarters.
- Medium Trot
The medium trot
is where the tempo is slightly increased along with the length of stride. The horse should remain on the bit with the hindquarters well engaged to produce lively steps.
- Extended Trot
The extended trot
is where the horses frame is asked to stretch and the length of stride asked to lengthen out. Both the forelegs and the hind legs should show even and clear lengthening. Great impulsion is required to produce true lengthened strides.
Horses Gaits Continued...
- The Canter
The canter is a three time rhythm. Depending on which rein you are on there is either left lead canter or right lead canter. For right lead canter the horses near hind starts followed by the off hind and near fore go down at the same time with the off fore being the last to go down and therefore the leading leg. For left lead canter the horses off hind starts the canter off followed by the near hind and off fore with the near fore being the last to go down and therefore the leading leg. On average horses canter between 10 to 17 mph.
- Working Canter
Working Canter is where the horse picks up its own natural rhythm. There should be a clear three time rhythm and the canter should be active and purposeful.
- Collected Canter
Collected Canter is when the horse shortens the canter stride and increases the activity and impulsion of each stride whilst remaining on the bit and light in the riders hand.
- Medium Canter
Medium Canter is where the horse increases the pace, length of stride and activity of the canter footfalls. Three even beats should still be noticed but with more bend and energy from the horses joints. The stride is longer than the working but shorter than the extended.
- Extended Canter
Extended Canter is where the canter stride is opened out to its maximum length, there should still be a clear three beat rhythm to the stride with the hindquarters well engaged.
- The Gallop
The gallop is the fastest of all the paces and is known as a four beat pace due to each of the horses legs striking the ground in quick succession with a moment of suspension in between each stride. The gallop progresses out of canter so depending on which canter lead you started of with will determine the order of footfalls. When a horse is galloping you will be able to clearly hear four distinct beats as opposed to just three when in canter. On average horses can gallop at around 35 to 40 mph. The footfalls for left fore leg leading would be off hind, near hind, off fore and the near fore, then the moment of suspension before starting again.
- The Halt
The halt is when the horse has stopped moving. A square halt is where the horse is standing still with the front and hind legs neatly positioned together.
- The Pace
The pace is used for harness racing. It is a two time movement where the legs on the same side move together as opposed to the trot where the legs move diagonally. For example the near fore and near hind move up off the ground together while the off hind and off fore stay on the ground.