Horse Gaits Terminology
Horse GaitsMost horses have four natural gaits, or ways of moving. Those are the walk, trot, canter, and gallop. However, some breeds have a 5th, 6th or 7th gait that is either natural or trained.
The basic horse gaits:Walk - The walk is a natural 4-beat movement. The horse always has two or three hooves on the ground. The walk is the slowest natural gait, it is the steadiest and most comfortable. The horse lifts his hooves as follows: right hind leg, right fore leg, left hind leg, left fore leg and then repeats the pattern. Trot - The trot is a steady 2-beat movement. This gait has a period of suspension. The horse springs from one diagonal to the other. The horse lifts his hooves as follows: right fore and left hind, then left fore and right hind. In between these springs, all four legs are off the ground for a brief time as he changes from side to side. Since the trot has two beats each stride and a moment in mid-air, some riders think it is more comfortable for the rider (and the horse) to rise up and down every-other beat. This is called "posting" and is accomplished by the rider lifting his rear and rising in the stirrups slightly with the beat of the horse's strides. Usually English style riders do this, while many Western riders prefer to "sit the trot" and absorb the shock with their legs. The trot is usually considered the roughest gait to ride, but most horses can travel this way for hours, so it's the fastest way to cover long distances in the least amount of time. Canter - The canter is a 3-beat movement. This gait has a period of suspension after each stride. This gait starts with the hind leg then leads to the front in a rocking motion. It can have either a right lead or a left lead, horses can do both, depending on how you cue them. The pattern of the right lead canter is (1st beat) left hind leg, (2nd beat) right hind / left fore, (3rd beat) right fore leg. The pattern of a left lead canter is (1st beat) right hind leg, (2nd beat) left hind /right fore, (3rd beat) left fore leg. A canter is slow and collected, faster than a trot, but slower than a full out gallop. It is a very smooth gait that is easy to sit. Gallop - The gallop is a 4-beat movement. This gait is similar to the canter, but the horse's legs move one at a time. The gallop feels just like a fast canter. A gallop can be nearly as slow as a canter on a well trained horse, or a full out run, as in racing. When riding the gallop, raise your seat slightly out of the saddle, putting your weight on your heels. Before attempting to gallop, you must be able to control the horse 100%. The beat to a right lead gallop is (1st beat) left hind leg , (2nd beat) right hind leg, (3rd beat) left fore leg , (4th beat) right fore leg. The beat to a left lead gallop is (1st beat) right hind leg , (2nd beat) left hind leg, (3rd beat) right fore leg , (4th beat) left fore leg. A horse will usually favor one lead over the other, but can be trained to change leads with leg pressure from the rider. There are two basic forms of lead change: simple and flying. When a horse is executing the correct lead, the inside front and hind legs reach farther forward than the outside legs. In a transverse or lateral or united canter and gallop, the hind leg on the same side as the leading foreleg (the lateral hindleg) advances more. In horses this is the norm, and in an arena setting, the inside leg is usually the correct lead to be on. In a rotatory or diagonal or disunited canter and gallop, the hind leg on the opposite side (the diagonal hindleg) advances more. This is usually an undesirable gait form, also known as rotary and round galloping, and as moving disunited, cross-firing, and cross-cantering.
Other Natural and Trained Gaits:There seems to be an on-going debate on which gaits are 'natural' and which are 'trained' gaits. Many gaits can be natural to one breed, and at the same time, must be trained to other breeds. Ambling - An ambling gait is usually an inherited trait. Ambling is any of several four-beat intermediate horse gaits, all of which are faster than a walk but usually slower than a canter and always slower than a gallop. Tölt Gait - The Tölt (also, less correctly, Tolt) is a gait that is often described as being unique to the Icelandic Horse. The Faroese Horse and the Nordlandshest/Lyngshest of Norway share common ancestry with the Icelandic horse and some individuals of these breeds also have the capacity to tölt.
Other Gait Terminology:Aids - Cues given to the horse when you want him to do something, usually by leg pressure, shifting your own weight, adjusting the position of your hands or reins, or using your voice. These are natural aids. Aids can also be artificial aids (or mechanical aids) such as a whip or spurs. Driving Aid - Cue to ask the horse to increase forwardness or power. Soft rein aids - Keep the horse from stepping forward. Leg aids - Uses the legs to ask for movement. Rein aids - Ask the horse to turn, slow down, speed up, stop, or move back, depending on the direction and amount of pressure applied. Restraining aids (seat and hands) - Primarily cue speed of movement and various lateral movements. Also aid in balance. Lead - The fore leg of the horse which is farther forward (leading). This term is used only in the canter and gallop. A horse is on his left lead when his left fore leg is leading and on his right lead when his right fore leg is leading. Posting - Term used to describe the up-and-down pattern of the trot. When you post, you raise out of the saddle for one beat, and sit down in the saddle for one beat. Many people think this creates a more comfortable trot for both the horse and rider. Diagonal - The term "diagonal" refers to which fore leg is moving forward while you are in the up position of the posting trot. You should always be in the up position of the posting trot when the the horse's outside fore leg (closest to the arena wall) is farther forward. Piggy-pace - A pace that is too slow. Lullari - An Islandic horse that paces too slow. Flying Pace or Flugskeið (Iceland) - Simple Lead Change - The horse changes lead through the trot or, more correctly, through the walk. When changing through the walk, the horse should not break into the trot. Simple changes are a preparatory step before teaching the horse flying changes. Flying Lead Change - The horse performs a lead change during the suspension phase of the canter, switching leads in the air. It is a relatively advanced movement.
An ambling gait is usually an inherited trait. Ambling is any of several four-beat intermediate horse gaits, all of which are faster than a walk but usually slower than a canter and always slower than a gallop.
The canter is a 3-beat movement. This gait has a period of suspension after each stride. This gait starts with the hind leg then leads to the front in a rocking motion. It can have either a right lead or a left lead. Horses can do both, depending on how you cue them.
The walk is a four-beat gait that averages about 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h). When walking, a horse’s legs follow this sequence: left hind leg, left front leg, right hind leg, right front leg, in a regular 1-2-3-4 beat. At the walk, the horse will always have one foot raised and the other three feet on the ground, save for a brief moment when weight is being transferred from one foot to another.