Gaits of the Horse


The Horses Walk: has a four-beat rhythm. One, two, three, four. So, that is each leg goes forward one at time. But in what order do the legs go so he does not get all tangled up?! He puts a hind leg forward, followed by the front leg on the same side. Then comes the hind leg on the other side and the front leg on that side. Then start all over again. So it could be - nearside hind leg, nearside foreleg, offside hind leg, offside foreleg. If it is safe while you are riding, put one hand on your horses rump. Can you feel your pony's rump come up and down in rhythm with his walk?

The Horses Trot: has a two-beat rhythm. That should be easy to work out. Two beats and four legs so it must be two legs at a time. But which two legs are together?! The diagonal pair of legs go forward together - one front leg and the back leg on the other side of the body e.g. nearside foreleg and offside hind leg. The pairs of legs in trot are easy to see when you are watching your pony trot rather than when you riding. Get two brightly coloured bandages and wrap on the diagonal legs to help you see the pairs moving together. Do this with a friend and take turns watching and riding. Or ask someone to take a video when you are riding and watch it in slow motion!

The Horses Canter: has a three-beat rhythm. Wow, walking in four beats is easy to work out, trotting in two beats a little harder, now the canter is in three beats. How is that possible? Think of it as - the walk and trot are even and best designed to go straight, the canter is a bit 'one-sided' and best designed for circles and going around corners! So that means there is a left-hand canter and a right-hand canter.

The beat starts with a back leg. Think of the back leg on the opposite side of the direction you have chosen for your circle. Then the other hind and its diagonal fore move forward together. These are the same diagonal pair that move together in the trot. Then there is one foreleg remaining so it moves next to complete that stride. A 'stride' is a complete set of the three beats followed by a 'moment of suspension' before starting the next stride. Did you know that having this moment of suspension makes it really easy for your pony to change from say a left-hand canter to a right-hand canter!

So, a left hand canter is where the nearside foreleg is 'leading'. You can see this when watching your pony from the ground. The leading leg comes more forward each time he takes another stride. Think of it as - offside hind leg, then nearside hind leg and offside foreleg together as a diagonal pair, followed by the nearside foreleg.