Horse | Beginner Basics

Horse Gaits

Natural and Trained Horse Gaits

Most horse breeds possess the 4 natural gaits described below. However, some breeds have a 5th, 6th or 7th gait that is either natural or trained. Please keep that in mind when you view this article.

Natural and Trained Horse Gaits
Natural and Trained 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.

basics horse Gaits Walk

The horse lifts his hooves as follows:

(1st beat) right hind leg
(2nd beat) right fore leg
(3rd beat) left hind leg
(4th beat) left fore leg

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. In between these springs, all four legs are off the ground. Since the trot has two beats each stride and a moment in mid-air, it is more comfortable for the rider (and the horse) to rise up and down every-other beat (this is called “posting”).

basics horse Gaits Trot

The horse lifts his hooves as follows:

 

(1st beat) right fore / left hind
(2nd beat) left fore / right hind

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. When you canter, you keep your seat in the saddle (unlike the trot). Before learning to canter, make sure your balance and rhythm stays consistent with the horse during the trot.

The horse lifts his hooves as follows:

basics horse Gaits CanterR

The Right-Lead Canter:

(1st beat) left hind leg
(2nd beat) right hind / left fore
(3rd beat) right fore leg

basics horse Gaits CanterL

The Left-Lead Canter:

(1st beat) right hind leg
(2nd beat) left hind / right fore
(3rd beat) left fore leg

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. When riding the gallop, raise your seat slightly out of the saddle, putting your weight in your heels. Before attempting to gallop, you must be able to control the horse 100% and be able to ride all other gaits in balance.

The horse lifts his hooves as follows:

basics horse Gaits Gallop R

The Right-Lead Gallop:

(1st beat) left hind leg
(2nd beat) right hind leg
(3rd beat) left fore leg
(4th beat) right fore leg

basics horse Gaits Gallop L

The Left-Lead Gallop:

(1st beat) right hind leg
(2nd beat) left hind leg
(3rd beat) right fore leg
(4th beat) left fore leg

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. This is the reason we will not get into detail here about which gaits are ‘natural’ and which are ‘trained’. However, we will point you to other articles that we have found on the internet which describe specific gaits. If anyone feels that any of these articles lead to false information, please don’t hesitate to inform us.

Words To Remember:

Lead: The term “lead” is used to tell which fore leg of the horse 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. (see above diagrams).

Posting: The term “posting” is 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. This pattern usually 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.

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