Know Your Paces

The Walk

The walk is a regular four-time movement and the horse always has two or three hooves on the ground.

The horse lifts his hooves as follows: foreleg, diagonal hindleg, other foreleg, remaining hindleg.

The Trot

The trot is a steady two-time action. The horse moves opposite diagonal legs together, changing from one pair to the other with a moment in between when all four legs are off the ground – eg, right fore and left hind, then left fore and right hind.

The Canter

The canter is a three-time movement; The sequence for the canter is: either hindleg lifting, the other hind-leg and its diagonal foreleg together, the remaining foreleg. Finally, there is a moment when all four legs are in mid-air.

The Gallop

The gallop is a variation of the canter, but the legs move one at a time. It is a four-time action. There are two gallop sequences either hindleg lifts, followed by the other hindleg, its diagonal foreleg and then the remaining foreleg.

Riding each pace

Understanding how the horse moves helps you to ride correctly.

Most horses have three basic paces: the walk, the trot and the canter, with its faster version, the gallop.

The pattern of movement is different at each pace but with practice you can ride them all smoothly.

The walk is the steadiest and most comfortable pace.

The trot has two beats to every pace and a moment in mid-air, so it’s more comfortable for the rider (and the horse) to rise up and down in time with the rhythm.

To do the rising trot, let your horse’s stride push you up from the saddle and then lower you down gently in an even movement.

The canter is a bounding movement which is quite jerky and tiring for the rider. Practise in short bursts at first. Unlike the trot, keep your seat in the saddle.

The gallop is the fastest pace of all. To increase their speed, horses take longer strides. They push harder and their hooves stay on the ground for less time. To help the flow of the horse’s movement, lift your seat slightly out of the saddle, putting your weight on your knees and feet. But before galloping, make sure you can control your horse at a canter.

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