Notes on the gaits

Walk, trot and canter are natural gaits of the horse. To train a horse correctly it is vital to mantain and improve the purity of the gaits.


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Natural gaits of the horse are expression of energy, elegance, rhythm, music… They are masterpieces of nature. To know how the horse moves should be a horseman’s priority. To train a horse correctly it is vital to mantain and improve the purity of the gaits. Therefore, the trainer must understand the way the horse should move at the walk, trot and canter. For each of the gaits the sequence of the leg movements is different as is the rhythm of the hoof beats, so it is rider’s duty to know how the horse moves his legs and what is the rhythm at different gaits.

A horse can be asked to extend and/or collect (that is, change the lenght of his strides and outline) at each gait. The extent of the variations within a gait depends upon the stage of the horse’s training and on his own natural ability. In the initial training the horse has not the impulsion or suppleness to collect or extend truly: therefore at the trot and canter the working gaits only should be asked for and in the walk just the medium and free walk. As the training proceeds progressively, more collection can be demanded and at the same time extension, to achieve first of all the medium trot and canter and eventually the extended walk, trot and canter. The collection should result in shorter strides not slow ones; and for the extension longer strides not quick ones. When trying to extend the strides hurrying is one of the commonest faults and leads to stiffening which can spoil the paces. It is nearly always caused by the rider asking the horse to extend before he has enough impulsion to be able to do so.

The strides should be ‘even’: that is, when the required length of stride has been achieved each stride should be maintained at his length, so that every stride is ‘even’.
The rhythm of the hoof beats of a particular pace should remain true: the walk four-time, the trot two-time and the canter three-time… the pace should be ‘regular’.
In all variations within a pace the horse should retain his willingness to go freely forward.
Depending on the lenght of the strides, the gaits can be divided in: working gaits, medium gaits, extended gaits, collected gaits and free gaits.
​At free gaits the horse is allowed complete freedom to lower and stretch his head and neck. He relaxes but remains active. The free work is commonly used as reward for good work.