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Paces and foot falls


Through practice and training on the flat  At all paces the rider should be in balance and harmony with the horse and the horse should accept the contact of the rider's legs and hands.

  THE WALK (MEDIUM)

The walk has four beats to a stride, 'four-time'. The steps should be even and regular so that the rider can count, 'one- two- three- four, one- two- three- four'. The walk should look calm, active, regular and purposeful.

The sequence of footfalls are:
(1) left hind,
(2) left fore,
   (3) right hind,
 (4) right fore

More tips for the Walk

  • The horse's hind foot should pass over the print left by the forefoot on the same side. This is called 'over tracking'.

  • The  movement of the head and neck in time with the footfalls must not be restricted by the rider.

  • Medium walk is the pace between collected and extended walks.

Free walk on a long rein is when the rider allows the horse to take the rein through the fingers, allowing him to relax and lengthen his stride, lowering his head and neck whilst maintaining a light contact throughout. The tempo of the walk must not change.

  THE TROT (WORKING) 

The trot is a diagonal 'two-time' pace. There are two beats to a stride, which should be regular and even. The rider can count, 'one-two, one-two, one-two'. The trot should look and feel calm and rhythmic, but active.

More tips for the Trot

  • The horse springs from one diagonal pair of legs to the other, with a moment of suspension between each beat. 
  • If the trot tempo is fast and hurried it is termed 'running'. If the trot tempo is slow and the moment of suspension too long, it is termed 'swimming', or 'elevated'. Both are incorrect.
  • Working trot is the pace between collected and medium trot.

The sequence of footfalls are: 
(1) left hind and right fore together, then 
(2) right hind and left fore together.

  THE CANTER (WORKING) 

Sequence of foot falls at the canter: (a) left foreleg leading, (b) right foreleg leading.

(a) The sequence of footfalls when the left foreleg is leading: (1) right hind, (2) left hind and right fore together, (3) left fore (the leading leg)  followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are briefly off the ground. (b) The sequence of footfalls when the right foreleg is leading: (1) left hind, (2) right hind and left fore together, (3) right fore (leading leg) followed by- a moment of suspension.

The canter is a three-time pace with three beats to the stride. The rider can count, 'one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two three', with a silent moment between strides. In canter the horse should look and feel light on his feet, balanced and rhythmic. The working canter is the pace between collected and medium canter.

More tips for the Canter

  • A horse should always canter 'united'. 
  • A horse is said to be cantering 'true', or 'united', when the leading foreleg and leading hind leg appear to be on the same side. 
  • He is said to be cantering 'disunited' when the leading hind leg appears to be on the opposite side to the leading foreleg (which is most uncomfortable for the rider).
  • A horse is said to be cantering 'false' and 'counter-lead' when he is cantering to the left with the right fore leading, or to the right with the left fore leading.

  THE GALLOP 

Sequence of footfalls at the gallop: (a) left foreleg leading, (b) right foreleg leading.

(a) The sequence of footfalls with the left foreleg leading: (1) right hind, (2) left hind, (3) right fore, (4) left fore (the leading leg), followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground  (b) The sequence of footfalls with the right foreleg leading: (a) left hind, (2) right hind, (3) left fore, (4) right fore (the leading leg), followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.

The gallop is a four-time movement, with four rapid beats to a stride, 'one-two-three-four, one-two three-four, one-two-three-four', with a  moment of suspension between strides.

More tips for the Gallop

  • At the gallop, the horse's outline should lengthen considerably. 

  • As he increases speed, his stride may lengthen, or its tempo may be quickened, but always in rhythm.

  •  He should continue to accept the contact and remain in balance.

AIDS

  • Aids to the Walk
    • From a balanced halt, the rider asks for the walk by creating impulsion with his legs and by following the movement of the horse's head and neck with his hands.
  • Aids to the Trot
    • The previous pace must be of good quality. 
    • From halt or walk, the rider asks for the trot by creating impulsion with the legs (a quick inwards nudge), the hands going with the movement of the head and in no way restricting the change of pace. 
    • The pace is maintained chiefly by the use of the rider's inside leg.
  • Aids to the Canter

    • Before asking for canter, check that the preceding pace is of good quality.

    • The horse must be accepting the bit and going forward in balance and with impulsion.

    • You should indicate with your inside hand the direction of the canter (with a quick 'take and give') sit for a few strides bring the outside leg back behind the girth and give a definite nudge to the horse's side, while at the same time maintaining the impulsion with the inside leg.

    • As the horse strikes off into canter you will feel the alteration of pace and you must be particularly careful to remain supple, relaxed and in balance. 

    • Your hands must follow the considerable movement of the horse's head.

    • You should not look down to see which leg is leading.

    • You will soon learn to feel which shoulder of the horse is slightly in advance of the other, and which hind leg comes to the ground first.

  • Aids to the Gallop

    • From the canter, the rider applies the aid for increased impulsion (a quick inwards nudge with the legs) until the desired speed is reached.

    • The hands must allow the horse to lengthen his outline and must 'go with' the movement of his head and neck.

 

© 2004 Ponyclub Victoria