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Know Your Paces

The Walk

The walk is a regular four-time movement and the horse always has two hooves on the ground.  The horse lifts his hooves as follows:

(1) Foreleg, (2) Diagonal Hindleg, (3) Other Foreleg, (4) Remaining Hindleg.

The Trot

The trot is a steady two-time action.  The horse moves opposite diagonal legs together and changes from one pair of legs to the other:

(1) Right fore and left hind, (2) Then left fore and right hind, or vice versa.


The Canter

The canter is three time movement.  The sequence for the canter is:

(1) Either hindleg lifting, (2) The other hindleg and its diagonal foreleg together, (3) 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, (1) Either hindleg lifts, (2) Followed by the other hindleg, (3) Its diagonal foreleg, (4) Then the remaining foreleg.


The position you should be in for canter is much the same for the sitting trot.  However, because the canter is a faster movement, you have to be more careful about getting your position right.  Any mistakes are accentuated.

Look ahead and only glance down briefly when you have to check the leading leg.

You should sit back in your seat, but don't tighten up too much - try to relax your seat and lower back muscles without loosing your position.  You must remain firmly in the saddle.  Rock gently with the rhythm of the canter.  All the movement should come from the small of your back.

Make sure your heels are lower than your toes.  Push your knees down into the saddle .


Where To Canter

No mater how much you enjoy cantering, remember the horse's well-being.  The canter should only be attempted on suitable ground, otherwise the horse's legs will be jarred.  Soft ground is best and you must never canter on a road surface.

Watch Other People

It always helps to watch other people riding in canter and to notice how the horse's legs move.  Just watch the two front legs to begin with.  It is quite easy to see the inside foreleg going ahead of the outside foreleg.

Horses loose in a paddock naturally canter on the correct leg, changing lead whenever they change direction.  If they don't change lead, they generally break into a trot for a few strides when making a turn.

Getting The Rhythm

Once you are used to the rhythm, cantering is more comfortable than trotting.  Not many people can run fast enough to lead you for your first canter, which also makes it much more exciting than the first trot.




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