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HOW A HORSE MOVES





Victrix #11
Center of Gravity
Sculpted and painted by
Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises

Center of Gravity:
The point of balance is where the center of gravity is on the horse.   The body hangs in perfect balance when all four legs are off the ground and the horse is suspended.   This area stands perfectly still while the horse is standing.   It is located near the front of the rib cage, about two thirds of the way down an imaginary vertical line starting just behind the withers and down to a few inches below behind the point of the elbow.   The horse is heaviest in the front and therefore a rider should place the saddle nearest the front of the back near this spot in order to stay up with the horse's stride.   It is also the strongest part of the back.

Travel:
The horse should travel balanced within its frame and move with long, ground-covering strides.   A normal three gaited horse that walks, trots and canters is called a "straight gaited horse".   A "gaited horse" usually as either three gaited or a five gatied.   A "three gaited horse" performs an animated walk, a high stepping trot and an animated canter.   The "five gaited horse" performs those plus a slow gait or amble gait and the rack.   The Spanish gaited breeds perform a distinctive termino gait and the Icelandic horse does a tolt, which is a fast rack.

First Step:
When the horse goes to take his first step out from standing square he will lift his head just before he takes his first step.   He then crouches some what in his rear quarter and moves one hind foot forward.   This shifts his body weight backwards so his can life a front foot.   No matter what gait the horse continually moves his head and neck for balance, lowering and raising his head to shift the center of gravity from forward to backward.

Travel Terms:
Rhythm:
Regularity of foot fall or period of foot fall.

Tempo:
Speed measured in meters per minute.

Cadence:
Rhythm and impulsion give the gait an energetic lifting of the feet.

Impulsion:
Created by closing the hip joint which engages hocks under the mass of the horse.   This allows horse to cover more or less ground according to the energy of limb extension.

Collection:
When bridled the horse is on the bit, hocks under him, head flexed, full control over limbs, jaws relaxed, ready to respond to rider.   Collection is not tense, imposed position, but relaxed, elastic one.

Free or Flat Walk:
The Free or Flat Walk is a four-beat lateral gait.   The hooves lift and set down at distinct, even intervals.   The beat is an even 1-2-3-4 set down in an even cadence.   The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap.   Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot.   In a true flat foot walk at least three feet with at least one front foot are touching the ground at all times.   The pace is relaxed with a lower head and the stretch of the neck is relaxed.

Collected Walk:
The same 1-2-3-4 beat but the horse is on the bit; moves forward; with the neck raised/arched and the head approaching vertical.   The cadence will be a light contact and shorter steps.

Extended or Fast Walk:
Hind feet touch ground clearly in front of front feet and the heel comes to the ground first.   At the fast walk only two feet are on the ground at one time.   The horse as a profile of a more stretch to the head and neck.

Running Walk:
The Running Walk is the gait the Tennessee Walking Horse is known for best.   It is a four-beat lateral gait during which each foot is picked up and set down in an even cadence.   This gait is performed at 10-20 miles per hour.   Care is taken not to sacrifice form for speed.   The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap.   Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot.   The more the overstride, the smoother the ride.   At the running walk, the rider feels as though they are gliding through the air with a powerful backend under them, pushing the rider forward.   Suspension occurs only with the front feet, not the hind, which is why the gait is often described as "trotting with the front feet and walking with the hind".   The horse's head nod is easily noticed at every stride.

Foxtrot:
The Foxtrot is a broken diagonal gait with a distinctive rhythm that is created by a horse moving its front foot a split second before its opposite rear foot.   The diagonal pairs of hooves lift off and move forward together, as in the trot, but the front foot hits the ground slightly before the hind.   The gait is described as "walking with the front feet and trotting with the hind".   The Missouri Fox Trotter is best know to perform this gait.

Amble or Slow Saddle Gait:
This is a four-beat, broken lateral gait.   The footfalls for the slow gait are the same as the walk.   Each foot rises from the ground and hesitates in the air.   The slow gait is restrained, executed with extreme collection and with impulsion from the hind-quarters.   The hind legs are placed well underneath the horse and the forehand is elevated.   The back remains level and has a gentle side to side rocking motion.

Single-Foot or Broken Amble:
Thia is an intermediate four-beat gait, very near to even in timing.   It can be performed at a range of speeds from a relaxed trail speed of 7 to 9 mph, to a ground-eating road gait of 10 to 15 mph, to the racing single-foot of over 20 mph.   At the fastest speeds the horse travels with one foot on the ground at a time.   Some horses will start single-footing at a road gait speed and others at the racing speed.   Most Single-Footing horses are bred primarily for trail riding and the show arena.

Rack:
The rack is performed at both the slow rack, and the fast rack.   In both the rear of the horse provides the most of the forward motion and support while the front end does little pulling.   Both have an even four beat cadence without any head shake.   In the slow rack the feet are picked up one foot at a time with the front end moving up and down with little forward extension.   In the fast rack the gait is performed at great speed with only one foot on the ground at any one time.

Tolt:
The tolt is a natural fast rack done by Icelandic horses but without the high leg action seen on five gaited horses.   This breed of horse can perform this gait for hours as they are breed to perform this gait rather than trot.

Collected Trot:
The horse is on the bit; neck raised and arched; hocks well engaged.   The horse maintains energetic impulsion with shoulders that move with ease.   The horse takes a more shortened step that at a natural trot.

Extended Trot:
Horse covers as much ground as possible; maintains rhythm but lengthens the steps because of impulsion from the hindquarters.

Working Trot:
This gait is somewhere between collected and extended.   The working trot is not ready for collected movements and slightly off bit.   The horse takes even and elastic steps with good hock action.

Paso Gait:
The Paso gait is essentially a broken pace gait which is lateral, not diagonal.   The sequence of the footfall is hind hoof, same fore hoof, opposite hind hoof, same front hoof.   The hind hoof touches the ground a fraction of a second before the front hoof.   When performed on a hard surface, a definite 1,2,3,4 (ta-ca-ta-ca) can be heard.   Propulsion is primarily from the hind legs yet the motion is absorbed through the back and loins.   The croup remains relatively still.   These aspects eliminate the jarring effects of a true pace, getting rid of the up and down movement.   The Paso Fino can perform this natural gait at three speeds with varying levels of collection.   This gait gains more definition as the horse matures and can be refined through training.   However, no special shoeing or artificial aids are necessary to make the Paso Fino gait.   The gait has three speeds: Classic Fino, Paso Corto, and Paso Largo.   The horses perform the gait in three styles: the Classic Fino, Performance and the Pleasure styles.   The Classic Fino gait the horse's footfall is very rapid with an even rhythm.   The forward movement is very slow, slower than a person would normally walk.   The horse is completely collected, with an upright carriage and neck breaking at the poll at an almost vertical position.   Not all Paso Finos can perform this gait.   To perform this gait for a sustained period of time requires that the horse be in excellent physical shape, supple, and be ridden in balance.   Paso Corto is the ideal gait for pleasure and trail riding.   The Corto moves forward at about the speed of the trot in non-gaiting breeds. The collection of the horse is moderate.   The extension of the front legs varies and determines whether the horse falls into either the Pleasure or Performance style category.   Performance horses tend to perform a more animated Corto, with a shorter stride and more rapid footfall.   A performance horse exhibits more impulsion from the rear-end.   The Pleasure Paso Fino tends to have a faster, more relaxed Corto.   There is generally less extension and impulsion.   Horses performing the Paso Largo gait can move forward as fast as the canter or gallop of many horses.   The top recorded speed for this gait is 32mph.   Besides the change in speed the Largo gait is characterized by a longer extension and stride, with moderate to minimal collection.   Both Performance and Pleasure styles of Paso Fino perform the Largo.   Again, Performance horses tend to be more animated with great hock action and impulsion.

Rocking Chair Canter:
The "rocking chair" canter is known as a gaited horse breed canter such as the Tennessee Walking Horse.   It is a smooth, fluid motion which creates a rise and fall motion that gives the rider the sensation of sitting in a rocking chair.

Canter or Lope:
The canter is a controlled, three-beat gait that usually is a bit faster than the average trot, but slower than the gallop.   If the horse is on the right rear leg it propels the horse forward.   The horse is supported only on that single leg while the remaining three legs are moving forward.   On the next beat the horse catches itself on the left rear and right front legs while the other hind leg is still momentarily on the ground. On the third beat, the horse catches itself on the left front leg while the diagonal pair is momentarily still in contact with the ground.   Whichever extended foreleg that is matched by a slightly more extended hind leg on the same side is referred to as a "lead".   It is desirable for a horse to lead with its inside legs when on a circle.   Therefore, a horse that begins cantering with the right rear leg as described above will have the left front and hind legs each land farther forward. This would be referred to as being on the "left lead".   When riding in an arena, the correct lead provides the horse with better balance.   The rider typically signals the horse which lead to take when moving from a slower gait into the canter.   In addition, when jumping over fences, the rider typically signals the horse to land on the correct lead to approach the next fence or turn.   The rider can also request the horse to deliberately take up the wrong lead (counter-canter), a move required in some dressage competitions and routine in polo, which requires a degree of collection and balance in the horse.   The switch from one lead to another while moving in a straight line is called the "flying lead change" or "flying change".   This switch is also a feature of dressage and reining schooling and competition.   If a horse is leading with one front foot but the opposite hind foot, it produces an awkward rolling movement, called a cross-canter, disunited canter or "cross-firing."   The lope is a Western term for the canter.   The lope is slightly more collected, much slower and less animated than the canter.

Gallop:
The gallop is faster than the canter.   It covers more ground and the three-beat canter changes to a four-beat gait.   It is the fastest gait of the horse, averaging about 25 to 30 miles per hour.   The gait is tiring and most horses will require a rest after performing the gait for longer than a mile or two.   The horse will strike off with its non-leading hind foot; the second and third stages because the inside hind foot hits the ground a split second before the outside front foot.   The stride ends with the striking off of the leading leg, followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground.   When all four feet are off the ground in the suspension phase of the gallop, the legs are bent rather than extended.   A controlled gallop used to show a horse's ground-covering stride in horse show competition is called a "gallop in hand" or a hand gallop.

Stopping
When the horse stops he uses his front heels for brakes and straighens out his front legs and shifts his weight backward.   He raises his head and plants one or both of his hind feet on the ground slightly more forward than his normal standing position.   He then flexes his hocks and stifles.   He will then crouch on his hindquarters to get more weight back onto his hind legs.

Applying the Knowledge of Real Horse Movement to Judging Model Horses
It is not too hard to apply the knowledge of how real horses move in order to judge model horses in movement.   All it takes is a little bit of imagination and a picture in the judge's mind as to what the next move would be if this model were alive and actually in gait.   Study video of real horses in action or attend real horse shows as a spectator.   Access the model from all angles if you are judging at a live model show.  If you are limited to a single camera len angle of a photogragh then judge that motion by imaginary angles and conformational lengths on the various parts of the model's sculpted body.


The Lope
Reiner #602-R
Mahogany Bay Splash/Overo
Sculpted by Sarah Rose
Sarah Rose Gallery

Painted by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises



The Walk
Lonestar #557-R
Chocolate Bay Blanket Appaloosa
Sculpted by Sarah Rose
Sarah Rose Gallery

Painted by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises



The Canter
Khemosabi #548-R
Dark Dappled Burgundy Chestnut w/Mohair Mane & Tail
Sculpted by Sarah Rose
Sarah Rose Gallery

Painted by Carol Williams
Rio Rondo Enterprises



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