The gaits of the horse correspond to the way it moves. When you start riding, you learn to remember the 3 main gaits : walk, trot and canter. These are called natural gaits. Artificial gaits are used more particularly in dressage.
The horse's natural gaits
There are 3 natural gaits (walk, trot and canter), to which we can add jumping. They are the elementary bases of horsemanship. Knowing them contributes to a certain grace and elegance, especially during competitions.
The walk corresponds to a symmetrical gait with 4 beats. The horse moves at 7 to 8 km/h. It is a calm gait that softens and strengthens the horse. It puts the horse in condition before a work session and helps it to recover after different exercises.
This symmetrical 2-count gait is called a jumping gait (left front, right rear for a left diagonal). The horse moves at about 14 km/h. This gait can be ordinary; collected or extended, as in the canter.
The trot also muscles the horse and develops its respiratory system.
During the trot, the rider has the option of either sitting in the saddle and keeping pace with the horse, or of trotting away. In the latter case, the rider takes care to stand up slightly on one of the diagonal beats and comes down on the other.
For a change of gait from walk to trot, one sits well in the saddle, closes the legs and acts on the inside rein. Keep the horse forward and in the action, with a light touch in the mouth.
The collected canter (in short strides) corresponds to a three-beat gait, one beat coming from each of the front legs and the third from the hind legs. To do this, sit well in your saddle and keep contact with your mouth. Follow the horse's rhythm.
Good to know : the horse must start on the right foot to avoid galloping "wrong" (the horse gallops to the right to turn left).
To gallop faster or to lengthen the gallop, you accelerate with pressure from the calf or even a little heel strike. The gait is much faster and you must then take care to control your mount and lean your body slightly forward, give reins to help your mount, while keeping the contact in your mouth.
This is the fastest gait and the horse's speed can reach 20 to 40 km/h up to 50 km/h for race horses.
The jump is composed of 5 phases : the take-off; the rising phase; the glide; the falling phase and the landing.
Other gaits of the horse
There are 3 groups of other gaits in the horse: the artificial gaits, the faulty gaits and the other gaits.
Artificial gaits are gaits that are not instinctive for the horse. They are contrary to the natural gaits that the horse uses to move alone or in groups in the wild or in semi-freedom.
Artificial gaits are therefore gaits that are taught to the horse during dressage work. They have more style and elegance than natural gaits.
- The preferred artificial gaits in dressage are, rearing, bending, bucking, capriole.
Faulty gaits are usually related to a malformation, conformation defect, pain, fatigue, poor training or even poor use of the horse.
- The faulty gaits are the pacing, the stalking and the disjointed canter.
- The other gaits are the backward walk and the running walk.
Aids to guide the horse
To ride a horse and make it progress, aids, natural or artificial, can be useful whatever your level. They are used to accompany the horse's gaits :
- Natural aids : the hands, the legs, the seat (support surface on the horse's back) and the voice.
- Artificial aids : the whip, spurs and reins.