An Introduction to Basic Horse Gaits

Horses are athletic animals designed for movement. Find out more about the most basic equine gaits.

Basic Horse Gaits

Horses are athletic animals designed for movement, and most equestrians would agree that few things are more beautiful that a horse in motion. The following are examples of the most basic equine gaits.

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Walk

The walk is a four-beat gait, which means each of the horse's four legs moves independently. This is a horse's slowest gait.

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Trot

The trot is a two-beat gait, with the horse's legs moving in two diagonal pairs. For example, the right-front and left-hind are off the ground together, followed by the left-front and right-hind. For riders who post (move up and down with the trot), these two beats create the posting rhythm.

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Jog

"Jog" is the western term for a trot. While often slower and smoother than a typical trot, the jog is still two beats. Western horses with steady, smooth jogs are prized for how easy their trots are to ride over long distances.

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Canter

A horse's canter is a three-beat gait with the following foot-fall sequence: outside hind leg, inside hind leg/outside foreleg, and inside foreleg. The three beats are followed by a moment of suspension, when all four legs are off the ground.

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Lope

Western riders use the term "lope" instead of "canter" for their slower version of the same gait.

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Gallop

A gallop is the horse’s fastest gait. The foot-fall sequence is similar to the canter, but the canter's second beat (inside hind-leg/outside foreleg) separates as the horse's stride lengthens. This makes the gallop a four-beat gait.

Photo: Photos.com

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