The horse’s footfalls in walk, trot and canter
Gait is a general term covering a series of modes of forward sequences.
The so-called main gaits, in increasing speed order are the walk, trot,
canter, and gallop. Horse gaits are the various ways in which a horse can
move, either naturally or as a result of specialized training. Gait is
affected by a great number of factors, such as the training of the horse,
the breed, working of the reins, the horse’s responsiveness, flexibility,
equipment (i.e. saddle, booths, tack, …..) placement, rider’s balance,
another factor that effect gait is the use of different shoes and hoof
There are two general divisions in equine gaits, the symmetrical and the
asymmetrical. In a symmetrical gait, the left and right limbs of a pair
alternate, while in an asymmetrical gait, the limbs move approximately
together. Furthermore in the asymmetrical gaits there is the occurrence
of the suspended phase, sometimes referred to leaping gaits.
Walk = usually this gait perform alternating support and suspension of two
or three legs. At the walk, the four legs are placed to the ground in
regular succession that is: the sequence of footfalls is left fore, right
hind, right fore, left hind. This is a ‘four-beat’ gait when listening to
a horse walking on a hard surface, four distinct sounds are heard. The
horse’s hind foot should pass over the print left by the forefoot on the
same side, this is called ‘over tracking’.
Trot = is a symmetrical, diagonal, two-beat gait with periods of
suspension between the strides. The footfalls in sequence are left fore
with right hind and right fore with left hind. The two legs diagonally
opposite from each other move forward together. Working trot is the pace
between collected and medium trot.
Canter = at a canter, one foreleg leads while the other foreleg and its
diagonal hind leg move together, and the other hind leg moves
independently. This is thus a three-beat gait, with a footfall sequence
(with a left fore lead) of right hind, then left hind with right fore,
followed by left fore. There is a period of suspension after the leading
foreleg leaves the ground.