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Riding Gaits

The horse has four natural gaits and a number of specialized ones, which are based largely on the pacing gait. This gait occurs naturally in some American breeds, notably the Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Foxtrot, The Fox Trotter and Rocky Mountain Horse, as well as in the Icelandic Horse, Mangalarga Marchador  and Peruvian Paso.  


The natural gaits are simply walk, trot, canter and gallop.



The sequence of footfalls at walk, when it is begun with the left hind leg, is: 1. left hind; 2. left fore; 3. right hind; 4. right fore - four distinct and regular beats.



The trot is a two-beat gait in which the horse puts one pair of diagonal legs to the ground simultaneously and, after a moment of suspension, springs on the other diagonal. Two beats can be heard, the first when the left hind and right fore touch the ground, and the second when the opposite diagonal pair of legs touches down, following a brief interval.



The canter is a three-beat gait. If it begins on the left hind, the sequence is: 1. left hind; 2. left diagonal, the left fore and right hind touching the ground at the same time; 3. right fore, which is then termed the "leading leg". On a circle to the right, the horse "leads" with the inside foreleg. On a circle to the left, when the sequence is reversed, the horse leads with its left foreleg. A horse cantering a right-handed circle on the left lead, or vice-versa, is said to be on the "wrong lead" or moving with a "false lead".



The gallop is usually a gait of four beats, but the sequence varies according to the speed. As a four-beat gait, when the right fore leads, the sequence is: 1. left hind; 2. right hind; 3. left fore; 4. right fore, followed by all four feet leaving the ground. 

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