Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A bit more on gaits

I know some of you trotting-horse people are curious about gaited horses. Go read this - especially look at that chart.

The chart might not make sense to you at first, unless you know roughly what those gaits are. A trot is diagonal, right? A pace is lateral - so it's shown opposite a trot. A normal walk is at the very center; it's the most "square" of the gaits - neither pacey nor trotty. Therefore, a running walk (my goal with Dixie!) is also square - smack dab between trot and pace.

A fox trot is, apparently, a huge dressage fault. It's also very comfortable, and proof that DQ's don't actually know everything. ;) In a fox trot, the horse picks up a diagonal pair of feet at the same time, but sets them down separately, hind foot first. So LH and RF pick up, but LH sets down slightly before RF. It's smoother than a hard trot, and not a bad trail gait.

A rack is more similar to a pace than a trot - there's two points in each cycle of a rack where both lateral feet are on the ground at the same time. But there's also two points in each cycle where each diagonal pair is on the ground. This is a pretty good explanation of a rack.

Here's the other gait continuum - you all know that a trot can be collected til the horse is "round." A trot can be all strung out and hollow, but it can also be rounded. A pace (apparently) is always hollow. No matter what. If the horse collects, its footfalls change toward a rack. Collect it more, and the rack becomes a RW, which is done with a neutral spine. Keep collecting, and the RW breaks down into a foxtrot, then a trot.

Pretty neat, huh?

Anyway. This is part of why I'm kind of confused - and kind of impressed! - that Dixie managed to both hard pace and hard trot under saddle in the same week. She could've been doing a hollow trot, that day the BO rode her, but it's still pretty neat that she can trot. She's pretty flexible, both conformationally and mentally.

I'm not sure I agree with the point of the article I linked, though. A Missouri Foxtrotter is, by definition, a gaited horse. When it changes from a walk to a foxtrot, there has to be a clear transition from walk to foxtrot. There's not really an in-between; at some point the horse must break from a 1-2-3-4 walk to a 1-2--3-4 foxtrot. The only breeds that wouldn't noticeably shift gears are those that do a walk, flat walk, and running walk. They just speed up. And I really think smooth "shifting" between types of gaits (like walk to rack, or walk to foxtrot) is mainly a sign of training and muscular development.

I just wanted to show yall that chart. Hope it helps, somewhat!


  1. Hey Funder,
    Nice links, thanks. I've got a pacing standardbred (racetrack refugee) who has a lot of extra gears, including a stepping pace, rack, and running walk, and a few unique gaits like a trollop and a cantelope!

    It's not unusual for any of the standardbreds I ride to pace and trot in the same session, especially on the trail. I say, if Dixie is doing extra stuff, let 'er go!

    I've found that the pace usually appears when I'm cueing (and Fiddle is resisting) the canter. If I cue trot, she trots. If I cue canter and she'd prefer to trot, she paces...which makes sense, because her resistance puts her in a head-up/back-hollow frame.

    I agree that DQ's don't know everything, esp. about gaited horses. However, one time a DQ *admired* my horse during a dressage lesson...until she learned my mare's breeding. Then she shook her head and scowled. Tricked! My instructor and I laughed and laughed.

  2. Funder - how are you doing? You seem to be holding up OK...but again that's the beauty of the typed word!!! right????? :)

    Yeah...Minx was always so patient with me. Farley probably would break my camera if she had the chance.

    If you take pics of Dixie's feet, would you mind posting them? I would love to look at her "weird" looking feet.

  3. AareneX - hahah, I love the unnamed gaits. Dixie has a few of those too, I think.

    The only reason I mention the pace and trot thing is because it seems unusual. Most horses can trot but not pace. Many hard pacers cannot trot. A horse that can do both, IMO, is pretty flexible.

    Do you cue for "other" gaits, like RW or step pace, or does she just offer them sometimes? I wouldn't mind if Dixie trotted on cue under saddle, but I'm scared I'll "ruin" her and she'll only w/t/c. :-/

    I've never yet met a real DQ, actually! I just know them from COTH, and they'd have a heart attack about video of a foxtrot.

    Mel - I miss him. Every little thing reminds me of him. I know I'll always miss him, so I am just trying to stay busy with Dixie and celebrate her differences. I know that sounds dumb, but she is so different!

    His halter is still in my husband's truck. I can't decide what to do with it. His bridle with HIS bit (the one I got when I bought him, apparently the only one he's even been ridden in) is still in my tack cubby. His saddle blanket, the purple fuzzy one, is in my cubby too. I need to Do Something With That Stuff, stash it in a box or something, but I'm not ready. So I just concentrate on Dixie instead. :-/

  4. That was a very informative read. So, here's what I learned:

    The even 1-2-3-4 that I've been striving for and Leeandra has taught Peanut is the running walk. When I don't get my cues right, he racks.

    I have video from my lesson on Saturday of us running walking, with his little 1-2-3-4 going like crazy.

    So, now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

    He's an interesting little horse, though. In the field, he trots. Under saddle, he'll offer the rack or a pace unless you correct him. But, if he had his way under saddle, he would bypass all of that and just skip right to the canter where he feels most comfortable. Oddball.

    As for Champ's halter, what do you think of framing it in a shadow box along with his bridle, bit, and a picture of him?

  5. A suggestion for WHAT TO DO WITH CHAMP'S STUFF:

    I had about a billion I.D. tags for all of Story's tack (I was at a boarding barn where unlabelled stuff tended to wander...)

    When she died, I planted an apple tree in the yard for her. Now her tree is festooned with her tags! They shine in the sunlight, and drive robins crazy in spring. Maybe Champ's bit could hang on a tree someplace, to shine in sunlight for you?

    I also kept a few tags as zipper-pulls for my favorite barn jackets. It helps, a little, to think of my good mare every time I head out to feed.

    As for the other tack and stuff, if you can't bear to use it on another horse of your own, there's usually a deserving 4-H kid who could use it?

  6. Call me weird, or horribly sentimental, but I have kept all the things from my horses who have crossed over before me.

    Each of my horses has their own "color", their bucket, brushes, and tack all matched (now you know how anal I really can be). And each animal that I've lost has "their" stuff, in their bucket, hung up on the wall in the barn.

    The hardest has been Turbo, my first horse, and the best horse ever. I still have his bridle and bareback pad (i.e., not expensive stuff), his halter/lead, bucket, brushes, all hanging in the tack area. I have buckets, brushes and halters for the others that I've saved, but I haven't been able to give up Turbo's bareback pad, with his hair on it, and his bridle, which to me symbolizes all the rides we had, and all the good times, bad times, and learning that both of us did. I can't bear to part with it, and he's been gone 5 years now.


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