|Understanding a true pace is very easy, the difficulty
comes in understanding all the possible phases before a true 2 beat
Most are familiar with terms such as;
What do they all mean? I will try to clarify some of theses for
you. Sometimes the faster moving hoof can make these gaits difficult to
identify to an untrained eye.
- Broken pace
- Stepping pace
What is a True Pace
The gait of pace is a 2 beat gait, 1-2. It is lateral in PICKUP of the
legs on the same side and lateral in the SET DOWN of the same two legs.
The horse will shift from side to side, alternating lateral pairs
forward and then back. At the very fast speeds of pace, such as those
seen in harness racing, one can see the four hooves clear of the ground
in suspension as the horse jumps from lateral pairs. The slower the
speeds of pace, the suspension disappears and the hooves may not set
down exactly at the same time: with the hind setting down just before
the fore on the same side but is still very hard to see. In a stepping
pace it is very easy to see the hind set down before the same side fore.
Other variations are a broken pace, but still closer to a 2 beats in set
down than the broken pace of stepping pace.
|The Other 2 Beat Gait
The trot is also a 2 beat gait, 1-2. The difference in the gait of
trot is that the diagonal pairs are working together.
Right hind, left fore TOGETHER
Left hind, right fore TOGETHER
Again as in pace there is a shift of weight and suspension of all 4
hoofs clearing the ground but it is shifting between diagonal pairs
instead of lateral pairs
The term lateral can be used in two different elements for
definitions of gait timing.
1. Lateral pick up Gaits of;
*Pace Broken paces , variations ( including
* Stepped rack
2. Lateral in set down Gaits of:
* Flying pace of Icelandic horse
3. Gaits of lateral pick up with a broken 4 beat set down Gaits of:
* Stepping pace
* Stepped rack
* Swingy or Pacey
It is the gaits that are closer in lateral set down (not pick up)
than the stepping paces broken 4 beat set down, that brings forth the
meaning of swingy or pacey in gait. These are gaits that are just
broken out of 2 beats but not quite the very definable stepping pace
where one can see the hind set down prior to the fore on the same side
and hear the broken timing of 1-2--3-4.
A horses can be or
start getting pacey at any speed. There are pacey
walks, too pacey racks and so on. A horse can be genetically inclined
to pace or trained toward pace. A horse can pace in a high head
position or low head position, but both have either a very
ventroflexed back to a slightly hollow back. Both types will move
their back muscles from side to side:
- the up head and necked horse will be tighter in their movement
- the low head and necked horse will be loose in the back muscle
but both are still using one side of the back muscles and then the
other when shifting to lateral pairs.
In the following pictures are examples of gaits going both lateral in
set down and some not, to make comparisons.
Walk The first
picture is a clear picture of a walk the next 2 are the marked up
versions of the walks.
|In photo A we can see that this is a true 4 beat walk. This
horses is picking up each hoof at a separate time and setting
down at a separate time. In this phase of the hoof fall sequence
we see the left hind has set down before the left fore.The
right fore leg is perpendicular at its full weight bearing phase
and the right hind is still bearing weight with the hoof flat on
the ground but will be picking up and moving forward before the
right fore. The legs are moving independently of each
other, not moving forward or back together.
|In this photo we can see that the legs on the left side of
the horse are working together going back. This is not a hard
pace in that it is not 2 beats through a full gait phase. You
can see that the right hind has just barely set down prior to
the right fore but it is closer to a 2 beat pace than a 4 beat
broken stepping pace in that the left hind is not just starting
to lift off from the ground but has actually cleared the ground
and is about to come forward. As the right fore touches the
ground the left fore will be off the ground and back as will the
left hind is still off the ground. This will cause weight to be
bearing on the right side of the horses briefly. As the left
side legs are lifting off together and coming forward the left
hind will touch down just barley before the left fore. This
makes this gait a lateral or pacey walk.
Photo C & D are of horses in the gait of
|In photo C we can see that the right front is still
perpendicular to the ground and the left front has a nice lift
and fold ,so while this horse is moving very fast it is still
able to maintain form and the even timing of the racking gait.
|In photo D, when looking at the right front we
see it is not perpendicular to the ground but is angled
back working closer in set down with the right hind. Notice the
this horses is not folding as much in the front. The lift is
there but the fold is not. This is very common to see when a
gait starts to get lateral in set down at faster speeds. This
horse if brought down a notch in speed to maintain form would
have a closer to even set down and more fold to the left front.
This is still a rack but a pacey rack.
Notice the single hoof support on the right fronts on both horses
the next hoof set down will be the left hind then giving the 2 hoof
support of the gait. The gait of rack is lateral in pick up but
a 4 beat in set down, 1-2-3-4 being an even set down. In a speed
racking class it is matter of the judge at a specific show as to
weather they will be one to place the fastest horses with out breaking
gait regardless of form or one the looks for correctness of form to be
maintained first and speed with out breaking second.
The gait of Tolt is the same as the gait of rack when it is timed up
evenly and the hoof support sequence is the same in that it is two
hoof, one hoof . The gait of tolt can also get trotty or pacey
changing the hoof fall timing from and even 4 beat set down of 1-2-3-4
to 1-2--3-4 when pacey and 1--2-3--4 when trotty. It is a gait of
lateral pick up.
|Photo E shows a horse in a faster tolt and still
maintaining form with the lateral pick up on the right side and
the right hind is about to set down flat starting a 2 hoof
support. The horse is showing a nice lift and fold in the right
front and the left front is perpendicular to the ground not
|Photo F is also at some speed but this horse shows each
side working closer together in pick up and set down. This horse
is also at the single hoof support in this photo but one can see
the left fore is angle back working closer with the left hind
than working separately in set down. This will cause a longer
space of time between the hoof set down between the right fore
and left hind. Notice also that this horse has lost some of the
fold to the right front and again just a bit slower in speed
would cause this horse set down more evenly between hoof falls
and maintain form. This is a tolt going to the pacey side but
one can see this gait go even pacier than shown in photo F and
still not be the flying pace known to this breed.
||In this photo we see the gait of a stepping pace. The left legs
have lifted up and forward together but the left hind has set down
before the left fore will. The legs on the right side are working
back together. If the right hind was not with the toe touching but
flat on the ground it would be a running walk but a more lateral
one. Also if this was to happen with the right hind the right fore
would not be angled going back as far as it is in this photo. This
is the 2 hoof support of the gait and when the left fore sets down
it will be a 3 hoof support of the gait. Now to see where this gait
could change to another from a stepping pace is if the right hind
was off the ground completely this would be a stepped rack ( a 2
hoof, 3 hoof support) but a pacey one. If this horse was pushed up
for more speed with more engagement of the hindquarters there may be
more lift and fold to the fronts for the gait of a stepped rack and
it may also help this horse move away from lateral in set down and
bring the right fore leg more under the shoulder rather than angled
back. When a horse tends to have a lower longer reach at a slower
speed when going to a lateral set down in gait, it is easier to see
a gait getting pacey because the hooves are working closer to the
ground on the same side. This horse is getting very close to a 2
beat pace but not quite there.
||Our last photo is of the flying pace of the of the Icelandic
horse. It is very easy to see the 2 sides each working together
forward and back making for a 2 beat gait. Lateral in pick up and
also lateral in set down with a moment of suspension off the ground
with all four hooves as the horse shifts from one side to the other.
This is a very smooth pace to ride and is one of great speed.
So in closing , it is very easy to see a true pace but it is
understanding the difference between a lateral lift off of gait and when
a gait is getting lateral (pacey) in it's set down. In this article I
have used pictures to compare each other with. I have also tried to ease
you into using some new skills when analyzing gait. In my explanations I
have added what is about to happen maybe with a next hoof fall or what
could be if a leg or hoof were in a different position to create a
different gait, or more correct form of a gait. Part of developing a
good eye is seeing what is going to come next to help keep up with what
you are seeing in a gait, to develop that fast use of the eye. Also how
a different leg or hoof position could change a gait, which will help
one to have a better understanding of what it may take to get a horse to
where we want it for a specific gait.
All this takes time, patience and brain work of an individual person to
develop, but in order to really understand the gaits it must be done.
One owes it to them selves and their horses if we really want to be able
to understand and develop the true desired gaits in our horses. Learning
this will take you next to learning the how's and why's, in which a
horse uses it's self to create any physical movement desired or
We intend to get similar articles online for all the various gaits,
so feedback at this stage is very important!