Going Through the Paces
by Elizabeth Graves
Understanding a true pace is very easy, the difficulty comes in understanding all the possible phases before a true 2 beat pace.
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 difficult to identify to an untrained eye.
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 very fast speeds of pace such as 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. These 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
Left hind, right fore
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;
2. Lateral in set down Gaits of:
Gaits of lateral pick up with a broken 4 beat set down
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, while 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 movement but 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 lateral in set down and some not, to compare with.
The first picture is a clear picture of a walk the next 2 are the marked up versions of the walks.
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