3 tennessee walkers ages: 4, 5 and 10 with Professional Training ridden in pelham, wonderbit, whbit in bighorn,tennessean,wintec saddles in everything but roundpen by intermediate,advanced riders.

Question: The three of us each have walking horses and we all have the same question!  Each of our horses will go into a very slow canter, with very slow canter motion in the front and a one beat behind.  We THINK it is the rocking horse canter that everyone talks about, but we are not sure. (over time if we let them they will extend it to a faster canter
on the trail).  It seems to be a true 3 beat but sometimes they go 4 beat too. (perhaps canter in front running walk in back?).  We would like to have this explained...should we encourage this?  Even the 4 beat canter front 2 beat behind is EXTREMELY smooth, and frankly we love it too!  What should we be encouraging?  Helps us understand this elusive
rocking chair canter! (maybe we should have a fourth gait...canter front running walk back...I'd vote for it, it's great!)  We're going to video tape each other so we can see what is going on (if we can catch it!)

From Panelist Steve

Your analysis is correct. Walkers can do a mixed canter front /"walk" behind and this is often termed a "rocking horse canter"....i.e. a smooth canter but with very little forward progress. This is as you say, a quick walk in back with high  canter motion in front. I call it the "show canter" since it is highly rewarded in the show ring and not a particularly useful gait due to its slowness. The timing of this show canter is four beats, not three, BUT the first and second are close together and hard to feel. Then there is the pause with back feet planted, the horse's front rising as it shifts weight to its rear, followed by the front feet dropping,  well separated in time because of the suspension caused by the weight shift to the rear.

This show canter is to be distinguished from the Walker's other canter which is a faster regular rhythmic 4 beat canter but done with a lot of grace and smoothness unique to the breed. The timing of the regular canter has much less pause in between front and rear feet.

I have always felt that the Walker's best gait is not the RW but rather their canter. People who use these horses for endurance never use the RW. They ride that wonderful canter.

P.S. The horses love it too ! Always makes for a fitter, happier horse and a better RW.

Stephen B. Chasko


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