Alabama 2 year old TWH ridden in LONG SHANK bit and  ENGLISH saddle in OPEN FIELD.

Question:  Could anyone tell me the difference in the flatwalk and the rack


From Panelist Laura
The flatwalk is a slower version of the running walk.  The flat walk is a 
smooth 4-beat gait with the hind feet overreaching the front feet and the 
head nodding in time to the placement of the hind feet.  Some people say it 
looks like the horse is trotting in the front and walking behind.  This is a 
collected gait (horse is rounded).

The rack is a 4-beat gait with more hock action than the flat/running walk 
and no head nod.  Generally there is a little more front lift or action in 
the rack and the horse's body is hollowed out.  The head is held high.  The 
rack is usually rougher to ride than a good flat/running walk since there is 
more hock action (hocks go up & down more than just staying at one level & 
sliding forward).

From Panelists Annette
Harold, you have asked one of those simple questions to which there is a very complicated and lengthy answer. Lee Ziegler is the expert in this area, and it is from her that I learned much of what I know about symmetrical gaits, although I do have my own wrinkles on what I learned from Lee. In particular, I recognize and define as a separate gait, one more gait in the walk based gaits, than Lee does.

The answer to your question lies in understanding the fundamental difference between the walk based gaits and the rack based gaits. The walk based gaits are the dog walk, flat walk, running walk, and what I term the collected intermediate walk, that extra gait that I define and recognize. The rack based gaits are the stepped rack, the half rack and the full rack. The walk based gaits are all on two/three support, that is, the horse is has either
two feet or three feet squarely on the ground at all times. There will be a point in the gait cycle where, when both rear feet are on the ground, and one front foot is also on the ground, perpendicular to the ground so it forms a straight vertical line, the other front leg in the air has the hoof on or close to the vertical line formed by the front leg on the ground. That leg position is common to all walk based gaits. The difference among the walk based gaits is one of speed and degree of collection, but the leg positions and support system under the horse stay the same in all of them. 
Here's where it gets complicated. In the walk based gaits, both the footfall timing and the pickup timing are equal. People are aware of the footfall timing, because they hear evenly timed footfalls in all of the symmetrical gaits, whether walk based or rack based. What they are not generally aware of is that there can be even footfalls but uneven pickup timing. Pickup timing is determined by how many feet are on the ground and how squarely
they are actually supporting the weight of the horse. In the rack based gaits, the pickup timing skews to the lateral, even though the footfall timing remains even. That is, your ear will still hear even footfalls, but your eye, especially using a slow motion video cam, will not see the same leg positions under the horse as in the walk based gaits. Instead the horse will
move to 3/2/1, to 2/1, to 1/1 support from the stepped rack to the half rack to the full rack. In the full rack, only one foot is on the ground at a time, the other three are in the air. This gait is also sometimes called the single-foot, because only one foot is on the ground at a time, with the rest in the air.

It is often difficult, even for judges, to tell the difference between a collected intermediate walk and one of the rack based gaits, the stepped rack or half rack, because the ear is still hearing even footfalls. One author, Stella Manberg, calls the stepped rack and half rack the "amble" and many follow that usage, as I do. As Stella noted in an article on the
subject, although the ideal gait for Paso Finos is the collected intermediate walk, she has seen several horses totally amble their way to national championships, because the judges could not tell the difference between the collected intermediate walk and the amble.

In the absence of a video cam that can be slowed to determine the support under the horse, the motions of the body of the horse have to be observed carefully to determine if the horse is in the collected intermediate walk or is instead ambling. There is more up and down motion at the shoulder and hindquarters when the horse is ambling. Sometimes ambling horses are called "shaky tails", as a result. The collected intermediate walk has a more "forward" appearance to it, whereas the ambling gait has a more "upright" or "up and down" appearance to it.

The short answer to your question is that the flat walk is among the walk based gaits with both even footfall and pickup timing, whereas the rack is among the rack based gaits, with even footfall, but uneven pickup timing. In a nutshell, pickup timing is the critical determinant between the walk based gaits and the rack based gaits, which is determined by the support system under the horse.

Hope that answers your question, and that it is understandable to you and the many others that are struggling with the differences among the symmetrical gaits.

Annette L. Gerhardt


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