It is very important to understand the foot falls of our horses and how they correlate to our riding. When we understand the foot falls and how horses move during each gait, it can help us understand how our horses move us, how we need to move with them and lastly, how we can move them.
By watching and getting to know how your horse moves, it will become easier to see when your horse is lame or having issuing moving.
The walk starts with the right hind foot, followed by the right front. The left hind is third, with the left front as the last beat.
The walk is the easiest gait to sit while riding. During the walk, the horse is the most stable and supported.
While riding the walk, you should be able to feel the 1, 2, 3, 4 beat of the walk in your hips.
The walk is the most versatile gait for the horse. During the walk, they can do all kinds of maneuvers and this is where teaching of ALL maneuvers needs to start. Anything you want to teach your horse, needs to start at the walk.
Imagine that you are back in elementary school. Good teachers took us step by step through the learning process and by building on that knowledge, we were able to do more complex things as we progressed through our school years. Now imagine that instead of teaching us how to add and subtract, the teacher would demand that you do complex algebra right off the bat. We would become confused, frustrated and likely throw our hands in the air and give up.
This is exactly what our horses do when we do not give them the chance to learn maneuvers, such as moving off of leg pressure or getting that perfect circle, at the walk.
By ignoring the walk and all of the beautiful things that can be accomplished in this wonderful gait, you will be setting you and your horse up for some frustrating conversations in the future.
During the trot, the horse's legs move in a diagonal pair - inside front & outside hind then outside front & inside hind.
This diagonal pair of legs is why you will hear the phrase "Posting on the correct diagonal." Riders rise as the outside front leg is rising, putting the rider on the "correct diagonal." In most cases, it is more comfortable for the rider to ride on the correct diagonal although there are a small number of horses where riding on the incorrect diagonal is more comfortable.
The trot can be the hardest gait for a rider to sit, depending on the horse's conformation and the speed of the trot. When the horse trots, there is a lift to the horse's body that needs to be absorbed into the rider. When riders are unable to absorb this lift, they bounce on the horse's back. When a horse trots faster, this creates more lift and therefore more bounce.
Some horse's conformation lead them to be bouncier than others.
Read Next: Stepping In Time Part 2