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Quick question on gait
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Helen
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 Posted: Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 05:23 am
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Hi all,

For those of you with the Birdie Book - I am rereading it and was a little confused by the photo of Sadie on page 105, in the photo gallery of chapter 7. The photos are of fear/excitement, Sadie is the third horse shown.

What confused me was which gait she is exhibiting - her right hind has just left the ground, left hind and left fore are both grounded, and right fore is extended, ready to hit the ground.

What gait is this? The photo makes the speed look around a gallop or fast canter; but this footfall pattern is not the one usually displayed in either canter or gallop. It could be some kind of gait, but that seems rather unlikely and doesn't look right either.

Am I missing something? Or do horses sometimes 'run' in a different way to the specified gaits? Or (I wouldn't think this would happen in the paddock) is she disunited at canter?

I have a feeling this is a stupid question, but I just can't get the answer...

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 08:26 am
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Yeah, Helen, isn't that a fun photo? For those who don't have a Birdie Book -- I used the same photo of Sadie for the cover of the 2001 "Inner Horseman" disk, so if you have that you can look at it.

I took that photo one day at the old Potomac Horse Center in Maryland where we used to board, back in the 1980's, when Sadie was young -- she was only 22 years old.

As you probably know, Maryland is south of the Mason-Dixon Line -- officially, part of the American "South". So, it doesn't snow there very often. But the day I took that photo, it had snowed that morning, and it had snowed about one inch the night before -- nice, crispy-crunchy, cool, soft snow. I took Sadie out to a paddock and turned her loose in it. And she played, and played, and played....bucked, ran, slid to a stop, turned, bucked again, kicked up behind, farted, spooked at her own tail, and galloped away. I was laughing so hard I could hardly hold the camera steady.

So what gait is it? I've asked the very same question looking at that same photo. And the answer is -- heck if I know. There is no official name for it. She's in the middle of taking a leap. Maybe halfway up she was changing her mind about what lead to be on when she landed. You can find rodeo photos of broncs that are doing something similar in mid-leap.

If you consider the legs as 'discrete entities', a four-legged animal has 4 to the 4th power potential positional combinations, i.e. 64 combinations -- like a four-button padlock. There are certainly not 64 clearly different gaits, even if you were to acknowledge every variant of the ambling gaits from every country, i.e. tolt, paso llano, rack, etc.

It gets even more interesting from there, because of course, we are not just talking about  one single position for any of the legs (as we would be for a four-button lock). If you hold the right foreleg in the upright position and call that the 'reference position', then it is of course possible for all three of the other legs to be in any position whatsoever with reference to the right foreleg. For any one leg, how many positions can it be in from full protraction to full retraction? An infinite number, in fact.

This all serves to highlight several points:

1. A gait is defined as a particular coordination between the reference leg and the other legs; in other words, the defining thing about a gait is the timing of the footfalls.

2. The timing of the footfalls underpins, and determines, the order of the footfalls.

3. Many of the gaits that a horse might use do not have names. Particularly, they do not have names in cultures/countries where the horse that walk-trot-canters reigns supreme. Most horse owners in fact do not know more names for gaits than walk, trot, canter, and gallop.

4. Many of the gaits that a horse might use are not often used by horses. In other words, out of an infinite spectrum of possible timing coordinations, horses regularly prefer only a relative few -- though the 'few' is far more than most people know, as per point 3. above.

Here is a minimum list that all horse students should know -- by 'know' I mean 'know how to recognize when seen' and also 'know the footfall order':

Walk -- the mother of all other gaits, contains fragments or sequences of all other gaits, contains both lateral and diagonal ties, and is by far the most important training gait

Amble, which includes a spectrum from diagonally-dominated trocha/foxtrot -- through properly isochronal running-walk, rack/paso llano/fast tolt, amble proper/slow tolt/slow gait, paso corto/paso fino/paso largo -- to laterally-dominated sobreandando/stepping pace. NONE OF THESE GAITS ARE 'PACING'.

Trot -- united diagonals -- can be understood as one extreme of the amble spectrum.

Pace -- united laterals -- can be understood as the opposite extreme of the amble spectrum.

Canter left/Canter right -- single united diagonal

Gallop/Galope -- hind-hind, fore-fore sequence

Pronk/Buckjump/jump/ballotade -- united or nearly united fore-fore/hind-hind

Rein back -- walk sequence vs. united diagonals

Sequence flying changes/tempe changes.

Suggested exercise: start with left hind as your standard 'first sounded beat'. Then chart the footfall order for all these gaits.

When you get done with that, then we can do some more interesting homework around gaits.

Cheers, and have fun -- Dr. Deb

 

Helen
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 Posted: Mon Jun 2nd, 2008 09:32 am
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I thought that might be it. It is simply lovely to see Sadie enjoying herself so much - I love the snow sequence.

OK, to my homework:

Walk is, of course, LH, LF, RH, RF. When I was younger I used to confuse myself wondering if the forefoot struck before the opposite hind foot, or if the hind foot struck before the same forefoot - as you say, it is possible to see both lateral and diagonal movement there.

On one side of the amble is the pace: LH & LF, RH & RF.

Amble is where I run into trouble - I can identify all of the other 'basic gaits' you have listed just fine, but the finer points of different types of amble are lost on me. The general sequence, however is LH, LF, RH, RF, with varying gaps between diagonal and lateral pairs making the differences.

When the diagonal pairs fall exactly together, it is standard trot. LH & RF, RH & LF.

Canter, when it begins with LH, is on the right lead - LH, RH  & LF, RF.

Gallop is usually the same as canter but with the RH and LF striking separately to allow the horse to stretch out more and get greater stride length. Sadie gives us an example of what would probably be called a gallop but doesn't have the exact same pattern.

Jump or ballotade is usually the same as gallop (or with hind and fore pairs united), but with a moment of suspension between the hind and fore pairs - more vertical, less horizontal movement).

I have actually never observed the footfalls in reinback; I would assume they are the same as in walk, but reversed? So, if the horse were to start with the LH, it would be LH, RF, RH, LF and so on.

Tempe changes are changes of lead after each canter stride - so LH, RH & LF, RF, RH, LH & RF, LF, back to LH, RH & LF, RF etc. Aren't these lovely to watch when done well?

Helen
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 Posted: Fri Feb 6th, 2009 04:12 am
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Hi DD,

This thread seems to have got lost over time. If you have the time I would love to continue learning about different gaits since it can be quite tricky to here down under. If you're busy that's fine too.

-Helen

Fryslyn McGee
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 Posted: Fri Feb 6th, 2009 04:36 pm
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This is an interesting thread. 

Would the reinback have united diagonals?  I've noticed that sequence when my gelding rounds up and backs properly under saddle, or when a horse in hand rounds up and backs- as opposed to just schlepping along in an anti-forward direction- the feet move in a "trot-like" sequence, though of course without the speed impulsion and suspension of the trot. 

We have a silly mare who was very barn bound when we bought her, and part of getting her over that was making her back to the barn from her turnout during quarantine.  You couldn't hold her brain going forward- at all- but making her back got her attention.  As she got the hang of the game, the four cornered scramble gradually evolved into deliberate diagonal strides with her head dropped and her topline soft and swinging.  (this is still the best way to get throught to her- her birdie is an ADHD hummingbird)

miriam
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 Posted: Fri Feb 6th, 2009 04:54 pm
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I was thinking hard about gaits on my commute to work today so what a nice surprise to find this thread. The '08 ESI Mannering CD is in the player and it prompts questions (along with light bulb answers).

Perhaps this question is too elemental for this thread but it's been on my mind all winter; is the 'one step' referred to in the Mannering CD really just one leg - or is one step acutally the diagonal?

cdodgen
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 Posted: Fri Feb 6th, 2009 09:19 pm
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Yes, it is just one step (one foot) at a time.  While riding in Dr. Deb clinic here in Texas last month she had us do two things that made this very clear, at least to me.  Sounding out hind foot landing at the walk and reaching via our minds down to the front feet and extending them as far forward at the walk as possible.  I have to admit until that time - gait was not a big deal to me so long as it didn't hurt my butt.  I'm thinking that this is one of the differences between being a rider and being just a passenger - knowing where the feet are going and how soon they will get there.  Cheryl

leca
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 Posted: Fri Feb 6th, 2009 10:44 pm
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reinbacks have same footfall as trot

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 06:10 am
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Hello Helen - Thanks for starting such an interesting thread.  Thought you might like to see this Happy Snap of my colt some 15 months ago.  I had seen this odd little jog-pace for some time as part of the daily ritual of squabbling over the right for first lick around each other's feed buckets, but did not notice the two feet being unweighted on the same side until I viewed the photo - no idea what he's doing.



Best wishes - Pauline

Attachment: Sol Oct 07 (4).JPG (Downloaded 343 times)

Last edited on Sat Feb 7th, 2009 06:12 am by Pauline Moore

Helen
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 07:09 am
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Great shot Pauline! Technically the footfall order looks the same as a walk, but I gather from your post it is rather faster, more like an (???) amble?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 09:18 am
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Yes, Pauline's shot shows the horse in a walk. Not enough energy for an amble, but a useful photo in that it highlights once again the maxim: the walk contains elements of ALL other gaits. This is one major reason why the walk is the most important training gait.

Helen, as you your query: yes, this thread did kind of get lost. If a lot of new threads come in at once, sometimes I only have time to answer a few of them, and then the others tend to go down, and down, and down, and pretty soon they're out of sight and out of mind.

But this is a good discussion topic, so I am glad that you-all have revived it. Your dissertation on footfall sequence contains no errors, Helen. And the confusion you feel over 'ambling' has but a single source, and that is, that you are unfamiliar with horses that amble. In fact, the likelihood is that in your own country you have never seen one; they are not common outside the Americas and Iceland.

The one and only factor that distinguishes an amble from a walk is the total energy output in the amble. When a horse ambles, he maintains the same footfall sequence as in the walk, but he puts out more energy in doing it. This causes several effects that make it instantly obvious that the animal is not walking: (a) The carriage of the horse will tend to pick up; he'll be more alert-looking overall, and the way he picks up and sets down his feet will be 'snappier'. (b) The speed at which he covers ground, i.e. the kph or mph will rise. A walk stops at about 6 mph (8 kph); at 7 mph all except the largest horses will be ambling.

There are some dangers inherent to ambling. The rider can manipulate the horse's carriage in a destructive way, in order to force ambling. This is done by various techniques that cause the animal to raise its poll too high, break back at the root of the neck, hollow the back, and extend the loins. If you hollow out a horse like this and then hustle it, you can force just about any type of horse to amble. But the amble so produced is neither beautiful nor correct. The only correct ambling is exactly like the only correct walking, trotting, or cantering: it is performed 'round'.

Nowhere in this description, you will note, do we mention that the ambler is pacing. The pace is another gait. Many horses that can amble will also pace; but then again, many horses that can amble will also trot. The point is not to make the common confusion and call an ambling horse 'a pacer', as if pace and amble were synonymous.

Another danger inherent to ambling is that, if the amble is not 'square' (i.e. nearly isochronal), the footfall coordination can slide over to where it does become close to a pace. I think that this is why so many people equate 'ambler' with 'pacer' -- because so much of the 'gaited riding' or ambling that is seen in public is actually 'pacey' -- in other words -- crummy. The more the horse is forced by hollowing out techniques, or by artificial appliances, the crummier the result. Correct ambling is defined by near-isochronality of the footfalls. "Isochronal" footfalls are those which are separated by equal, or nearly equal, intervals of time -- just as they would be in a quality walk, trot, or canter. No judging criterion changes, you see, merely because the horse is gaiting or ambling: all horses are judged on exactly the same biomechanical bases.

The more the horse is hustled, hollowed out, or allowed to move in a near-pace, the stiffer in his body he will become. It was because all horses in the Classical manege were expected to be 'finished in gait' that the old European masters put such emphasis on curving figures, stepping under the body shadow with the inside hind leg, the practice of the shoulder-in, and suppling. Their horses needed suppling MORE than many non-amblers do.

For this reason -- because one of the occupational hazards of ambling is that the animal tends to become stiff through the haunches, neck, ribs, and back -- it is extremely important for the ambling horse to receive a dose, every ride, of backing one step at a time, shoulder-in, and suppling. It is also necessary for the rider to learn where the 'breakover point' is for her particular animal, which is the energy level at which he transitions from walk into gait. Most people, whether they are competitive dressage types with their trotter or saddle-seat types with their ambler, are constantly asking their horse to go over-tempo. They are asking him to go faster, or put out more energy, than he actually can and still maintain ease and fluidity in movement. The dressage types, especially, get so used to this that a horse that is moving at the correct pace for him to actually develop, rather than degrade in an athletic sense, looks like he is 'sluggish' to them. Most gaited people constantly have their horse at an energy level that is near the top of what the animal can put forth, when instead, if they wish to develop the animal's ability to gait with more power and beauty, they should school him at a level that is about 10 to 20% below the breakover point where he goes from long-walk into gait. In other words: the gaited horse, like the trotter, is schooled best by working within the walk and, while in the walk, "flexing" up and down from shortest steps to longest steps and back again. Do this for a month with your gaited horse and then ask him to go wide open, and you will learn the great power inherent in what I am saying.

As to WHICH ambling gait a horse may be doing: abandon all hope, ye who enter this terminological arena. There is no agreement in North America, and there never will be, as to exactly what constitutes a rack vs. a slow gait vs. a running walk vs. plantation gait. The foxtrot/trocha do somewhat stand out at one end of a spectrum, but within that subspectrum again there is no universal agreement. In Iceland, which is a country filled with rational people, there has been an attempt to define slow vs. fast tolt -- but that does not in itself mean that the judge at a show will see it as the academicians or biomechanics investigators see it. The same goes for Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Peru: there are expert traditions there, and a developed taste that allows knowledgeable breeders to discern which horses are of better quality. The Paso Fino and Peruvian traditions know 500 times as much about 'purity of gait' as the Germans. But even at that, you will not find 100% agreement, or a formal definition, of paso llano or of paso corto, paso largo, or paso fino: only a 'general' idea or description, which does not involve specifying footfall timing in terms of microseconds.

If you had been at our lecture series last year, Helen, gaited horses was one of the subjects we covered, and I even brought films of my own ambler, Ollie. But you might in the future have the opportunity to go to Iceland to study with Eyjolfur Isolfsson at Holar College. This would be one of the best places in the world for anyone to learn all-around horsemanship. If you go to YouTube to look at films, be careful what you pay any attention to: please don't look at American Saddlebreds or Tennessee Walkers who are competing at shows. They are ugly and disfunctional, and it's sad because these are wonderful horses. -- Dr. Deb

 

 

 

Helen
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 10:20 am
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Wow, thank you DD. I'm much more confident with the way "gaiting" works now. Several people have tried to explain to me the difference between amble, foxtrot, rack, paso largo, paso corto etc but it's really never made much sense. Pacing is the only gait I've seen in real life since harness racing is quite popular here.

It's been interesting looking through videos of horses gaiting on youtube, including the different ways they are described. It was sad (but not exactly unexpected) to see one commenter saying that the horse's gait was lovely but the head should be lower... and that this could be achieved by tying twine from the girth to the curb bit. Terrible.

Leca I don't think that's the case - if you watch various horses performing the reinback, the ones who are allowed their own time have the reverse footfall order of the walk. When rushed horses seem to go more towards a trot-like footfall in order to keep their balance as they go back.

Pauline Moore
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 11:29 am
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Thanks from me also, Dr Deb - that photo has intrigued me for a while as in practice the four or five steps certainly looked more than a walk, more like a jog but not a trot.  The horse went through a phase lasting a few weeks where he repeated that exact sequence every day as he prepared to barge his way into the feedpen, adopting a rounded posture as he passed the other horse.

Best wishes - Pauline

cdodgen
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 02:39 pm
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Dr. Deb,  Just to clarify in my mind - "In other words: the gaited horse, like the trotter, is schooled best by working within the walk and, while in the walk, "flexing" up and down from shortest steps to longest steps and back again. Do this for a month with your gaited horse and then ask him to go wide open, and you will learn the great power inherent in what I am saying."

Your asking that I ride just as we did in the clinic when you asked us to see how long of a stride we could get by just visualizing our hands carrying the front legs forward longer and longer without breaking over into a trot/gait.
 

Cheryl

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sat Feb 7th, 2009 07:13 pm
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Yes, Cheryl. That's why we learned and practiced long walk-short walk at the clinic. I don't do things in clinic just to show you that they can be done; I do them because I hope you and other students will see WHY we do those things and then continue in the same vein once I leave.

And Pauline: Yes, a horse can get into that 'twixt and tween' area that is neither exactly a walk nor exactly a trot. And so you can correct me and say that the energy level was actually higher than that horse would ordinarily have produced when walking. In that case, we will say he was in fact ambling in some manner. As this is not, I think, a horse of a breed normally thought of as 'gaited', it illustrates that many horses can and will amble, under certain circumstances. The fossil record, by the way, demonstrates that ambling is the original preferred gait of the grazing clade of the horse family: there are fossil trackways of both Hipparion and Pliohippus that certify that they were ambling -- more than 20 million years ago.

Leca and Helen: The correct footfall order in the rein-back is diagonal pairs, like the trot but (usually) without a period of suspension. Hustling the horse back makes it impossible for him to do this; it breaks up the footfalls, so that they then come as in a walk (in reverse). However, a horse that is at a low energy level may also step back as in a walk, and there is no great harm in this; but the rider should still be looking whether she is overpressing the head, because she probably is. Most people, even after repeated admonitions from this teacher, still are trying to pull their horse backwards with the reins. The idea, rather, is to do exactly in this case as you would do with your car that has an automatic transition: you first put it into reverse gear, and then you step on the gas. You do not pull backwards on the steering wheel! What makes the horse go backwards is the stepping on the gas. The reins are there only to totally block any effort the horse might make to go forward.

Of course if the horse does not know how to back under saddle, he will try to go forward at first, because that's all he knows about responding to the calf of the leg. So one thing you are teaching the horse when you teach him to back is that "bumps from the calf of the leg do not mean 'go forward'. They mean 'raise your energy'. The reins are to direct that energy. You need to pay attention to both things as separate elements." When you approach it this way, it will get to where there is no pressure coming from the horse AGAINST the reins at all -- the sensation the rider receives is of the horse 'floating' backwards. It is as light as a feather, yet there is still the consciousness on your part and on the horse's part that he continues to grasp, or mouth, the bit; he has not 'dropped' the bit. This is many peoples' first inkling of what correct 'contact with the bit' actually is, and why shoving the horse 'forward' all the time or shoving him forward 'to make positive contact' or 'to have the horse stretch the reins' is such a horrible and destructive mistake. -- Dr. Deb


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