Horse Paces - Gaits

Learning all the horse paces is another essential step towards becoming a competent rider. Horses and Ponies move at four basic speeds: walk, trot, canter and gallop. These are known in the equestrian world, as paces or gaits.

The Walk

When I want my pony to walk forward, I let her know by squeezing in with both legs. The walk should be a calm, easy pace with a four time beat, and its best we learn to sit in rythm.

It's not about walking aimlessly along, but learning to develop the correct position, posture, balance, application of aids and accuracy of movement.

It's also a great time to practise lengthening the reins, by allowing them to slide quietly through the fingers, and then just as quietly take them up again to the correct length.

Combined with balance exercises and muscle control, your confidence will soon grow.

The Trot

As we gain more balance and confidence in learning to walk and stop and our thigh muscles are getting stronger, we can think about beginning 'the trot'.

Before starting the trot, it's advisable to practise the balance exercise of rising at the halt with stirrups, preferably in an enclosed area.

The best way I would suggest to get the feel of the trot, if you're a beginner, is to be put on the 'lunge' with a quiet horse and an experienced instructor. Make sure you are sitting upright and holding onto the saddle.

When I trot my pony, I absorb the movement of the trot and with a rising trot, I go up and down with the rythm. I push into the stirrups and allow my bottom to be lifted out of the saddle in one beat, then gently sit back down on the next.


To go into a canter from a trot, I stop rising and sit for a few strides. I brush my outside leg behind the girth and at the same time squeeze with my inside leg. I then sit well down in the saddle and allow my body to rock with the rythm of the canter.


To go into a gallop from a canter, I squeeze with both legs, then I shift my weight forward out of the saddle and push my hands up my pony's neck.

It sounds easy, but I would not try to canter or gallop too soon, at least not until your 'seat' has been reasonably established at walk and trot.

There are lot's to learn about the horse gaits or paces, and naturally it is always best to learn from an experienced horseman. Bad habits can be learned from both rider and pony.

But when you have learned the basic's....Yippeeeeeeeeeeee.

Have you cantered or galloped yet? And were you a slow learner like me?

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