Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky
Understanding how a horse moves is the first step in identifying a horse’s quality of movement. The orderly hoof fall pattern of movement is considered a gait. Gaits of a horse are classified into natural and artificial gaits. In many cases, the breed of the horse dictates the gaits that it performs.
There are over 167 symmetrical gaits described for the horse. Symmetrical gaits such as the walk, trot, and pace are gaits in which limb movements on one side are repeated on the opposite side half a stride later. Asymmetrical gaits such as the canter and gallop have limb movements on one side that do not exactly repeat on the other side.
All gaits have different degrees of quality. These differences separate the good movers from the average or below average movers. Quality of movement can translate into the difference in horse value.
The quality of the gait is dictated by the horse’s balance and structural correctness in conformation as well as by hoof flight pattern. It is the combination of these attributes that influcen performance and is commonly referred to as “form to function”.