Horse Gaits - Effects of Balance

Horses September 23, 2009 Print Friendly and PDF

Ashley Griffin, University of Kentucky

Contents

Long Stride

The stride is the distance between successive imprints of the same foot. From the side view a horse should place their hind foot in the spot that the front foot left the ground. The more balanced a horse is the more likely that they will travel in a collected manner maintaining maximum potential of stride length.

Horses with more sloping shoulders and pasterns generally move with more free flowing, ground covering strides that tend to hit the ground softer, thus increasing the comfort of the ride.

A horse’s way of going can be predicted by viewing the structure of both front and hind legs.

More correct horses tend to have a stride that hits the ground softer. In some cases it appears that they even float or suspend in air at the trot. When evaluating the gait of a horse notice the levelness and movement of the horse’s topline or back. A horse with less movement at the withers and croup tends to be a smoother, more comfortable mover for the rider.


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Balanced Movement - no audio

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Short Stride

As the shoulder and pasterns become straighter, the horse’s stride shortens. Thus accommodating a short, choppy stride with poor ground coverage and a rough gait.

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Unbalanced Movement - no audio

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Overreaching Stride

Conversely, an extremely long, overreaching stride may lead to interference between the fore and rear feet and legs. When over reaching occurs a horse may strike the sole of the front foot, as it lifts off the ground, with the toe of the hind foot. Generally you hear a characteristic “clicking” when a horse forges. Pulling horse shoes off, bruising heals, scalping coronet bands and possibly injuring the fetlock or flexor tendons can be results of forging.



Horse Gaits

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.