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Types of Horse Paces and Horse Gaits

Updated on May 12, 2011

The Paces of a Horse

There are a total of five horse gaits, although most horse breeds can only perform four out of the five horse paces. Having a basic understanding of the horse gaits can be vital to horse training and horseback riding. That’s why I’m here to explain the five horse paces in detail for you.

What is a horse gait?

A horse gait is simply just a different way of saying the pace of a horse. The types of paces horses can have include the walk gait, the trot gait, the canter gait, the gallop gait, and the pacing gait.

Walk Gait by an Equestrian Horse
Walk Gait by an Equestrian Horse

The Walk Gait

The Walk is a type of horse gait that is made up of a four beat pace. Naturally all horses have the walk as one of their paces. The horse walk has a steady even pace of 1, 2, 3, 4. The leg moving pattern for the walking gait goes near hind, near fore, off hind, and off fore, then repeat. In order to execute the walking gait correctly it requires that the horse always has two hooves on the ground at all times.

There are three types of the horse walking gait. There's the Collected Walk, the Extended Walk, and the Medium Walk.

The Medium Walk - Hind hooves should touch the ground ahead of the hoof prints made by the front feet.

The Collected Walk - The collected horse walk consists of elevated leg movements. For horses to correctly conduct the collected walk, back hooves must meet behind the prints made by the front feet.

The Extended Walk - The extended horse walk is where a horse uses lengthy steps. With extended walks horses should have the back hoof tracks surpassing the front feet's tracks.


The Trot - A horse Trotting - Trot Gait Horse Trots
The Trot - A horse Trotting - Trot Gait Horse Trots

The Trot Pace

The Trot is the second of the horses paces. Trotting is a natural two beat pace with the horses moving their legs in diagonal pairs, with the legs alternating from in to out with each of the steps. The trot always has a moment of suspension from movement to movement.

There are four types of horse trots which consist of the Medium Trot, Extended Trot, Collected Trot, and Working Trot. All four versions for the horse trot are very similar to one another, but they range in degrees of how long their strides measure from one type of trot to the next.

The Canter  Canter Horse Horse Canter
The Canter Canter Horse Horse Canter

The Canter Gait

The Canter is the execution of a three beat pace gait. The pattern of leg movements for the Canter using the left leading leg is - off hind, near hind, and off fore at once following with near hind again, then horse repeats. When using the right leading leg, the horse canter is displayed in a pattern of near hind, off hind, and near fore together then off fore with constant repeating.

Types of Horse Canters - There are four types of canters which include the Medium Canter, the Collected Canter, the Extended Canter, and the Working Canter. How to tell types of horse canters from one another is simply by measuring an individual horse’s length and stride.

Wrong Lead - When using the horse’s canter with a right rein sequence but it is conducted in a left rein sequence for the canter, this is called the Wrong Lead. The same things goes for left rein sequences being shown as right rein sequences of canter horse patterns.

Counter Canter - Unless a horse is extremely well trained and used as a dressage horse then what would usually be considered as a Wrong Lead would then become what is known as a Counter Canter.


The Gallop done by a Racing Horse
The Gallop done by a Racing Horse
Horse Gallop Gallop Gait
Horse Gallop Gallop Gait

The Gallop Gait

The Gallop is the fourth horse gait and for some horses their final gait. The Gallop is a four beat pace; the pattern for the horse gallop is near hind, off hind, near fore, off fore. Between each four beats there is a brief time period of suspension. During that time of suspension horses have all feet in the air and are not touching the ground. Then the pattern is repeated over again. The Gallop is the fastest of the types of horse paces.


Pacing Gait  Horse Pacing
Pacing Gait Horse Pacing

Horse Pacing Gait

Pacing is the final and the most comfortable fast paced horse gait. Most horse breeds actually don't even have the ability for pacing, but there are some types of horses like racing horses that are often times able to conduct the pacing gait. Horse Pacing is basically just like a four beat walk, but just in a running motion

- American Horse Breeds tend to be the best at executing the Pacing Gait probably due to their selective breeding of specific traits of the older versions for the Spanish horses.


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    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 

      5 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Lovely hub on horse paces and cantors. Very informative! I love horses! Voted up!

    • Derby Deals profile image

      Derby Deals 

      7 years ago from Jeffersonville, Indiana

      Thumbs up! Neat hub!

    • Barbsbitsnpieces profile image

      Barbara Anne Helberg 

      8 years ago from Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio, USA

      This is a little difficult to follow with the over-use of the words "gait" and "pace". Perhaps it would have been easier if you would have used the paragraph titles "The Pace", "The Trot", "The Gallop", etc.

      Beautiful photos!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Voted up for being so informative! So many of us don't work with horses but would like to understand a bit about them. I think the inclusion of a couple videos would really underscore just what you are saying.


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