Hoof Cadence: Walk
- September 28, 2016
- Jolyn Young
All horse enthusiasts know there are separate and distinct patterns to each of a horse’s three main gaits (walk, trot and lope/canter), but not many know each pattern. Learning the cadence for each gait and studying it while riding until you know which foot is going to move next and where will unlock the next level of horsemanship for you and your mount.
Properly timing cues at the exact right split-second for your horse can make a huge difference in his performance. Here’s a photo that illustrates this point. See the big movement the horse’s left front leg is making to execute this turnaround? An improperly timed cue could cause him to painfully bang his shod hoof against the sensitive cannon bone of his right front leg. Sure, the boots help protect against that, but timing the cue at the proper instant results in a cleaner, crisper movement as well.
To learn the cadence of each gait, it helps to dissect them step-by-step. The walk begins with the left hind foot, then the left front foot, then the right hind foot, then the right front foot, then it repeats. The sequence can start on any foot, depending on how the horse’s feet were arranged when he stopped and what he is being asked to do next. It’s called a lateral four-beat gait, which means one side moves, then the other and each foot falls individually.
In this image, the horse’s right front foot has just left the ground, so his left hind foot is the next one to take a step.
Learning the cadence for each gait can help you properly time cues to speed up within a gait (lengthen the horse’s stride), move his hindquarters, stop, turn, or do any other maneuver. You want to ask a horse to move a particular foot the instant before he’s about to move it. Once you get the feel for when he’s about to move each individual foot, the real fun begins and your cues and his responses become very precise and crisp.
To learn to feel the cadence, first study the horse’s footfall from the ground. When you get horseback, focus on either the front or the hindquarters and get a feel for “right, left, right, left” without looking. Then, practice feeling all four feet moving together until you know which foot is moving, which one is about to move, and which one is bearing the most weight at any given time.
Sound confusing, time-consuming, tedious and like way too much work? Don’t be scared – just break it off into small pieces and practice feeling the hind end moving at a walk first. This is a great activity to do while you’re trail riding or cooling off after some arena work. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be encouraged by how light and responsive your horse feels, then you’ll want to learn the trot, the lope, and reverse, and you’ll tell all your friends about it and write blogs about it
Pop quiz: Which foot is going to move next on this horse?
Correct – his right front! His right hind foot is in the air, meaning when it comes down, the right front will take a step. Then the left hind, left front, and so on.
Next up: hoof cadence at a trot.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives on the O RO Ranch in northern Arizona with husband and their two small kids. To learn more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....