Hoof Cadence: Lope

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training

In the last two installments of this series, we discussed the hoof cadence of the walk and trot. The lope is a different breed of cat altogether from the other two gaits; it’s a three-beat gait with two split-seconds when only one foot is on the ground, and another split-second when none of the horse’s feet are on the ground.

It’s wild.

It’s crazy.

It’s totally doable.

Are you ready to learn the hoof cadence of the lope? Okay, here it is: The horse keeps one pair of diagonals from the trot, and the other two legs begin and end the gait.  For example, if a horse is loping to the left, his left hind leg and right front leg move are still “hooked” together as they were in the trot. That pair of legs move together in unison, then his outside (right) hind leg takes a big step under his belly, then his inside (left) front leg takes an extra-long step to complete one cycle of the gait.

In this picture, you can see how the inside hind and outside front legs are still hooked together in their diagonal from the trot. The outside hind leg is on the ground fully weighted, ready to propel the horse’s weight and momentum to the inside front leg, the last step of the gait.

Horse loping

Here, the horse just took the final step, putting all his weight on the inside front leg. The outside front and inside legs are held in identical positions; they move as one unit and mirror each other at all stages of the lope.

horse loping

Knowing the hoof cadence of the lope can help determine which lead you’re on. The leads are identified by which front leg is reaching the farthest; if the right front is taking a bigger step than the left front, you’re on the right lead. If you know which foot is about to leave the ground when you’re walking or trotting, you can more effectively set your horse up to take the correct lead for the direction you’re traveling.

You can learn the cadence of this gait by watching horses lope, then try riding your horse and focus on feeling each of the three beats. Usually, you want to be in the lead of the circle for the direction you’re traveling, so when you’re loping to the right, look up and practice feeling the inside front leg reaching farther, then glance down to make sure it is.

The lope is a very fun, relaxing gait, except for when it’s high-speed and exhilarating. Study it a little, then just go out there and ride and feel it and don’t overthink it. Timing, feel, and balance: it all comes with time.

Posted in: Featured, Horse Care, Horse Training

About Jolyn Young

Jolyn Young lives near Montello, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....

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