Hoof Cadence: Trot
- October 6, 2016
- Jolyn Young
Learning the cadence of each gait is a little thing that really isn’t a little thing at all. It’s a hugely important aspect of horsemanship, and it’s something all top riders know. Horses are born knowing it; the rest of us just have to catch up!
In the last installment of this series, we learned about the horse’s footfall cadence at a walk. This time, let’s take a look at the trot. The trot is a two-beat diagonal gait, meaning the horse’s four feet move in two pairs, creating two beats per “cycle” of the gait. The left hind and the right front move together, striking the ground at the same time and then being suspended in the air at the same time. The right hind and left front are similarly “hooked” together and move in unison to create the other half of this gait.
In the photo below, you can clearly see how each pair of feet is hooked together during the trot.
Learning to time your cues so you deliver them at the exact right time will enable your horse to respond much more quickly. For example, to give your horse a cue to veer right when trotting in a circle, you would cue your horse to move when the inside front leg is just about to come up off the ground. To learn how to feel this detail (which really isn’t a detail to the horse; he knows exactly where each foot is at all times, and would appreciate your learning as well), you can practice sitting the trot to feel the movement. Then, try posting, or rising up in the saddle in sync with the outside shoulder/inside foot diagonal. Try to “rise and fall with the shoulder on the wall” without looking, then glance down at your horse’s outside shoulder to see if you were able to discern the correct diagonal.
Sound confusing? Give it a try; it’s easier than the walk! There are only two beats to figure out and get in sync with, so it’s half as hard as the walk.
Here’s another tip: When sitting the trot, it’s best to slow down the gait and really focus on relaxing your hips and lower body, then moving in a side-to-side motion. Whereas the walk is more forward-backward, the trot is more side-to-side. In a controlled environment and using a horse you trust, it’s also fun and educational to get your horse trotting slowly, then close your eyes and really feel the gait. If you can tell which foot is doing what with your eyes closed, you are well on your way to delivering well-timed cues to enhance your riding. Or, as they say in riding school, “it be mo betta, dude.”
Pop quiz: Which diagonal are you on? The correct answer is whichever shoulder is on the outside of the circle. For a circle to the left, you would post with the right diagonal. Now, saddle up and get to studyin’! Next up: The lope/canter.
About Jolyn Young
Jolyn Young lives near Fallon, NV with her cowboy husband and 3 small kids. For more, visit www.jolynyoung.com....