Gait Information

What is the Rocky Mountain Gait?

Terminology

To understand gait, it is important to have an understanding of the terminology used to describe gait.

  • Beat: How the horse’s hooves HIT the ground.
  • Cadence: The sequence in which a horse’s feet LEAVE the ground and HIT the ground. This is primary in identifying gait.
  • Diagonal: Simultaneous forward movement of a rear leg and the opposite front leg.
  • Lateral: Simultaneous forward movement of a rear leg and the front leg on the same side of the horse.
  • Footfall sequence: The order in which the horse’s hooves hit the ground. For purposes of our discussion, 4-beat gaits have the sequence of: right hind, right front, left hind, left front. The major difference between gaits is the cadence, not the sequence.
  • Style Differences: Variances in how horses execute the same gait (e.g.: head position, head movement, height of feet, extension/overstride, etc.) Style differences account for why two horses can perform the same gait, but look different doing so. Breeds have specific style preferences. For example, Rocky Mountain horses should not have a head nod, overstride must be less than 18”, and lift in front may not be excessive.

Gait Continuum

On one end of the continuum is trot; on the other is pace. The variety of 4-beat gaits in between trot and pace are generally referred to as the ambling gaits. The Rocky Mountain gait falls right in the middle of the gait continuum.
Gait Continuum

Trot

Trot

Trot

  • 2 beat with moment of suspension between each beat
  • Diagonal
  • Watch: Front and rear legs on opposite sides move in unison
  • Hear: Only two hoof beats (1…2)
  • Feel: Rider moves up and down in saddle

Foxtrot

Foxtrot

Foxtrot

  • 4 beat
  • Diagonal
  • Watch: Right front will land slightly before the left rear, then left front lands before the right rear. The front foot leaves the ground just prior to the rear foot hitting the ground on the same side. The rear foot is in the air longer than the front foot on the same side.
  • Hear: 4 hoof beats, but diagonal pairs will be close together (1,…2,3…4)
  • Feel: Smoothness can vary, rider may feel some up and down movement in the saddle

Even (Rocky Mountain Gait)

Even

Even

  • 4 beat
  • Even / Square, but considered to be a lateral gait
  • Watch: Each foot leaves the ground independently. The stride of each hoof is equal and the time in the air should be equal. The rear hoof is one-half stride ahead of the front foot on the same side, so the rear will leave the ground before the front, and the front will land after the rear.
  • Hear: 4 evenly timed hoof beats (1,2,3,4)
  • Feel: Rider’s pelvis rocks forward and back with little to no sway. Rider’s shoulders and head do not move side to side or up and down

Stepping Pace

Stepping Pace

Stepping Pace

  • 4 beat
  • Lateral
  • Watch: Front and rear legs on the same side of the horse are in motion at the same time (although not quite in unison). The rear foot sets down quicker than the front foot on the same side, so the front will land slightly after the rear.
  • Hear: 4 hoof beats, but each lateral pair will be close together (1,2…3,4)
  • Feel: Smoothness can vary, but rider usually feels some sway from left to right

Pace

Pace

Pace

  • 2 beat with moment of suspension between each beat
  • Lateral
  • Watch: Front and rear legs on one side of the horse move in unison
  • Hear: 2 hoof beats (1…2)
  • Feel: Rider movement in the saddle ranges from minimal to significant with sway from left to right.