AskDefine | Define galloping

Dictionary Definition

galloping adj : that are running rapidly; "surrounded by galloping horses"

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Extensive Definition

This is an article on horse gaits; for other meanings, see: gait (disambiguation).
Horse gaits are the different ways in which a horse can move, either naturally or as a result of specialized training by humans.


Gaits can be roughly categorized into two groups: the "natural" gaits that nearly every horse will use without special training, and the "amble," or the "ambling" gaits, a collection of several other smooth footfall patterns that may appear naturally in some individuals but which usually occur only in certain breeds, and often require special training of the horse before a rider can request them on command. In terms of this system, the British Horse Society's Dressage Rules recognizes 4 walks, 6 trots (including some "airs"), 5 leaping gaits (all canters), halt, and reinback. Some people count these as three gaits by considering the canter a variation of the gallop, while others count them as four separate gaits. All four gaits are seen in wild horse populations. While a few other gaits may occur naturally to some horses, these four basic gaits occur in nature across almost all horse breeds.
Ideally, the advancing rear hoof oversteps the spot where the previously advancing front hoof touched the ground. The more the rear hoof oversteps, the smoother and more comfortable the walk becomes. Individual horses and different breeds vary in the smoothness of their walk. However, a rider will almost always feel some degree of gentle side-to-side motion in the horse's hips as each hind leg reaches forward.
The fastest walk is the hereditary "running walk" of the Tennessee Walking Horse, described under "Ambling gaits" below. If a horse begins to speed up and lose a regular cadence to its gait, the horse is no longer walking, but is beginning to either trot or move into an alternative ambling or "singlefoot" gait.


The trot is a two-beat gait that has a wide variation in possible speeds, but averages about 8 mph (13 km/h), or, very roughly, about the same speed as a healthy adult human can run. A very slow trot is sometimes referred to as a jog. An extremely fast trot has no special name, but in harness racing, the trot of a Standardbred is faster than the gallop of the average non-racehorse.
In this gait, the horse moves its legs in unison in diagonal pairs. From the standpoint of the balance of the horse, this is a very stable gait, and the horse need not make major balancing motions with its head and neck.


The canter is a controlled, three-beat gait that usually is a bit faster than the average trot, but slower than the gallop. Listening to a horse canter, one can usually hear the three beats as though a drum had been struck three times in succession. Then there is a rest, and immediately afterwards the three-beat occurs again. The faster the horse is moving, the longer the suspension time between the three beats.
In the canter, one of the horse's rear legs – the right rear leg, for example – propels the horse forward. During this beat, the horse is supported only on that single leg while the remaining three legs are moving forward. On the next beat the horse catches itself on the left rear and right front legs while the other hind leg is still momentarily on the ground. On the third beat, the horse catches itself on the left front leg while the diagonal pair is momentarily still in contact with the ground.
The gallop is also the gait of the classic race horse. Modern Thoroughbred horse races are seldom longer than a mile and a half, though in some countries Arabian horses are sometimes raced as far as two and a half miles. The fastest galloping speed is achieved by the American quarter horse, which in a short sprint of a quarter mile or less has been clocked at speeds approaching 55 mph (88 km/h).
Like a canter, the horse will strike off with its non-leading hind foot; but the second stage of the canter becomes, in the gallop, the second and third stages because the inside hind foot hits the ground a split second before the outside front foot. Then both gaits end with the striking off of the leading leg, followed by a moment of suspension when all four feet are off the ground. A careful listener or observer can tell an extended canter from a gallop by the presence of the fourth beat.


The Pace is a lateral two-beat gait. In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together. In both the pace and the trot, two feet are always off the ground. The trot is much more common, but some horses, particularly in breeds bred for harness racing, naturally prefer to pace. Pacers are also faster than trotters on the average, though horses are raced at both gaits. Among standardbred horses, pacers breed truer than trotters – that is, trotting sires have a higher proportion of pacers among their get than pacing sires do of trotters.
A slow pace can be relatively comfortable, as the rider is lightly rocked from side to side. A slightly uneven pace that is somewhat between a pace and an amble, is the Sobreandando of the Peruvian Paso. On the other hand, a slow pace is considered undesirable in an Icelandic horse, where it is called a lull or a "piggy-pace."
With one exception, a fast pace is uncomfortable for riding and almost impossible to sit, because the rider is moved rapidly from side to side. A rider cannot post to a pacing horse. The motion feels somewhat as if the rider is on a camel, another animal that naturally paces. However, a camel is much taller than a horse and so even at relatively fast speeds, a rider can follow the rocking motion of a camel. A pacing horse, being smaller and taking quicker steps, moves from side to side at a rate that becomes difficult for a rider to follow at speed, so though the gait is faster and useful for harness racing, it become impractical as a gait for riding at speed over long distances. However, in the case of the Icelandic horse, where the pace is known as the skeið, "flying pace," or flugskeið, it is a smooth and highly valued gait, ridden in short bursts at great speed.
A horse that paces and is not used in harness is often taught to perform some form of amble, obtained by lightly unbalancing the horse so the footfalls of the pace break up into a four beat lateral gait that is smoother to ride.

"Ambling" gaits

There are a significant number of four-beat intermediate gaits. Though there are differences in footfall patterns and speed, historically they were once grouped together and collectively referred to as the "amble." Today, especially in the United States, horses that are able to do an ambling gait are referred to as "gaited."
All ambling gaits are faster than a walk but usually slower than a canter. They are smoother for a rider than either a trot or a pace and most can be sustained for relatively long periods of time, making them particularly desirable for trail riding and other tasks where a rider must spend long periods of time in the saddle.
Not all horses can perform an ambling gait. However, many breeds can be trained to produce them, and there are several breeds of horses who inherit the ability to perform these gaits either naturally from birth or with a minimal amount of training.
The major ambling gaits include:
  • The fox trot is most often associated with the Missouri Foxtrotter breed, but is also seen under different names in other gaited breeds. The fox trot is a four-beat diagonal gait in which the front foot of the diagonal pair lands before the hind.
  • "Paso" gaits include a range of smooth intermediate lateral ambling gaits characteristic of the Peruvian Paso and Paso Fino. The Paso Fino's speed variations are called (from slowest to fastest) the paso fino, paso corto, and paso largo. The Peruvian Paso has a lateral gait known as the "Paso Llano," which is characterized by an elongated and lateral motion of the front shoulder known as "Termino."
  • The rack or racking is a gait most commonly associated with the Five-Gaited American Saddlebred. In the rack, the speed is increased to be approximately that of the pace, but it is a four-beat gait with equal intervals between each beat.
  • The Running Walk, a four-beat lateral gait with footfalls in the same sequence as the regular walk, but characterized by greater speed and smoothness. It is a distinctive natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
  • The slow gait is a general term for several slightly different gaits that follow the same general footfall pattern in that lateral pairs of legs move forward in sequence, but the rhythm and collection of the movements are different. Terms for various slow gaits include the stepping pace and singlefoot.
  • The Tölt (also, less correctly, Tolt) is a gait that is often described as being unique to the Icelandic Horse. In its pure form, the footfalls are the same as in rack, but the Icelandic horse is bred for more freedom and liquidity of movement. Some breeds of horses that are related to the Icelandic horse, living in the Faroe Islands and Norway, also tölt.


galloping in German: Pferdegangart
galloping in Estonian: Allüür
galloping in French: Allure (équitation)
galloping in Dutch: Paardengang
galloping in Japanese: 歩法 (馬術)
galloping in Polish: Chód konia
galloping in Russian: Аллюр
galloping in Finnish: Hevosen askellaji
galloping in Swedish: Gångart
galloping in Walloon: Aleures d' on tchvå

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

agile, breakneck, dashing, double-quick, eagle-winged, expeditious, express, fast, fleet, flying, hair-trigger, hasty, headlong, hustling, light of heel, light-footed, lively, mercurial, nimble, nimble-footed, precipitate, prompt, quick, quick as lightning, quick as thought, rapid, reckless, running, snappy, spanking, speedy, swift, winged
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