Glossary

Gaits of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse

Canter
The canter is a broken three-beat gait, and should be performed with collection. The horse should be relaxed and under control, should not crossfire, and should be in the correct lead. In the canter the outside rear foot hits the ground first, the inside rear and the outside front feet hit the ground simultaneously, and the inside front foot hits last. This produces the broken three-beat cadence. Because of the rocking motion of the canter, the saddle should move smoothly without surging or bouncing. This rocking chair canter allows the horse to have a showy head movement as the head is used as a counter balance to the broken gait. The head will reach its highest point when the outside rear foot hits the ground, and its lowest point when the inside front foot hits the ground. The horse gathers itself on the off beat and takes another step. The speed of the canter should be near that of the flat foot walk.

Flat foot walk
A true flat foot walk is a four-beat gait in which each foot is picked up and set down in an even cadence. The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap or pop. Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot. The head shake is in time with the rear feet and should be smooth. The tail should set still and flow.

Fox Trot
The fox trot is a broken diagonal gait with a distinctive rhythm that is created by a horse moving its front foot a split second before its opposite rear foot. The fox trot is a smooth gait because the horse is in contact with the ground at all times. A horse that is foxtrotting correctly will never have more than two feet off the ground at any given time. On both the front and back ends the horse will sit one foot down as it picks the other foot up and for a moment both feet will be touching the ground.

Hard Trot
Slang term referring to all of the mutations of the fox trot that result in a rough ride for the rider i.e., long trot, cow trot, and square trot.

Long Trot
Slang used to refer to the gait of a horse that is being pushed or over ridden in the fox trot. A horse that is long trotting will have some fly time on the front end, but may not have fly time on the back end. A long trotting horse will have at least three feet off the ground part of the time, and will not give as smooth a ride as a horse that is foxtrotting correctly. The term is also sometimes used when referring to a square trot.

Lope
The lope has the same basic movements as the canter, but in the lope the inside rear and outside front feet hit separately creating a four beat gait. The lope is a broken four beat gait that is common to all horses. The lope is a faster gait than the canter. The lope is like a slow gallop. The lope a horse moves with a low flat motion and has some rocking motion. In a lope each foot touches the ground one at a time, and the horse is not supported at all a part on each stride.

Capping
If the rear foot of a horse sets down squarely on the track of the same side front foot as it is set down, the horse is said to be capping.

Cow Trot
Term used to refer to method of moving the back end of a horse when trotting. A cow trotting horse is stiff in the rear joints, and uses the hips for most of the forward movement. A cow trotting horse will swing its tail side to side and its feet out in an arc as it moves them forward. A cow trotting horse will not break over in the hocks, but will swing them side to side in a stiff motion. A cow trotting horse may also be either long trotting or square trotting.

Cross Firing
A horse is cross firing when the inside rear foot hits first, and the inside front foot hits last when the horse is in the canter or lope.

Dog Walk
A slang term that is used to describe a walk that is so slow that there is movement front to rear when sitting on the horse. This gait is used to get the horse to work on the fundamentals of the rhythms and build reach on both ends or break up a pace.

Over-stride
If the rear foot of a horse passes the track of the same side front foot as it is set down, the distance between the front of the front track and the rear of the rear track is the amount of over - stride.

Pace
The pace is a two-beat lateral gait in which a horse moves both right feet and then moves both left feet. In a pace the front and rear foot are picked up and then set down simultaneously making only one beat. A pacing horse will move its head side to side to counter the motion of its feet.

Pace-walk
The pace-walk is a lateral four-beat gait in which the horse will pick up both the front and rear foot simultaneously, then moves the rear foot faster than the front foot and sets the rear foot down before the front foot. This allows the pace-walker to have an up and down head shake, and have a four-beat cadence. The pace-walk is much closer to a flat foot walk than a pace, having both a head shake and a four beat cadence.

Pacey
Slang term that is used to refer to a horse that is moving in a fashion that is between the gait desired at the time and a pace. Most common when referring to a horse that is walking with a rhythm that is more lateral than a correct flat foot walk.

Rack
Racking in the world today includes both the slow rack, and the fast rack. The gaits used are the rack and the stepping pace. In both the rear of the horse provides the most of the forward motion and support while the front end does little pulling. Both have an even four beat cadence without any head shake. In the slow rack the feet are picked up one foot at a time with the front end moving up and down with little forward extension. The slow rack is near the same speed as a fox trot and is one gait that many foxtrotters seem to have a tendency for. Especially with inexperienced riders. This is partly because inexperienced riders may not relax and may hold the head of the horse higher than the natural head set. Also if the horse is not relaxed it may be prone to rack. The fast rack or stepping pace is performed by picking up the feet like a pace, but holding the front foot up for an extra half step. The front feet are picked up and held in the up position for a split second then lowered as the other front foot is picked up meeting at a point near knee high. This means the front end is not supported at all some of the time. However, the horse gives a very smooth ride because the rear foot is up under the horse far enough to support its center of gravity at that moment. A horse doing a fast rack will seem low in the rear because of the extra reach under the horse.

Running walk
Like the flat foot walk, the running is a four-beat gait in which each foot is picked up and set down in an even cadence. The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap or pop. Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot. The head shake is in time with the rear feet and should be smooth. The tail should set still and flow. The flat foot walk and the running walk have the same general movements and look alike in many ways. In a true flat foot walk at least one front foot is touching at all times, and as a flat foot walk is pushed faster, the front end of the horse will leave the ground for a split second each step. At that point it has become a running walk.

Slick
Slang term used to refer to any gait that is being performed more lateral than the correct gait would be: i.e. slick trot - is between a fox trot and a running walk; slick running walk - is between a running walk and a pace slick walk - is a pacy flat foot walk.