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The trot is a two-beat diagonal horse gait where the diagonal pairs of legs move forward at the same time with a moment of suspension between each beat. It has a wide variation in possible speeds, but averages about 13 kilometres per hour (8.1 mph). 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, and has been clocked at over 30 miles per hour (48 km/h).
On June 29, 2014 at Pocono Downs in Pennsylvania the Swedish standardbred Sebastian K trotted a mile in 1 minute, 49 seconds (quarters were passed at 26:2, 55:3 and 1,21:4). This is equivalent to a 1000-pace in 1.07,7 or 53.14 kilometers per hour or 33 miles per hour.
From the standpoint of the balance of the horse, the trot is a very stable gait and does not require the horse to make major balancing motions with its head and neck.Due to its many variations, the trot is a common gait that the horse is worked in for dressage.
Eadweard Muybridge was the first to prove, by photography, in 1872 that there is a "moment of suspension" or "unsupported transit" during the trot gait.
Depending on the amount of engagement and collection of the horse, the trot can generally be classified as "working", "collected", or "extended". By the rhythm, one may distinguish a true, two-beat square trot when each diagonal pair of hoofs hits the ground at the same moment from a four-beat intermediate ambling gait, such as the fox trot or the "trocha" sometimes seen in the Paso Fino.
Different speeds and types of trots are described by the following terms:
Two variations of the trot are specially trained in advanced dressage horses: the Piaffe and the Passage. The Piaffe is essentially created by asking the horse to trot in place, with very little forward motion. The Passage (rhymes with "massage") is an exaggerated slow motion trot. Both require tremendous collection, careful training and considerable physical conditioning for a horse to perform.
Depending on the horse and its speed, a trot can be difficult for a rider to sit because the body of the horse actually drops slightly between beats and bounces up again when the next set of legs strike the ground. Each time another diagonal pair of legs hits the ground, the rider can be jolted upwards out of the saddle and meet the horse with some force on the way back down. Therefore, at most speeds above a jog, especially in English riding disciplines, most riders post to the trot, rising up and down in rhythm with the horse to avoid being jolted. Posting is easy on the horse's back, and once mastered is also easy on the rider.
To not be jostled out of the saddle and to not harm the horse by bouncing on its back, riders must learn specific skills in order to sit the trot. Most riders learn to sit a slow jog trot without bouncing. A skilled rider can ride a powerfully extended trot without bouncing, but to do so requires well-conditioned back and abdominal muscles, and to do so for long periods is tiring for even experienced riders. A fast, uncollected, racing trot, such as that of the harness racing horse, is virtually impossible to sit.
Because the trot is such a safe and efficient gait for a horse, learning to ride the trot correctly is an important component in almost all equestrian disciplines, particularly for equitation riders. "Gaited" or "ambling" horses, which have smooth 4-beat intermediate gaits that replace or supplement the trot, are popular with riders who prefer for various reasons not to have to ride at a trot.
There are three ways the trot may be ridden:
A rider posts to one "diagonal" or the other at the trot; when the rider is on the correct diagonal, the rider sits as the horse's inside hind leg and outside foreleg are on the ground and rises as the outside hind leg and inside foreleg are on the ground. Diagonals are used in the posting trot help to keep the horse balanced, and are also useful for timing certain riding aids, such as those for the canter. A rider can learn to recognize diagonals by feel. However, less-experienced riders can check for the correct diagonal by a quick glance at the horse's shoulder, sitting when the outside foreleg is on the ground and the shoulder is back.
Dressage is a form of horse riding performed in exhibition and competition, as well as an art sometimes pursued solely for the sake of mastery. As an equestrian sport defined by the International Equestrian Federation, dressage is described as "the highest expression of horse training" where "horse and rider are expected to perform from memory a series of predetermined movements."
Harness racing is a form of horse racing in which the horses race at a specific gait. They usually pull a two-wheeled cart called a sulky, or spider, occupied by a driver. In Europe, and less frequently in Australia and New Zealand, races with jockeys riding directly on saddled trotters are also conducted.
The Standardbred is an American horse breed best known for its ability in harness racing, where members of the breed compete at either a trot or pace. Developed in North America, the Standardbred is recognized worldwide, and the breed can trace its bloodlines to 18th-century England. They are solid, well-built horses with good dispositions. In addition to harness racing, the Standardbred is used for a variety of equestrian activities, including horse shows and pleasure riding, particularly in the Midwestern and Eastern United States and in Southern Ontario.
Horses can use various gaits during locomotion across solid ground, either naturally or as a result of specialized training by humans.
Collection occurs when a horse's center of gravity is shifted backwards. Energy is directed in a more horizontal trajectory with less forward movement. Biomechanical markers include: increased flexion in the lumbo-sacral joint, stifle, and hocks of the horse; increased engagement of the thoracic sling muscles resulting in the withers rising relative to the horse's scapula; and reduced ranges of limb protraction–retraction.
Equitation is the art or practice of horse riding or horsemanship.
"English pleasure" is the generic term for a number of different English riding classes seen at horse shows in the United States, where the horse is ridden in either hunt seat or saddle seat tack.
The Hackney is a recognized breed of horse that was developed in Great Britain. In recent decades, the breeding of the Hackney has been directed toward producing horses that are ideal for carriage driving. They are an elegant high stepping breed of carriage horse that is popular for showing in harness events. Hackneys possess good stamina, and are capable of trotting at high speed for extended periods of time.
The canter and gallop are variations on the fastest gait that can be performed by a horse or other equine. The canter is a controlled three-beat gait, while the gallop is a faster, four-beat variation of the same gait. It is a natural gait possessed by all horses, faster than most horses' trot, or ambling gaits. The gallop is the fastest gait of the horse, averaging about 40 to 48 kilometres per hour. The speed of the canter varies between 16 to 27 kilometres per hour depending on the length of the horse's stride. A variation of the canter, seen in western riding, is called a lope, and is generally quite slow, no more than 13–19 kilometres per hour (8–12 mph).
Western pleasure is a western style competition at horse shows that evaluates horses on manners and suitability of the horse for a relaxed and slow but collected gait cadence, along with calm and responsive disposition. The horse is to appear to be a "pleasure" to ride, smooth-moving and very comfortable. Most light horse breeds in the United States and Canada may compete in western pleasure classes, either in open competition or at shows limited to a single breed. However, horse conformation and temperament play a role in this event, and hence animals of stock horse breeds that are calm, quiet, have collected, soft gaits and the strong muscling required to sustain slow, controlled movement are the most competitive.
Equine conformation evaluates a horse's bone structure, musculature, and its body proportions in relation to each other. Undesirable conformation can limit the ability to perform a specific task. Although there are several faults with universal disadvantages, a horse's conformation is usually judged by what its intended use may be. Thus "form to function" is one of the first set of traits considered in judging conformation. A horse with poor form for a Grand Prix show jumper could have excellent conformation for a World Champion cutting horse, or to be a champion draft horse. Every horse has good and bad points of its conformation and many horses excel even with conformation faults.
An ambling gait or amble is any of several four-beat intermediate horse gaits, all of which are faster than a walk but usually slower than a canter and always slower than a gallop. Horses that amble are sometimes referred to as "gaited", particularly in the United States. Ambling gaits are smoother for a rider than either the two-beat trot or pace and most can be sustained for relatively long periods, making them particularly desirable for trail riding and other tasks where a rider must spend long periods in the saddle. Historically, horses able to amble were highly desired for riding long distances on poor roads. Once roads improved and carriage travel became popular, their use declined in Europe but continued in popularity in the Americas, particularly in areas where plantation agriculture was practiced and the inspection of fields and crops necessitated long daily rides.
Saddle seat is a style of horse riding within the category of English riding that is designed to show off the high action of certain horse breeds. The style developed into its modern form in the United States, and is also seen in Canada and South Africa. To a much lesser extent, it is ridden with American horse breeds in Europe and Australia. The breeds used for this flashy style are typically the showy Morgan Horse, and the high stepping American Saddlebred.
Western riding is considered a style of horse riding which has evolved from the ranching and welfare traditions which were brought to the Americans by the Spanish Conquistadors, as well as both equipment and riding style which evolved to meet the working needs of the cowboy in the American West. At the time, American cowboys had to work long hours in the saddle and often over rough terrain, sometimes having to rope a cattle using a lariat, also known as a lasso. Because of the necessity to control the horse with one hand and use a lariat with the other, western horses were trained to neck rein, that is, to change direction with light pressure of a rein against the horse's neck. Horses were also trained to exercise a certain degree of independence in using their natural instincts to follow the movements of a cow, thus a riding style developed that emphasized a deep, secure seat, and training methods encouraged a horse to be responsive on very light rein contact.
English riding is a form of horse riding seen throughout the world. The term is misleading because many equestrian countries like Germany, France, Italy or Spain have used the same style of riding, with variations, for centuries. There are many variations, but all feature a flat English saddle without the deep seat, high cantle or saddle horn seen on a Western saddle nor the knee pads seen on an Australian Stock Saddle. Saddles within the various so-called English disciplines are all designed to allow the horse the freedom to move in the optimal manner for a given task, ranging from classical dressage to horse racing. English bridles also vary in style based on discipline, but most feature some type of cavesson noseband as well as closed reins, buckled together at the ends, that prevents them from dropping on the ground if a rider becomes unseated. Clothing for riders in competition is usually based on traditional needs from which a specific style of riding developed, but most standards require, as a minimum, boots; breeches or jodhpurs; a shirt with some form of tie or stock; a hat, cap, or equestrian helmet; and a jacket.
Riding aids are the cues a rider gives to a horse to communicate what they want the animal to do. Riding aids are broken into the natural aids and the artificial aids.
Lateral movements or lateral flexions within equestrianism, have a specific meaning, used to refer to movements made by a horse where the animal is moving in a direction other than straight forward. They are used both in training and in competition, vary in difficulty, and are used in a progressive manner, according to the training and physical limitations of the animal.
Impulsion is the movement of a horse when it is going forward with controlled power. Related to the concept of collection, impulsion helps a horse effectively use the power in its hindquarters. To achieve impulsion, a horse is not using speed, but muscular control; the horse exhibits a relaxed spinal column, which allows its hindquarters to come well under its body and "engage" so that they can be used in the most effective manner to move the horse forward at any speed.
Lead refers to which set of legs, left or right, leads or advances forward to a greater extent when a quadruped animal is cantering, galloping, or leaping. The feet on the leading side touch the ground forward of its partner. On the "left lead", the animal's left legs lead. The choice of lead is of special interest in horse riding.
This is a basic glossary of equestrian terms that includes both technical terminology and jargon developed over the centuries for horses and other equidae, as well as various horse-related concepts. Where noted, some terms are used only in American English (US), only in British English (UK), or are regional to a particular part of the world, such as Australia (AU).