At Training and First levels, you're asked to ride your horse in a working gait.

So you might ask, how do I know what is a good working gait for my horse?

A working gait is the gait that the horse most easily presents himself in the best balance. So a working gait is as individual as the horse himself.

In other words, a working gait for a Haflinger is going to look different than a working gait for a 17.0 hand Hanoverian.

So I'm going to give you 3 general criteria that you can apply to any horse regardless of size, breed, or type.

Those three criteria are:
1. Rhythm
2. Activity
3. Footfalls

1. Rhythm--Good rhythm refers to the regularity of the footfalls in each stride. If you were to ride on asphalt, you'd hear four evenly spaced beats in the walk, two in the trot, and three in the canter.

Keep in mind that part of rhythm is tempo. Tempo refers to the speed of the repetition of the rhythm.

You can think of the difference between rhythm and tempo as follows: If you're dancing to waltz music, the rhythm is ¾ time. A waltz is always ¾ time.

However, the tempo or speed of the waltz can be played faster or slower.

2. Activity--In an active working gait, you should already have enough energy to do a transition. You shouldn't have to "rev" your horse up to get the transition. And that applies to transitions from gait to gait such as from walk to trot or trot to canter as well as from transitions within a gait such as working trot to a trot lengthening or working canter to a canter lengthening.

3. Footfalls-The walk. The walk at Training and First levels used to be called working walk. However, too many riders were restricting the walk so now you're asked to do medium walk instead of "working walk". In both cases, however, your horse's hind feet should step beyond the hoofprints made by his front feet.

How much should your horse overtrack? It all depends on the horse and variables like genetics and conformation. I personally like to see a 4-6 inch overtrack.

I'm leery of horses that overtrack by 10-12 or even more inches. That's because I know that it might be difficult to collect those big walks later on in training. My concern is that I could lose the regularity of the gait, and it could become lateral.

The trot. In a good working trot, the horse "tracks up". That is, his hind feet step into the tracks made by the front feet.

The canter. In a good working canter, the inside hind leg steps well under the body and comes to the ground under the rider's foot.

A Happy Horse


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