Horse gait

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Gaits in comparison (animated graphics)
Muybridge horse walking animated.gif
Step (step, animation from photos by E. Muybridge )
Trot animated.gif
Canter animated.gif
Gallop (right gallop)

In the horse , characteristic gaits (in short: gaits, rarely also airs ) are distinguished.

Basic gaits

Most horse breeds only have the three basic gaits. This is due to breeding in order to get horses that are easier to ride, because each gait requires a different sequence of movements on the part of the rider, which must be learned.


The step is a quiet four-beat gait without a floating phase, in which the horse puts the hooves "diagonally-laterally", e.g. B. in the order left front - right back - right front - left back, whereby the movements "overlap" a little. A pass-like gait is considered to be faulty (in German or classic riding theory - there are of course horse breeds of passers-by, for example the Icelander racing pass). A distinction is made between a middle step , a gathered step and a strong step . The latter two are only required after the horse has had basic training. In the case of a strong step with more space, the rear hoof clearly protrudes beyond the imprint of the front hoof, one also speaks of frame expansion , in which the step frequency is not more hasty, but the steps are more extensive and the nodding movement of the horse's head becomes clearer. When walking together , the horse should take on more of the load with the hindquarters and thereby show shorter and more lofty steps, i.e. gather. It is not enough if only the step is slowed down and shortened (danger of passing; see also below ). A strong and collected step is required only in advanced and higher dressage tasks. The stride is the gait at which there is little that can be improved through education and training.

It's the "footwork [...] even the most difficult in the cavalry" so this is particularly true for the assembled step "to bring about the meeting in the crotch, is undoubtedly one of the most difficult tasks for the rider." When the rider through an exaggerated Hilfengebung of Horse, such as B. too strong influence with the reins , the animal disturbs its natural movement and it becomes tense as a result, it can be that the step becomes pass or that other clock errors, errors in space and in the looseness of the horse occur.

At the beginning of each training session it is recommended to let the horse " walk on the long rein for 10 to 15 minutes ", which helps to relax and warm the muscles and joints. During training, too, pauses in step on the long rein or with a surrendered rein between the trot and canter exercises serve to "mentally and physically relax" the horse.

One variation is the Spanish step .

But the school step (pas d 'école) should also be mentioned here. This arises from the strongly gathered step in which the diagonal support leg phase is significantly extended until the lateral support leg phase only takes place briefly or not at all. This means that the clear four-stroke approach is closer and closer to the two-stroke, which is why the school step is also known as the "step-trot".


The trot is a fast two-stroke gait in which the diagonal pair of legs is swung forward together. There is a short period of suspension between the two ground contacts. Keeping the gait is important in trotting ; failure to comply will result in disqualification.

A distinction is made in dressage riding together trot, working trot, medium trot and strong trot. Exercises from the high school are a trot almost on the spot, known as a piaffe , and a trot with an extended suspension phase and accentuated raised legs as a passage .


Levitation phase for a galloping racehorse

The canter is a fast three-beat gait, for the right canter the sequence of movements is left behind - right behind with left in front - right in front, then a pronounced floating phase. It can also be ridden in reverse as a left canter.

The gallop can be understood as a series of jumps. This knowledge, which had not been secured for a long time, was animated by a bet and was first photographed in 1878 by the photographer Eadweard Muybridge with the zoopractice . With the recording technique he developed, a galloping horse triggered cameras that were moved one after the other by means of rip cords, which could record the various phases of the gallop as individual images.

According to the latest measurements, the gallop is actually a four-beat gait, since the rear right and front left are not set exactly at the same time in the sequence of movements. The faster the gallop is ridden, the greater the time difference between left behind and right in front. However, the difference is so small that it is insignificant to the rider. However, there are two cases in which the four-stroke is clearly visible: in the very fast racing canter and in the extremely slow gallop. The latter is desirable or frowned upon depending on the riding style.

A special variant of the gallop is the backward gallop, in which the horse performs the same sequence of movements, but puts the legs backwards. It can only be addressed. The change of canter a tempo can also be viewed as a modification of the normal canter. Here, the horse changes the type of canter from left to right gallop and back with each gallop jump. A special gallop jump is called a career or carrier : the horse pushes off with both hind legs at the same time and jumps forward. This can be observed, for example, with race horses at the start or with carriage horses that gallop from a standing position and have to pull a heavy load.

See also: outside canter , flying canter change , canter

Special gaits

The special gaits are not found in all breeds. Most of these gaits are genetically determined. It is true that many horses can learn to walk through the pass, but it is much easier for horses with the genetic make-up to do so. A horse has a maximum of five gaits.

Slow gait

The slow gait is actually a step. In contrast to this, however, every movement is briefly interrupted, which means that the horse pauses briefly after lifting one foot. The slow gait is often demonstrated at dressage tournaments for gaited horses.


Icelandic horse in tölt
Short video tölt

The tölt and its variants Paso , Walk , Rack and Marcha are special gaits that are tied to a gene that is only found in certain horse breeds. Tölt is particularly pleasant for the rider. In contrast to trot and canter, tölt has no suspension phase, but is a walked gait. The rider sits on a loosely swaying back with almost no vibration. Depending on the gait and training of the horse, tölt has a high tempo variance between walking and canter pace.

The sequence of feet in tölt is the same as in step: back left, front left, back right, front right.

The tölt and the step are four-beat gaits with eight phases. In contrast to walking, however, one-legged and two-legged supports alternate in tölt. The phase sequence of tölt is therefore, starting with a diagonal two-legged support phase at the rear right and front left:

  1. front left footed off - rear right leg support
  2. right in front is based on - lateral bipod support
  3. right back footed off - one-leg support in front right
  4. left behind is based on - diagonal bipod support
  5. front right foots off - one leg support rear left
  6. front left is based on - lateral bipod support
  7. rear left footed off - front left monopod support
  8. right behind is based on - diagonal bipod support

Genetic studies show that the predisposition for the tölt gait is due to the mutation of the DMRT3 gene , which probably occurred somewhere in Eurasia shortly after the horse was domesticated (3000–4000 BC). The rapid spread in the ancient world is seen as a result of early selection .

Töltende horses were in the Middle Ages as Zelter called. These horses were popular because of the very comfortable gait for the rider (especially on long rides). With the advent of carriage driving, comfortable riding horses became unimportant. Horse riding turned more and more into a sport. Since tölt has no jumping phase and therefore no adequate performance can be achieved for a trotting horse, trot and canter were given priority in breeding. With the invention and spread of the automobile there was a long phase of stagnation in riding horse breeding, and commercial riding almost completely died in the industrialized countries. The horse population had been severely decimated by the world wars. In the years after the Second World War , however, workhorses were increasingly used as a replacement for vehicles in Germany. Based on the classic, often military riding, there were only a few dressage and show jumping riders in Germany after the Second World War.

With the development of recreational riding and the spread of Icelandic horses in the 1970s (including through the commitment of Ursula Bruns , author of the Immenhof stories) , tölt and gaited horse riding became popular again, especially in Germany . After the Icelandic horse, many other gaited horse breeds were imported to Germany and are now being bred here. B. Peruvian Pasos and Paso Finos , Aegidienberger , American Saddlebreds , Berbers and Töltende Trotters . There are more and more special gaited horse tournaments for Icelandic horses and other tölting breeds, held primarily by the Icelandic Horse Riders and Breeders Association (IPZV) and the International Gaited Horse Association (IGV).

There are various shifts in the sequence of feet: From pass-tölter to trot-tölter, everything is possible.

In the Paso Peruano, the tölt is also called Paso Llano , in the Paso Fino as Paso.


The gait disposition in the Paso Fino is genetically strongly fixed and very natural. The basic gait is the paso, a pure four-beat. Young horses or those in training are ridden more in the trocha (read: "Trotscha"), a trot toel, than in the paso. By assembling the horse, they move steplessly into the pure four-stroke, the paso. Passports are not required for the Paso Finos.



The rack shows the same step picture as the tölt. As with slow gait, the horse should also incorporate short stops in the movement for cadencing . The rack is often demonstrated at dressage competitions for gaited horses.


The walk is the gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse . It is similar to the tölt. In contrast to this, however, there are always three hooves on the ground when walking, which results in greater gait security. The walk is a four-stroke with nodding the head and clicking teeth.

Running walk


The Marcha is the preferred type of movement of the Brazilian Mangalarga Marchador . It is related to the tölt, slow to medium-speed four-stroke, which occurs in different variants - for example Marcha Batida, a variant shifted towards the trot, in which at least two legs are always on the ground, i.e. there are no one-leg supports, as well as the Martha Picarda, which corresponds to the classic definition of tölt due to its isochornous four-bar.


In western riding , a very slow trot with short strides without a floating phase is called the jog . This is particularly important in practical western riding, as it corresponds optimally to the speed of a herd of cattle.

See also: Passage , Piaffe


When amble is a lateral gait in two-stroke in two phases, wherein the pairs of legs equilateral auffußen alternately. The horse falls from one lateral to the other. Calm pass gait can occur as gait in gaited species. However, this form of pass can also occur in three-gaited horses if a horse is ridden heavily and unbalanced. Passport in this form is absolutely undesirable for any horse. If a horse is ridden in a pass, it becomes more and more stiff because it can hardly bend in this gait. This leads to severe tension and damage in the long term.

Race pass

A variation of the pass is the racing pass for the Icelandic horse , which is ridden as above, but at the racing pace and with a flight phase. The fastest Icelanders can develop a speed of 45 km / h. Since this gait is very strenuous for the horse, it is only ridden for short distances and not too often. Riding in the racing pass should only be carried out by experienced riders or with a trainer.

Pig passport

The pig pass is the tölt that has been completely moved towards the pass . It is often caused by tension and / or improper riding. The pig pass is undesirable and leads to the build-up of muscle groups that hinder walking over the back . With gait manipulation (heavy fittings, weights, bells etc.) and sensible dressage work you can correct the pass.


The foxtrot is a special gait of the Missouri foxtrotter in which the horse walks in front and trots in the back. The gait is very safe and prevents the horse from getting tired early.

Tempo in dressage

In dressage , the following tempos are distinguished:

Assembled step
The rear foot is - depending on the degree of assembly - in the track of the front hoof up to about a hoof length behind.
Middle step
The hind foot is about a hoof length beyond the track of the front hoof.
Strong step
The rear foot is as far as possible beyond the track of the front hoof.
Collected trot
The rear foot is about a hoof length behind the track of the front hoof. If the gathering is stronger, there is no suspension phase.
Working trot
The rear hoof rests in the track of the front hoof.
Medium trot
The hind foot is at least one hoof length beyond the track of the front hoof.
Strong trot
The rear foot is as far as possible beyond the track of the front hoof.
Lengthen kicks
Collected gallop
The rear foot is - depending on the degree of assembly - in the track of the front hoof up to about a hoof length behind.
Work gallop
The hind foot is about a hoof length beyond the track of the front hoof.
Middle canter
The rear foot is well positioned beyond the front footprint.
Strong gallop
The rear foot is as far as possible beyond the track of the front hoof.
Lengthen canter jumps


  • German Equestrian Association (Hrsg.): Guidelines for riding and driving. Volume 1: Basic training for rider and horse . 26th edition. FNverlag, Warendorf 1994, ISBN 3-88542-262-X .
  • Waldemar Seunig : From the paddock to the caper. The training of the riding horse. 2. Reprint of the Berlin 1943 edition. Olms, Hildesheim u. a. 2001, ISBN 3-487-08348-5 . ( Documenta Hippologica )

See also

Web links

Commons : Horse gait  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Guidelines , p. 156.
  2. Seunig, p. 105.
  3. Seunig, p. 234.
  4. Guidelines , p. 186.
  5. ^ Philippe Karl: Reitkunst: Classical dressage to high school . Ed .: Cadmo's horse book. ISBN 978-3-86127-468-1 .
  6. Richard Hinrichs: Dancers in a light hand. Riding with invisible aids . ISBN 978-3-9804129-0-2 .
  7. ^ A b E. A. Staiger The evolutionary history of the DMRT3 'Gait keeper' haplotype . In: Animal Genetics . tape 48 , no. 5 . Wiley Online Library, October 2017, p. 551-559 , doi : 10.1111 / age.12580 ( [PDF]).