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About the "gait"...

    Gait is a manner of movement. When you talk about horses, the common gaits found in almost all horses are the walk, trot, and canter. Pattern of footfall, timing, shift in center of gravity, body carriage and accessory movements of the head and neck all contribute to distinguishing one gait from another. Horses that can do gaits other than walk, trot and canter are referred to as “gaited.”

    When a horse walks, the pairs of legs on the same side, called lateral pairs, move together. The specialized gaits performed by Peruvian Pasos, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Kentucky Mountain horse are all variations on the walk with respect to speed of execution, over-reach (the hind foot steps over the track of the forefoot it follows), degree of extension(how far the forefeet reach out in front), degree of lift(how high the knee bends), degree of animation (how lively or sedate the horse looks) , body carriage (weight shifts, up/down and side-to-side at the spine), and head carriage (bobbing movements, degree of neck arch, height of head carriage and degree of flexion of head on the neck). Walking is a 4 beat gait for any horse because each footfall is distinct, but it’s smoother when a gaited horse performs it because the timing approaches 4 even beats. When a gaited horse performs its gait, the timing of the footfalls is a co-ordinated cadence recognizable by its sound as well as its execution.

    When a horse trots, diagonal pairs strike the ground together, launching the horse into the air to land with both legs of the opposite diagonal pair hitting the ground at the same time. With respect to timing, the trot is a 2 beat gait because all four hoofs touch down (the stride is completed) with 2 beats. The most pleasant trots to ride have a blurring of the 2 beats because the timing is a little off, making the impact a little softer. A trotting horse with a lot of animation and lift can look like it’s floating, but the impact as the horse touches down is jarring to the rider. To smooth the ride, the touch down of the diagonal pair is separated, as close to four even beats as possible.

    Some horses do a different 2 beat gait,called pacing, where lateral pairs of hoofs lift and strike together.  The horse’s body shifts from side to side as this gait is performed, making it relatively unsteady for the horse and more difficult for the rider to sit.  Standardbred horses race in the trot and the pace, pulling a sulkie instead of carrying a rider. In a canter, the hoofs stike the ground like fingers strumming an arpeggio on a guitar, one finger finding a string after another in linear order. One of the hindfeet is the first to stike the ground, followed by the other hind, the front on the opposite side, then the front hoof on the same side. There is no pairing of legs in the canter or gallop.  In the canter, the second and third hoofs strike  together, making the canter a 3 beat gait.  In the gallop, each foot strikes independently, making it a 4 beat gait.

    The most common Marchador gait, the batida, is a diagonal, 4 beat gait (the forefoot sets down before the hind for each diagonal pair, with timing so offset that 4 distinct footfalls occur.  Weight shift and forward thrust accentuate the second footfall, so the beats sound like someone chanting “I think I can…I think I can…” just like “the little engine that could.” The batida gait shares a lot of similarities with the foxtrot of Missouri foxtrotters or with the paso troce of the Paso Fino,  just a little more subtle and a lot faster. When charted on the ground, the stride pattern will show that mild overreach of the hind over the fore-hoof print on the same side occurs.  In the course of one stride cycle, each hoof sets down individually.  No "loft" occurs because one foot, at least, is always on the ground.  There is a moment  for each side when three hoofs are on the ground,  called "triple" hoof support, that makes this gait particularly smooth and stable. In its finest form, the batida is 4 even beats, called a "center" gait, that is so smooth, we say you can "serve tea off the horse's back".  Some Marchadors, the overall smoothest ones, also have a gait called the picada.  The cadence of the picada is 4 even beats with lateral pairs working together, like the paso llano of the Peruvian Paso. Unlike the Peruvian Paso gait, the picada of the Mangalarga Marchador is distinguished by its subtlety, more flat-kneed, more extended and relaxed, more balanced, with minimal termino, no body slither, no head bob.   With respect to timing and pattern of footfall,  the smooth 4 beat gaits of Mangalarga Marchador horses are like points on a continuum between trot, at one extreme, the batida,  the "center" gait of the smoothest Marchadors at the center, the picada, and then the pace. We breed for gait, and our goal is to breed horses that can do both the centered batida and the picada, like our stallion does.


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