csingsaas

What does cadence mean when used to describe horses?

Rate this Entry
Cadence is one of those often used, little understood, terms that is frequently used to describe a horse. So when someone says a horse has a good cadence, what exactly does that mean?

Cadence is the rhythmic flow in which a horse's four hooves hit the ground. A trained eye can easily see a horse that is in cadence versus a horse that is out of cadence. Show judges, for example, watch for this during competitions and use it as a measure of a horse's performance depending on the event.

There are four possible cadence types, which are generally broken down to describe the speed the horse is traveling.


  • Walking. Also referred to as a four-beat gait. During a walk three of the horse's legs are in contact with the ground at any one point in time. Hooves make contact with the ground in succession. First the rear leg, followed by the front leg on the same side, then the opposite rear leg, and finally the remaining front leg.
  • Trotting. Also referred to as a two-beat gait. During trotting, two feet are in contact with the ground at a time. Opposite hind and fore feet are in contact at the same time. Due to the fact that only one hind foot or forefoot is in contact with ground at any one point in time, watching a horse trot is the best way to detect possible lameness issues.
  • Cantering. Referred to as a three-beat gait. Two diagonal feet make contact with the ground at the same time. The other two feet work separately, hitting the ground at different times - thus cantering is referred to as a three-beat gait. There is also a time where no feet are in contact with the ground.
  • Galloping. Referred to as a four-beat gait. Very similar to a canter, but the two paired hooves do not contact the ground at the exact same time (ever so slightly). The rear hoof contacts first, and then the front hoof.


So in closing - if a horse is said to be out of cadence, it''s hooves are not contacting the ground in the desired pattern described above. A horse with good cadence follows the proper rhythm for making contact and maintains it while at speed.

Comments