When you are learning about horses, you will hear people talk about different gaits. But when it comes to horse canter vs gallop, what is the difference? Let’s find out!
Canter And Gallop Gaits Explained
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Horses have incredibly athletic animals and can move at a range of different speeds. To do this, they have distinctive paces or gaits. The word pace or gait is used to describe a particular way that an animal moves, by describing the way it moves its legs.
For example, we humans have two main gaits: walk and run. These can be subdivided, so we can do a brisk walk, or slow jogging run. Children may play with other gaits, such as skipping or hopping.
So what about horses? How many gaits do they have? Well, unfortunately, there isn’t a straight answer to this! The vast majority of horses have four gaits – walk, trot, canter, and gallop. However, some breeds and types of horses have a different or additional gait. These horses are called gaited horses.
Let’s take a closer look at a horse canter vs gallop, and figure out what the difference is.
What Is A Canter?
The canter is a three-beat gait. This means that if you listen to a horse cantering, you will hear three hoof beats for each stride. The reason for this is that the horse will place two legs on the ground at the same time, and the other two land independently.
When cantering, the horse also has something called a moment of suspension. This is when all four legs are raised off the ground at the same time.
The movement of a cantering horse is very distinctive as you will see it taking long strides with a bounding action. The strong hindquarters push the horse forwards, and the forelegs are raised upwards as the horse moves forward. This gait is the one that most resembles the movement of a rocking horse.
Because of the order in which the horse moves its legs in canter, it will follow a different sequence according to whether it is on a left or right hand curve. If turning to the right, the horse will canter on a right lead, where the right fore leg stretches further forward and is the last leg to leave the ground. On a left turn, the opposite sequence occurs.
What Is Galloping?
Galloping is a four-beat gait, where each hoof hits the ground independently of the others. In terms of how the legs move, gallop is actually very similar to canter, except that the opposite pair of legs do not hit the ground together. This allows the horse to take longer strides and gives a much more ‘stretched out’ appearance.
The galloping gait has a period of suspension, where all four hooves are raised off the ground at the same time. Horses will also lead with either the left or right foreleg at a gallop, according to whether the track curves left or right.
Horse Canter Vs Gallop – What Is The Difference?
The main difference in horse canter vs gallop is that canter is a three-beat gait, whereas gallop is four. The sequence of leg movement is actually the same in both gaits, but in canter two of the legs hit the ground at the same time, and at the gallop, they are a split second apart. For this reason, you will sometimes hear cantering referred to as a restricted or restrained gallop.
In terms of energy expenditure, both the canter and the gallop are strenuous for the horse. In the wild, the horse only uses these paces to escape from danger, or at times of high excitement. To cover long distances, the trotting pace is much easier to maintain without tiring.
Gallop Vs Canter – Which Is Fastest?
Gallop is the fastest gait of a horse and is much speedier than a canter. When cantering, the movement of the horse is much more controlled, and we can teach our horses to canter slowly or at high speeds. At the gallop, there is much less variation in speed – you’ve either got fast, even faster, or flat out gallop!
The average speed for a horse to canter is between 6 and 10 miles per hour. In dressage, horses are often trained to canter very slowly with short strides, at speeds slower than a natural trotting pace.
When galloping, a horse can reach average speeds of 12 to 20 miles per hour. Some breeds of horse are naturally much faster at a gallop, such as the American Quarter Horse and the Thoroughbred. The fastest gallop ever recorded was clocked at speeds approaching a phenomenal 55 miles per hour!
Is Canter Or Gallop Easier To Ride?
When you are learning to ride, we all start out with dreams of galloping along the beach or cantering down forest trails! But then when you’re sat on a horse, you realize it may not be as easy as all that…..
The movement of a horse is bumpy and can be uncomfortable at first, particularly when cantering. This is a bounding gait with a big movement, and the rider needs to learn to move his body and seat in time with the horse.
Once you have mastered cantering, galloping will seem relatively easy! It is common to rise slightly out of the saddle when galloping, tilting the upper body forwards. This will be much more comfortable for both the horse and the rider.
However, the speed of a galloping horse can be frightening at first, and takes a while to get used to! When learning to gallop it is essential to have a safe, sensible horse, and choose terrain that is smooth and comfortable to ride.
Horse Canter Vs Gallop Summary
So, as we have learned, the canter and gallop are both very fast gaits of the horse. When it comes to horse canter vs gallop, the gallop is faster and uses much more energy. In the wild, a horse will only gallop for as long as is necessary to escape from danger.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on horse canter vs gallop! Have you ever ridden a horse that is galloping at top speed? Or maybe you have some questions about how to ride a cantering horse? Leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you!