PACE OR TROT? – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Pace

It looks the same to you, but it isn’t.

Here’s the scoop:


The pace is a lateral two-beat gait. In the pace, the two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot, where the two legs diagonally opposite from each other move forward together.

In both the pace and the trot, two feet are always off the ground.


Got that?

Watch the legs!

If you aren’t a racing enthusiast — specifically of sulky racing — or just a casual horse rider, this isn’t going to really matter much. But if you are a trainer for trotting horses, pacers and trotters are not allowed on the same course. And if you are planning on an equestrian career, how the horse leads at a trot (or pace) matters and you have to know how to get your horse to shift leads.

I could sometimes do it instinctively but never learned to do it intentionally. I wasn’t that good.

Two pacers

I used to ride, but to be fair, I never really cared much about which feet were doing what. If I were jumping or in competition, I would have cared, but for the purposes of most riders, this is not all that critical.

Or maybe it is and I just never got technical enough about the movement of horses to know the difference?

Bet you thought this was going to be about pacing the floor or something, didn’t you. Hah!

Gotcha!

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. Retired! Yay!

14 thoughts on “PACE OR TROT? – Marilyn Armstrong”

  1. I used to watch equestrian riders in competition. Loved the movement of the horses. Always found it uproariously funny when a horse just plain refused to jump “nope not doing it” and threw the rider. Not that I wanted the rider injured, but it was that last minute change of mind on the horses part that always killed me.

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    1. Refusal can be very dangerous. That’s what crippled Christopher Reeves. When his horse refused to jump, he shot over the horse head, landed on his own head (which had a helmet on), and broke his neck. I know of at least one other guy who ended the same way.

      Most horses, rather than refusing a jump, will do what’s called “running out” which means they run around the jump. There’s a lot of reasons they do this and some of them are tiredness, too much good food, a damaged hoof or leg … or that they just don’t WANT to.

      Refusal usually means that when they actually get up to the fence, they don’t think they can do it. That is often the rider’s fault. When you jump, if you aren’t in the right place on the horse, his balance will be way off and he won’t feel safe … and he won’t do it. Horses are not heroic or at least not stupidly heroic. If they think they can’t, they don’t. Reeves was such a big, tall guy, I always thought that he needed a much bigger horse. The matchup of horse and rider involves body mass — yours and his — and leg length. And torso length.

      I was afraid of jumping. Too many people I knew had been seriously injured jumping and I was not going to be one of them. I was already damaged enough. One more bad fall and I would never walk again, so I refused. Which is why I never got better than “okay” as a rider. If you don’t jump, you will never be a great rider. I preferred being a casual rider with a functional spine.

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      1. My grand daughter is a rider and learning jumping. She’s up to 2.5 feet. Her problem is the same, she’s tiny and at 5.4 the horse is massive too massive for her to be honest, but it’s the horse she rides. They don’t seem ever able to get the stirrup the right length and she slid off the horse and was hanging upside down with her knee twisted which has caused an injury that can be correct if she does specific exercises until she’s 20 so she doesn’t further damage and can fix the knee without surgery. We’re at her all the time to keep it up. She said she wanted to become a cop. She also in that incident injured her shoulder and has to do specific exercises to strengthen it so she doesn’t become like my son, with a useless right shoulder (and he’s right handed). 2 years ago, he couldn’t even do up his own zipper. He was in rough shape. They are looking at surgery (which they have avoided) because at the time of his injury he was 20 and it was an either or (fix or you’ll never use that arm again) so they refused to do it. After that he injured it 2 times more and broke the bone as well which was never set. Fortunately, the last 2 years of inactivity have resulted in a “fix” if you will. He’s getting the use back in his arm. I watch E ride with my heart in my throat all the time.

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        1. All the issues with my back started on a horse and ended when I fell off the horse. Injuries in youth will haunt you forever. If they cannot find her a horse that is the right size for her, find another place for her to ride. Letting her get badly broken is not worth it. Trust me. It really ISN’T worth it.

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          1. It’s a riding school and they won’t allow her to but they don’t seem to be getting it right. The stirrups are so huge because the horse is 15 hands high. They can’t seem to get a saddle and stirrups her size that fit the horse. It’s not professional if you ask me. just saying. I think they could do better!

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            1. Well, you have to make choices and she’s going to get hurt. EVERYONE needs to be able to adjust stirrups. What if she’s out on the trail and stirrup comes loose and there’s no guy in the stableyard to help? There are some basic things they should teach her because they are important and necessary. Just that warning. The injuries from your youth can (and DO) leave you a crippled adult.

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              1. Yes I agree 100%. She on the other hand, is a force – probably as stubborn as her grandmother, imagine that. We’ve tried and believe me I know about childhood injuries. We’ve got her doing her exercises. She didn’t want to accept it would haunt her forever. I explained about my son and that was only 15 years ago and he’s still suffering. I used me as an example. I was thrown down the stairs onto a cement floor which cracked my skull open and I only lived because it was a perfect V. My spine was severely damaged and my hips which I live with every day of my life. She knows, whether she’ll accept that and move to another stable is the question. I keep trying.

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    1. I know more about horses than my riding abilities would indicate. By the time I was seriously learning to ride, my back had already been surgically fused and I wasn’t supposed to BE on a horse. I rode until one day, my doctor asked me if I was mentally defective and did I want to keep walking? It was one of the hardest things I ever did, quitting riding. I really loved horses.

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