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Understanding & Assessing Your Horse's Movement: Part 2 - The Biomechanics of Trot

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

In the second part of this blog about the paces we are looking at the biomechanics and benefits of trot. We will also study how to assess your horse's trot and there are tips to improve this pace too.

gillian higgins horses inside outTrot, biomechanics, symmetrical gait, paces of the horse, rider biomechanics dressage horse, trotting equine skeleton, skeletal movement joints

Take a look at our horse in movement video course to discover more about trot Anatomy in Action.

Trot is a two-time symmetrical, rhythmical gait where the horse springs from one diagonal pair to the other with the hindlegs at opposite phases of the stride as any one time. There is a moment of suspension which causes an increase in the stretch of the muscles, tendons and ligaments as they have to absorb the extra load as the fetlocks sink following impact.

A good trot has:

  • Rhythm

  • Regularity

  • Cadence

  • Mental and physical relaxation

  • Harmony

  • Impulsion

Assessing your horse's trot

Trot is a symmetrical gait, making it an excellent way to assess straightness, symmetry and soundness.

"Videoing your horse in trot and watching it back in slow motion is a great way to assess how he moves and identify potential problems. "

What to look for

1. Does your horse land with the diagonal pair exactly together?

This is a good indication of balance. If a horse lands with one hoof in the diagonal pair a moment before the other this is call diagonal dissociation.

  • If the forelimb lands first - this indicates the horse is more on the forehand. This is often seen in young, weak, poorly trained horses, or those with poor conformation.

  • If a horse lands hindlimb first - this indicates the horse is pushing and carrying more from behind. This is often seen in well trained and more advanced horses, and those with naturally uphill conformation.

2. Is there an easy spring, suspension and absorption of landing forces?

How much does the horse go up and down naturally? (the type of trot will influence this)

  • Generally if a horse is happy to push up into the moment of suspension he is comfortable enough within his musculoskeletal system to absorb the landing forces.

  • A horse with joint pain or discomfort will often guard on impact and will try to reduce vertical displacement.

3. Does the horse move and react through his musculoskeletal system the same on each diagonal?

The third horse in the video below is a good illustration of highlighting symmetry.

This video compares different horses trotting, both in slow motion and at normal speed.

With the skeleton painted on the sides of the horse it helps to visualise what is happening biomechanically.

Having a greater understanding of the biomechanics of all the gaits helps us to train, ride, and manage our horses better.

We cover this topic in much greater detail in our webinar The Biomechanics of Trot . We discuss the different types of trot and also look at variations and problems within the gait including lameness, diagonal dissociation, asymmetry, and straightness issues.

We discuss techniques and exercises to improve the expression and cadence of the trot – plus, Gillian gives her top tips for riding the trot in harmony and how to up your scores in the dressage arena.

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