View Full Version : Spinoff--Chamberlin (US Cavalry) on gaits Walk, trot, gallop w/pics

Jun. 10, 2011, 12:15 PM
This is from Training Hunter, Jumpers and Hacks by General Harry D. Chamberlin, 2nd Ed., Arco Printing, 1976, a reprint of the 1937 work--from the section on what to look for in a horse that one is considering buying--Pages 19-26, with some ellisions from me.

Chamberlin was the officer who introduced the forward seat to our cavalry as best for XC. He was also the officer in charge of the Military International Competition squads (Olympics, etc.) from the mid 1920's to WWII. He was killed in the South Pacific in 1944. He also wrote much of the riding and training part of the 1935 Cavalry Manual--Horsemanship and Horsemastership, which Gordon Wright rewrote for civilians after WWII.

Study of the Gaits

To see the horse move on a halter, longe or at liberty is absolutely essential, for no matter how handsome he may be, without low, true, elastic and free gaits, he will be of little value.

To have him led on a halter is perhaps the most satisfactory way of studying the walk and trot. The halter shank should be allowed to hand loosely so that it may in no way interfere with the natural gestures made by the head and neck. . . . All three gaits should be studied from the side while the horse is moving past; from the front when the horse is moving forward; and from the rear when the horse is moving away from the observer.

The Walk

At the walk--called "the mother of the gaits"--the strides, when studied from the side, should be long, free, and close to the ground. In a good walk, each hind foot strikes the ground from four to ten inches or more in advance of the print made by the fore foot on the corresponding side. As the fore is carried to the front the should moves easily and freely, the point appearing to slip forward smoothly and elastically, while the upper end of the blade moves similarly to the rear. The angle between the shoulder blade and the arm displays great amplitude in opening and closing, the arm reaching well out to the front as the foot is grounded. No cramped or tight appearance is apparent if the horse is well conformed, sound, and walks well. Each fore leg snaps unhesitatingly to its full extension and the heel appears to strike the ground first. As western horsemen say, "He picks 'em up and lays 'em down." The knees are not raised high with good cannons which are short relative to the forearms. The fetlock joints are supple and softly springy. No stiffness is present in any part of the stride.

The hind leg moves freely with little perceptible flexion at the hock because the motion appears to be caused by the free, long gesture of the thigh (from the hip joint to the stifle) which swings the leg and cannon almost as one piece and engages the foot far forward under the horse's body. The fetlocks should also be very flexible and springy without, as a result of excessively long pasterns, breaking back too far when the feet are planted.

Viewed from the front, the forelegs should move in vertical planes with no throwing of the feet outward (paddling) or inward. Ample, but not excessive, room between the fore feet as they pass should exist. If too close together there will be interference and unstableness, especially when the horse is fatigued; if too far apart, he will be stable but will lack agility, speed and suppleness at faster gaits. The front feet, when moving properly, remain square and true during the whole stride.

In watching the horse from directly in rear, his hind legs should exhibit no rotation of the foot or hock as the foot strikes the ground; the feet should travel squarely to the front without swinging outward or inward. Faulty twisting, grinding or swinging action means loss of efficiency and additional strain on articulations and tendons, with consequent likelihood of injuries.

The hind feet should follow accurately the same lines made by the fore; however, the hind leg does not always move in a vertical plante since, from the stifle down, it often slopes inward slightly toward the foot, particularly on broad-hipped horses.

With a good walk, the horse appears to glide along in a snakelike manner Emphasis supplied

The bolded image certainly says a lot, doesn't it?

Jun. 10, 2011, 12:19 PM
Thank you! Looking forward to the other two gaits!

Jun. 10, 2011, 12:25 PM
What to look for at the trot.

The Trot

At the trot, when observing the horse from the front and rear, similar conditions to those desired at the walk should exist relative to true, low action and the cracking of the feet, Contrary to what is often heard about a thoroughbred's not being able to trot well, since he is bred to gallop, it is noteworthy that a long-striding springy trot is a reliable indicator of an excellent galloper. The trot, though springy, should be low, with feet moving close to the ground as the result of a minimum flexion of knees and hocks. This gait quickly reveals the presence of natural "impulsion" where, although little effort is evident, great driving power is displayed by the hind legs and the strides are long. The horse with such a trot appears to glide along with little up and motion apparent in any part of his body. A generally well made horse with a trot as described, if also graced by high withers, a somewhat sloping but long and well made croup and good hocks, usually will prove to be a long-striding galloper and good jumper.

At the trot, there should be no sidewise rocking of the hindquarters, which comes from legs set too far apart, or hips too broad, faults found where a strong cross of draft horse blood exists.

Jun. 10, 2011, 01:15 PM
Chamberlin says that the canter is nothing more than a slow gallop, so this section covers both. The photo comes from the book, and so does the diagram of the horse's movements at the gallop.

The Gallop

The gallop is the natural gait of the thoroughbred type when moving at speed. It is far less fatiguing to such horses than is a very fast trot. Incidentally a slow trot is less fatiguing than the walk when the latter gait is pushed to extreme speed for long periods of time. However, brief periods of the extended and trot are excellent gymnastics for training purposes.

The horse, when "galloping with the right lead" places the right lateral biped (the right fore and right hind) at each stride on the ground in advance of the left lateral biped (left fore and left hind). If galloping slowly (cantering) with the right lead, the gait has three beats; 1st--left hind; 2d--right hind and left fore; there is now an instant when three feet are in support, until the left hind is lifted leaving the right hind and left fore only in support; 3rd--right fore. As the right fore grounds, the right hind and both front feet give again a tripedal support until the right hind lifts. This is followed by the lifting of the left fore, leaving only the right fore in support. The right fore leg, now used as a pole vaulter uses his pole, receives the impulsion from the hind legs which projects the whole mass of the horse into the air over the right fore into the period of suspension which occurs in each galloping stride.

As the gallop becomes fast, a four-beat gait results because the right hind comes to ground an instant ahead of the left fore. At a racing gallop, the tripedal phases of support disappear, and all four feet are planted on approximately a single straight line.

The horse carries his croup slightly to right, if leading right, which favorably disposes his two right legs to come to ground in advance of the left ones. It also places the bipedal supporting diagonal (left fore and right hind when leading right) on a broadened base which steadies the equilibrium laterally as the hind legs propel the horse forward.

A good galloper's feet travel close to the groung ("daisy cutter") with little knee and hock action. The hind feet come well under the belly with an easy, free swinging of the hind legs and the hock apparently flexes very little. The forehand appears well balanced and light, flowing smoothly along without jerkiness. The shoulder blades and arms appear free and relaxed in their action, while the fore feet reach far out to the front, with fetlock joints supple and springy, as the feet strike earth. There should be no flinging of the fore or hind feet outward or inward when the gallop is viewed from directly in front or behind the horse. A single stride at a gallop varies from about twelve feet at slow speed to twenty-seven feet at top racing speed.

In the case of an unbroken colt that has never been ridden or worked on a longe, he may be observed while at the gallop in a corral or pasture. If he possesses good shoulders and displayed an excellent walk and trot, his gallop almost invariably will be good.

Couple of pictures to be attached after reducing their size--then the last bit of general stuff on gaits and the front.

Jun. 10, 2011, 01:32 PM
General discussion after The Gallop. I should mention that Chamberlin is very much in favor of tall withers on XC horses because of the length and attachment of muscles that propel the front legs. He talks about the legs as broken pendulums in action. From the photos that illustrate the book, I'd say he actually preferred what we would call "shark finned" withers for horses who will work at the gallop.

After studying his gaits dismounted, if the colt is broken to the saddle, the final and most satisfactory test is to ride him. This will tell teh tale. Has he a "good front" when mounted? In other words is there "a lot of horse" out in front of the rider? The front should come from long, sloping shoulders and long, high withers which run far into the back. The neck should be moderate in length, for a straight shoulder and a willowy neck, while giving a lot of front, also place the rider in a most insecure and uncomfortable position.

All gaits should feel free, long and elastic when the horse is ridden, particularly when going down slopes. Galloping down a hill determines whether the shoulders, arms, and hindquarters are so conformed as to give natural balance. If they are, the rider will have no apprehension about the horse's falling, for he will gallop almost as easily and smoothly as when on level footing.

If the prospective buyer, after this general examination of the horse and his gaits, is satisfied, a painstaking study of his conformation should be made. The details to be observed will be analyzed in Chapter II.

Jun. 10, 2011, 02:17 PM
I love this book. Thank you for posting excerpts ... :yes:

Jun. 10, 2011, 02:46 PM
thanks for posting this- so interesting! i will be looking for a copy of this book!

and now i don't feel like my obsession with looking at a prospect out of tack and really dissecting the trot is less important than the original quality of the canter.

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:44 PM
More photos. It'll take two posts to get them all in.
The first is General Chamberlin on High Hat, one of their jumpers.
Next is a conformation photo of the TB stallion High Line.
Then a photo of one of their jumpers, Joe Aleshire in action and in conformation.

Then a drawing, showing the difference in angles between the "galloping type" and the "trotting type."

Jun. 10, 2011, 03:59 PM
I am amazed at the total difference in head set between now and the cavalry way. There is a whole chapter in the book on that topic alone.

Jun. 11, 2011, 01:09 PM
I am amazed at the total difference in head set between now and the cavalry way. There is a whole chapter in the book on that topic alone.
What specifically do you mean by "head set?"

Jun. 11, 2011, 01:20 PM
Chamberlin calls it "head carriage" not head set. And he does devote a whole chapter to it.

take a look at the photo of the "trained horse" at the extended trot. These days the horse would be in a dressage frame with a neck that bows somewhere in the middle. The photos look to me as though they wanted the head carried much higher than we do these days.

I'll see if I can find some of his "dressage" move photos to scan and post. I'll also post some of his jumping pictures.

Jun. 11, 2011, 02:24 PM
take a look at the photo of the "trained horse" at the extended trot. These days the horse would be in a dressage frame with a neck that bows somewhere in the middle. The photos look to me as though they wanted the head carried much higher than we do these days.

Ok....I have the 1947 edition....found the pix. My opinions:

(1) - Note the rider is posting at the extended trot. For the life of me, I don't understand why dressage tests require extended trot to be done sitting. The postillions invented posting for a reason....to get off the horse's back (and to alleviate the pounding on theirs).

(2) - Note the reins....very light contact. Also note that in a lot of the pictures the horses wear no cavesson.

(3) - As far as the head carriage, he is looking for "calmness, boldness and relaxation" and feels that the how a horse is taught head carriage can influence calmness as the horse frets. He wants a "stiff neck" and wants no yielding of the jaw or poll. He goes on to state that a "soft, overflexed, 'rubber neck,' spells ruination."

Chamberlain wants the horse to develop equilibrium under the rider of "his own volition." This is in contrast to the dressage trainers that say "ride every step."

Yes, I am a fan of Chamberlain......and thanks for reminding me I had this book hiding in my bookshelves as I now break my new horse. Bought out of the field as a long yearling, he just turned 3. Very timely as we are starting to sit on him.

Jun. 11, 2011, 04:40 PM
Oh, I completely agree. The dressage frame goes a long way in depriving a horse of vision and is an indicator of a master/slave relationship.