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  1. #1
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    Default Trot vs Canter in Endurance

    Simply a discussion...

    Background:
    My main endurance horse for 11 years was a small 3/4 Arab gelding who had a pony trot. You know the type - the omg I'm going to die if I have to ride this jackhammer for 50 miles. So we cantered.. everywhere, all the time. He had no extended trot whatsoever, but a lovely banging move along canter. Finished well every ride in 11 years we never had a pull. I lost him 5 years ago, and thus was forced to move onto using one of my up and comers.
    Now my main is a big gelding 16.1hh, with a stunningly huge trot. top speed clocked at 14mph. so I went back to trotting obviously.

    Watching the face of endurance, which is changing - top level competitions are getting flatter and much faster. I started wondering why I was trotting again.

    So I started watching these horses and trotting horses, (I've logged an incredible amount of video time this year - lookng for the differences in riding styles and muscle and the question - why do so many of us trot? And why do international level riders canter ?

    To my eye - I see that endurance horses are moving into a flat long distance racer phase. To finish is to win - still but... to win, you have to haul ass.

    Trotting - I see a lot of inverted trotting. The horses heads are way up and yes they are extended, but are they really being efficient. Most endurance horses have what I tend to call endurance shoulders (not sure what the real description is) where there is an obvious dip in front of and behind the withers, from the shoulder muscles jamming up. Now part of this is saddle fit(so the pros tell me ie my saddle fitter who is also an endurance rider) however I'm convinced a fair amount possibly could be attributed to the way most endurance horses move, with a locked up back in an extended trot - seems to me the front end is doing more work then the back. Which also relates to more energy being used, most muscle strain and higher PRs.

    Canter- I started checking out cantering more - I used to do it, but I switched back, after all trotting is where it's at - or so I've always believed etc. But, interestingly, I learned something the other day about long distance cantering (yes I still learn go me) It's called reciprocal breathing (laymans' term that is) The theory being that the motion of the canter, causes the internal organs ie stomach etc to slosh back and forth in time with the canter. This motion alternately presses against and releases outside pressure against the horses lungs, in time with their breathing - so that the horse works less to breathe at the canter because they are aided by their own body motion. So..what does that mean..?

    Hell I've no idea - but I think I'm going to take up more cantering and find out. I'm going out on a training ride on Sat, I 've borrowed my sisters heart monitor (she has one of those cool programmable /data saving ones) so I can download it and find out.
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.


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  2. #2
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    This is an awesome time for you to bring this up! We just had a 5-day ride here in our region, where we were blessed with a visit from a foreign friend (European). We had some fascinating discussions, mostly fascinating because they correlated with my way of thinking lol!!

    When I used to race, I went at a hand gallop over most everything. I was taught when I first started endurance to never let the horse go into that huge extended trot that so many endurance riders covet. After about 10mph, I break into the canter.

    My friend from Europe was surprised with all of the hock and front end lameness that many horses here in the states show. He said they just don't see those problems, even despite the fact that many of their miles are logged on pavement. He also feels that horses ridden at that "endurance trot" have poor toplines such as the one you describe.

    I have ridden with heart monitors but mostly forget to use it, however I do know that *most* of the horses I've ridden have dropped at a nice canter than a trot of equal speed. The one exception to that was my flamboyant moving gelding who didn't hold up anyway, and my mare who wasn't allowed to canter in her previous home. That has since changed (as well as her topline), and this year we have done three 80's along with many 50's. I cantered a good portion of our rides this year, however, I am not racing, just looking to finish in great condition, which we have!!

    I think the canter is waaaaay under-utilized, and whenever people brag on their horse trotting 13mph for 50 miles I cringe. Myself and my riding buddies do most of our conditioning at the canter and are very cognizant of our trot speeds. Plus nothing beats gliding along the trail in a wonderful round canter. Whhhheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!!


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  3. #3
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    I for sure am no expert but I have watched endurance for the last 30 years. You are describing my sister's endurance horse: head way up, back inverted, gettting ewe necked from holding his head up so high trotting 14 mph. I've stopped telling her what I think cause her "experts" don't say a word about it.
    ********
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  4. #4
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    Bank of Dad - Yes, there are those who trot as you describe... It is sad and painful to see and you just know this horse won't last long. I have yet to figure out a way to diplomatically drop a hint or make a (training) suggestion. Because when I simply suggest dressage as wonderful cross-training (where your instructor would give you a whipping for that kind of form!), it's often too subtle a hint, or dismissed with a wave of hand. If a conversation even gets going at all... because most riders know deep down that it's not right to ride like that and get defensive easily.

    But about cantering... I believe a lot depends on your horse and figuring out their best gait. A good friend of mine almost exclusively trots because her mare's canter is just not well developed and not straight and comfortable yet (they're working on it) but her trot is wonderful and fast (without the inversion...) My mare, however, is most comfortable and travels very evenly at a nice canter, maybe 13-14 mph. We often ride alongside other riders who are trotting at the same speed. I ride in a simple snaffle bit and with loose reins, there's usually no pulling or fighting (with some exceptions within a mile of the start...)

    I stop being able to post to her trot when we get to 11 mph and it's simply easier for me to canter as well. (Who can two-point for more than a mile?) Her heart rate is a bit lower and even more stable at a canter than at the trot. We switch leads frequently and she seems very happy with cantering. I agree with Eddy's Mom - it is a wonderful feeling to go down the trail relaxed, yet fast and ground-covering.

    I've had my fastest first loop ever just recently at a ride in Nevada where the footing was just amazing and we cantered for most of the 25 miles on that loop. I realized that this is what you would have to do for 100 miles if you wanted to "run with the big boys..." I'm not sure I believe in that race-driven direction Endurance seems to be headed in but it sure was fun to do for one loop, especially when you're lucky enough to ride an athletic mare who loves her job. Most often rides in Region West don't have that length of trail uninterrupted by rocks and boulders, ruts or roots, uphills and downhills, so it felt special. Ah, I can still feel it, the wind in my face and the smell of sage blooming


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  5. #5
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    Sweets usually prefers to canter. Her heart rate is often lower at an easy canter than a big trot. Two of the 25s she finished, she cantered the entire 25 miles, both times. Maybe break to a trot for a couple of strides to get around a sharp bend in the trail but otherwise it was a flat, easy trail and she easily cantered all the miles. At the 60 she just finished, I'd say she trotted/cantered about half and half. Well, except for a few miles of walk at the very end. As she gets older and more fit, it is much easier for her to trot than it used to be.

    When I was riding lots of distance miles on my QH (and she did 2 LDs with another rider - a 25 and a 35), she trotted pretty much exclusively. Her canter is more of a hand-gallop and isn't very efficient. She can trot for miles in a long, stretched out huntery trot very happily though. I was riding 10-15 miles a day, usually 5 days a week on her and cantering was never very easy and she never liked it.

    I have a 12 mile loop starting in my driveway and I used to trot that entire loop on the QH and canter it on the Arab.

    The QH can very easily trot at 11-12 mph for miles, while Sweets' trot is more around 8-9 or so. But the QH's "canter" is around 17 mph and Sweets' is more like 13.

    So for me, my two main riding horses are VERY different in what they prefer, their style of moving, and their efficiency at either gait, their speed, etc.

    But then I'm not an Expert Endurance Rider like some of the True Experts on this forum, so just go ahead and disregard my post, and wait for what they have to say, as it will undoubtedly be The Gospel - even the ones who have never competed in an LD.


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  6. #6
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    Oh, and for what it's worth, I don't like the way international endurance is headed at all. It seems to be an entirely different sport than AERC endurance riding. Some of these other countries are focused on flat track racing where horses canter and gallop 100 miles on a flat, groomed surface. They purposely avoid elevation changes, and challenging terrain so as not to diminish speed too much.


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  7. #7
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    I'm the same, while my gelding CAN trot 14mph, I usually hold him around 9>11ish, that big huge trot is hard on the old bones to ride, plus he of course gets totally strung out at top speed, and I hate that. Oddly, because of his build, he doesn't go high, he's a low headed horse (nesty neck and upright shoulders) which should make him horribly uncomfortable to ride, - but doesn't - one day I'll figure out why. His canter needs work, he has one of those, ... uhm.. are we moving? canters. So I've been working most this season on getting him forward at a canter. It's kind of amusing in a horrid way- since in the field, he's a fast critter when he's on the rampage.

    I usually only switch this particular horse out to canter when racing to get him into another gait for awhile - If I can figure out how to download data this weekend, I'll post the canter/trot results I get - the trail I usually condition on this time of year is a 12 mile loop. 6 miles up (elevation starts at 1000meters up to 2000) and then back down the other side and home. Very little flat work. so that will show up more dramatically then a pure flat track - sorry I live in the mountains!

    I'm not agreeing or disagreeing with the way international endurance is going - but I do feel that because it is going that way, for us to be competitive (north american riders) we need to be paying attention to what is happening out there. and I think the gaits are an important part of issue. Heck Nobby looked barely even tired when he finished at WEG. the US team had an unlucky WEG(not through any fault of their own- it was just one of those days) Canadians finished 3, but a ways back in the pack.
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.



  8. #8
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    Nobby is a VERY nice horse. I've been admiring him for a couple of years now

    Have you been following the discussion on AERC about the WEG? Lots of varying opinions.



  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auventera Two View Post
    Nobby is a VERY nice horse. I've been admiring him for a couple of years now

    Have you been following the discussion on AERC about the WEG? Lots of varying opinions.
    Nobby is a pretty nifty dude. Did you know that Maria had a baby 7 weeks before WEg, and then rode 100? I was like ..*jaw drop*

    yeah, I've been keeping an eye on it(the discussion) I can't remember the last time I posted over there, but I still read it everyday. We had a pretty interesting *cough* discussion on our club group about a certain trot out at final check too.

    oh as a complete aside, Terre, one of our club members, who was also the alternate at WEG just got invited by the India govt to go compete over there. - India is working on building an endurance program, and asked endurance canada for permission to invite her over. How cool is that? *yes I'm cheering on a club member for a moment*
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.



  10. #10
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    Default so the results

    so I finally managed to get the gps data to download, had to run over to my sisters last night to do so- didn't like my laptop for some reason.
    the training loop I used is up & down, I live in the mountains. 12.1 miles overall, starting elevation 1000m up to 1600m, and then back down around the mountain more or less. (I can basically make a circle around the top portion of the mountain )Probably about... 1 1/2 miles at most over flatter terrain.
    I tried to break up extended trot and canter on both sides so I could get some type of reading up & down for both gaits.
    I tried to work out some averages- doing the 3 miles up hill at a canter, his HR was about 10/12 lower/minute then extended trot. I also noticed *he's a bit of a panter when its a tad humid - as it's normally so dry here- was humid on the weekend* that his breathing was a bit more even during the uphill canter- but he still panted for a minute at the top when we stopped for a few minutes at our customary 'we've hit the top spot - lets take 5.'

    going down round the far side, hit HR was 8 lower on average at a canter - I'm assuming the downhill of course was easier at both a canter and extended trot.

    I'm tempted to do this a few more times and see if I can get an overall average over a period of training runs and also use a few different trails.
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.



  11. #11
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    Raine, you may be interested in Terri Rashid's recent post on Ridecamp. It's called "Big trot drawbacks, relaxed canter (on appropriate terrain), FEI riding (long rambling post)" and can be found at http://www.endurance.net/Ridecamp/

    Also, remember the "old endurance saying" that you should save your fast downhill miles for a competition and walk them in training... No need to experiment with downhill canters and trots on our behalf! But thanks for posting your findings.



  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lieselotte View Post
    Raine, you may be interested in Terri Rashid's recent post on Ridecamp. It's called "Big trot drawbacks, relaxed canter (on appropriate terrain), FEI riding (long rambling post)" and can be found at http://www.endurance.net/Ridecamp/

    Also, remember the "old endurance saying" that you should save your fast downhill miles for a competition and walk them in training... No need to experiment with downhill canters and trots on our behalf! But thanks for posting your findings.
    read it I've been on ridecamp for eons, was very well written so I enjoyed it a lot. I usually don't do speed downhills, in training- however I wanted some downhill data so I can compare for a flat loop I'm planning to trailer out to do on thursday, weather permitting.
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.



  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bank of Dad View Post
    I for sure am no expert but I have watched endurance for the last 30 years. You are describing my sister's endurance horse: head way up, back inverted, gettting ewe necked from holding his head up so high trotting 14 mph. I've stopped telling her what I think cause her "experts" don't say a word about it.

    I know a number of distance riders who work with dressage folk in order to avoid that particular abomination.
    "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

    ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghazzu View Post
    I know a number of distance riders who work with dressage folk in order to avoid that particular abomination.
    Ghazzu -- I was going to make this exact point, but you beat me too it.

    Granted, I've only attend one really big ride in terms of seeing horse & rider combos like Heraldic/John, etc. Like with any other sport, the more serious the competitor is, the more they fine tune their training.

    And that includes plenty of arena work to strengthen the muscles so the horse can carry himself more efficently and the rider is actually RIDING rather than just sitting aboard the horse while it flings itself down the trail, out of balance much of the time.

    It makes perfect sense to me how this sort of training could make all kinds of "trail" & obstacle work far easier for the horse.

    An endurance buddy of mine does a HUGE amount of miles per year, many of it multi-days. I asked her if it wasn't boring riding 50 miles a day for 5 days in a row. She said "no -- not if you are really RIDING."

    As for the trot vs canter -- hey, find me a cantering horse and I might re-consider the sport. There is so much I find intriquing, but my idea of Hell would be riding my little Polish Arab's pogo stick trot for 100 miles!!

    I will be interesting to see what sort of data Rain comes up with, and I THINK some sort of study was done of "Gait Preference", etc. Some horses and even some breeds of horses have strong gait preferences, and I would bet that if they prefer it, that means it is more efficent for them.

    For instance, I spent years on the track, and even from "foal-hood" most of the TBs I've known like canter/gallop. No surprise there. Most of the Arabs I have seen have a rather choppy canter (compared to TBs), and are big trotters.

    And the Akhal Tekes also prefer a trot, but theirs is not the same kind of trot I see on Arabs -- the "classic" Teke trot is big, but reachy and lower to the ground -- not much knee action. Sort of what they use to call "daisy cutters" in the TB/hunter world.

    I believe the future of serious endurance will see riders with several types of horses in their string -- you can't canter on mtn footing (like parts of the Tevis or Big Horn, for instance) safely or for any distance, so for races like that, you are better with a trotting, climbing horse with plenty of staying power.

    For flatter courses, they will have a "racier" type of horse -- one who can set their canter like a metronome and keep in up for miles on flat to moderate terrain.

    I think the important thing for the endurance community will be to still applaud the more "technical" type of rides (like Tevis), in which smart riding and staying power will be called for. To not make it into just one very long cross-country race....

    Rain -- I am very interested in the data you get -- there is so much we can learn about horses from this sport.


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  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghazzu View Post
    I know a number of distance riders who work with dressage folk in order to avoid that particular abomination.
    Ghazzu -- I was going to make this exact point, but you beat me too it.

    Granted, I've only attend one really big ride in terms of seeing horse & rider combos like Heraldic/John, etc. Like with any other sport, the more serious the competitor is, the more they fine tune their training.

    And that includes plenty of arena work to strengthen the muscles so the horse can carry himself more efficently and the rider is actually RIDING rather than just sitting aboard the horse while it flings itself down the trail, out of balance much of the time.

    It makes perfect sense to me how this sort of training could make all kinds of "trail" & obstacle work far easier for the horse.

    An endurance buddy of mine does a HUGE amount of miles per year, many of it multi-days. I asked her if it wasn't boring riding 50 miles a day for 5 days in a row. She said "no -- not if you are really RIDING."

    As for the trot vs canter -- hey, find me a cantering horse and I might re-consider the sport. There is so much I find intriquing, but my idea of Hell would be riding my little Polish Arab's pogo stick trot for 100 miles!!

    I will be interesting to see what sort of data Rain comes up with, and I THINK some sort of study was done of "Gait Preference", etc. Some horses and even some breeds of horses have strong gait preferences, and I would bet that if they prefer it, that means it is more efficent for them.

    For instance, I spent years on the track, and even from "foal-hood" most of the TBs I've known like canter/gallop. No surprise there. Most of the Arabs I have seen have a rather choppy canter (compared to TBs), and are big trotters.

    And the Akhal Tekes also prefer a trot, but theirs is not the same kind of trot I see on Arabs -- the "classic" Teke trot is big, but reachy and lower to the ground -- not much knee action. Sort of what they use to call "daisy cutters" in the TB/hunter world.

    I believe the future of serious endurance will see riders with several types of horses in their string -- you can't canter on mtn footing (like parts of the Tevis or Big Horn, for instance) safely or for any distance, so for races like that, you are better with a trotting, climbing horse with plenty of staying power.

    For flatter courses, they will have a "racier" type of horse -- one who can set their canter like a metronome and keep in up for miles on flat to moderate terrain.

    I think the important thing for the endurance community will be to still applaud the more "technical" type of rides (like Tevis), in which smart riding and staying power will be called for. To not make it into just one very long cross-country race....

    Rain -- I am very interested in the data you get -- there is so much we can learn about horses from this sport.


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  16. #16
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    I am a newbie here and just wanna say Hi to everyone. I am Daniel from Pennsylvania, US.


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  17. #17
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    I remembered reading an article several years ago about WHY your horse's HR is lower at a canter than at a big trot. I tried to find the same article on-line and couldn't but I did find another article with a similar explanation.

    Respiration rates are largely linked to leg movement. The faster the horses legs are moving the faster the respirations. For instance, at a fast trot the breathing rate tends to match the strides. The match of one breath per stride becomes very true at the canter and gallop. Trot strides tend to be quicker over any given stretch of ground than a trot. The more rapid rate of trot and breaths doesn't allow as DEEP of breaths as the slower paced (but longer strides) of the canter and gallop. So at the canter the horse has more time for each breath and they tend to be deeper breaths, filling the lungs with more oxygen. And, as the horse's front legs land the chest gets a compression that helps expel the breath with less effort from the diaphragm, saving energy.

    Since the deep breaths taken at the canter/gallop gets more oxygen into the blood the heart doesn't have to pump as rapidly as it does at the typical trot.

    From my own experience, I've had a horse that had an effortless loooong strided trot. She took fewer strides per 100' than other Arabs trotting beside her and her HR was amazing low while doing this big trot. Yes it covered a lot of ground, as in mph, but with fewer strides. Which probably meant slower breathing, deeper breathing and slower heart rates. I also suspect that she had a large heart which meant she pumped a greater volume of blood with every beat, but I'll never know that for a fact.

    Was the long extended trot harder on other parts of the body, like the sacral area or joints? Possibly. But her trot was developed slowly over a period of years and she had a great top line.

    Anyway, I thought the explanation of what happens physically to cause that lower HR was interesting.

    Bonnie S.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by chicamuxen1 View Post

    Respiration rates are largely linked to leg movement. The faster the horses legs are moving the faster the respirations. For instance, at a fast trot the breathing rate tends to match the strides. The match of one breath per stride becomes very true at the canter and gallop. Trot strides tend to be quicker over any given stretch of ground than a trot. The more rapid rate of trot and breaths doesn't allow as DEEP of breaths as the slower paced (but longer strides) of the canter and gallop. So at the canter the horse has more time for each breath and they tend to be deeper breaths, filling the lungs with more oxygen. And, as the horse's front legs land the chest gets a compression that helps expel the breath with less effort from the diaphragm, saving energy.
    I think this is why Sweets usually has a lower heart rate, and appears more comfortable at the canter than at trot. Although her trot has improved a lot over the years, she's still a bit shorter legged and takes more strides at the trot than other, leggier Arabs.

    My new mare was delivered last week, but she's going back. She was a "sight unseen" deal and the lady was not honest about a couple of things. One of them being the mare's terrible back conformation. She's a huge, leggy Padron mare, very flashy, but boy is she inverted and hollow. She "can" lift her belly and stretch over the topline but it is extremely difficult for her, and it would be a constant battle. She has long, white scars inside both front armpits and given that she had pro training with a saddleseat trainer, I imagine these were from a bitting rig. The mare is swaybacked and it will only get worse. Funny how the photos she gave me were old, and showed the mare moving over the topline.

    So in any case, I think it's important to find horses with good strong toplines that can move over their back because the work will be much easier for them.



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    Im too lazy to type this all again, so here's a link to a study I blogged about elsewhere regarding this topic. (Cost of Transport in an Extended Trot)
    http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc...0.1.1.116.3406

    metabolic costs of trot/canter/speeds/stride lengths, etc.
    Quote Originally Posted by ExJumper View Post
    Sometimes I'm thrown off, sometimes I'm bucked off, sometimes I simply fall off, and sometimes I go down with the ship. All of these are valid ways to part company with your horse.



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    I ride a OTTB and hes most comfortable hand cantering the trails -- its taken a good while to develop a balanced trot -- and balanced at any gait downhill ! but, hes tackled and conquered --- mostly through his dressage work, there Are benefits to this training no matter what the riding discipline it -- its balanced riding.
    I train with people who adhere to the *trot only* mindset -- horse out of frame - its a general conception that endurance Is ridden this way. My horses PR's are much better through the canter sets, than trotting, hes happier and trust me > so, am I!
    He ran distance turf , perfect early training for endurance as a 2nd career.
    IN GOD WE TRUST
    OTTB's ready to show/event/jumpers. Track ponies for perfect trail partners.
    http://www.horseville.com/php/search...=1&ssid=057680


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    There was a nice study done years ago looking at the cost of locomotion at different gaits. There is a sweet spot with each gait and going slower or faster causes an increase in the cost of locomotion. Left to their own devices, horses will usually change gait when it becomes more efficient to do so. So making a horse move in an extended trot vs easing to a canter probably cost more in energy use. This point might be different for different horses though, so one horse might be better off at the trot while at the same speed another will canter...


    Here's one picture representing this, there is a better one with actually measurements, but I can't find it right now

    http://royalsocietypublishing.org/co...2/F1.large.jpg

    dited to add: found the study I was looking for

    http://38.media.tumblr.com/a455ed07b...50dho1_500.png

    Looks like the transition point in this group of horses was ~4.5 m/s

    As far as breathing, at the canter, respiration is coupled with the gait. They can decouple, but it takes great effort. Sometime they will take one long two stride breath, or hold their breath, but in general it is one breath per stride. This helps the efficiency of breathing at the canter. At the trot, this does not happen.

    And here is a nice, more recent study on gait changes and cost of locomotion

    http://jeb.biologists.org/content/206/9/1557.full.pdf
    Last edited by foggybok; Aug. 19, 2014 at 11:00 PM.
    Turn off the computer and go ride!


    1 members found this post helpful.

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