Definitions

hind leg

Lead (leg)

In the context of a quadruped that is cantering, galloping, or leaping, lead refers to which leg (or which foreleg), left or right, leads or advances more. The foot on the leading leg touches the ground after and forward of its partner. On the "left lead", the animal's left leg leads. The choice of lead is of special interest in horse riding.

In a transverse or lateral or united canter and gallop, the hind leg on the same side as the leading foreleg (the lateral hindleg) advances more. In horses this is the norm.

In a rotatory or diagonal or disunited canter and gallop, the hind leg on the opposite side (the diagonal hindleg) advances more. It is also known as rotary and round galloping, and as moving disunited, cross-firing, and cross-cantering. In dogs, deer, and elk, among others, this gait is the norm.

Some authorities define the leading leg as the last to leave the ground before the one or two periods of suspension within each stride. Because the canter has only one moment of suspension, the leading leg necessarily is a foreleg. Because in some animals the gallop has two moments of suspension, some authorities recognize a lead in each pair of legs, fore and hind. Hence references to the rotatory gait as disunited.

History

Eadweard Muybridge illustrated both rotatory and transverse canters but did not stress the difference of lead.

Comparison of transverse and rotatory gaits

These tables outline the sequence of footfalls (beats) in the canter and gallop, the animal on the right lead.

Canter

Stride Transverse Rotatory
Footfall 1 Left hind Right hind
Footfall 2 Left fore and right hind Left fore and left hind
Footfall 3 Right fore Right fore
Suspension

Gallop

Stride Transverse Rotatory
Footfall 1 Left hind Right hind
Footfall 2 Right hind Left hind
Suspension (in some animals)
Footfall 3 Left fore Left fore
Footfall 4 Right fore Right fore
Suspension

Usage in horse sports

Counter canter

The counter-canter is a movement in which the animal travels a curved path on the outside lead. For example, while on a circle to the left, the horse is on the right lead. When performing a counter-canter, the horse is slightly bent in the direction of the leading legs.

The counter-canter is primarily used as a training movement, improving balance, straightness, and attention to the aids. It is used as a stepping-stone to the flying lead change. It is also a movement asked for in upper level dressage tests.

Most riders begin asking for the counter-canter by riding through a corner on the inside lead, then performing a very shallow loop on the long side of the arena, returning back to the track in counter-canter. As the horse becomes better at the exercise, the rider may then make the loop deeper, and finally perform a 20-meter circle in counter-canter.

In polo, the counter canter is often used in anticipation of a sudden change of direction. For example, the horse travels a large arc to the right while staying on the left lead, then suddenly turns sharply to the left with a burst of speed and on the correct lead.

Rotatory canter and gallop

In the rotatory gait, the horse balances in beat two on both legs on one side of its body, and in beats one and three on the other side. This produces a distinctive rotary motion in the rider's seat. For the majority of horses and riders this rotary motion is awkward, unbalanced and could be dangerous.

In equestrian disciplines in which gait is judged, the rotatory canter (there often called disunited canter) is considered a fault and penalized. However, in horse racing, the rotatory gallop (there often called round gallop) not only is common at the start of races but also is about 5 miles per hour faster than the transverse gallop.

See also

External links

References

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