STILL SHOT COMPARISONS of Foxtrot vs. Diagonal and Show Gaits
Above are Three examples of the correct Foxtrot Gait, plus the original MFT Logo. See the horse is Walking in front and Trotting in rear. Left front hoof hits the ground before or at same time as right front hoof is picked up, preventing gravity taking over or "bounce". Because the horse is trotting with the rear end, it is common to have slight air time with the back feet, but this is minimal and only causes the tail and hips to bounce but the bounce should not be felt in the saddle, when gaiting correctly. All four hooves will hit the ground at different times, thus a 4 beat gait. This is a very smooth gait to ride. With each rear hoof hitting the ground the tail will bounce and send a flowing ripple down the tail hair. This rhythmic tail bounce will be in timing with the natural gentle nodding of the horse's head & you will often see the ripple in the tail is half way down the tail at the same time the original silhouette of the MFT horse is caught on still frame, as in the Black & White and Buckskin Photos above. (Note: Only the original "old style" foxtrot gait, which inspired the creation of this wonderful breed of horse can be caught in this pose and make the "chunk o' meat and two potatoes" rhythm.)
This horse's front extended leg is in the air, as is the rear forward leg, creating "bounce" as gravity takes over. This is a "long trot", a diagonal gait.
The black horse is doing a correct "old style" foxtrot. The right front is hitting the ground (in a walking motion) at the same time as the left front is being picked up and the rear legs are trotting. (In a video you'd see the tail's pronounced bounce and very smooth ride in the saddle.)
This gorgeous buckskin is doing a diagonal hard trot. Notice the air underneath both pairs of front and back feet, causing gravity to take over and the horse to bounce. In a foxtrot, as the fore front leg extends as this horse's right knee is, the left rear hock should just be passing the other hock, as below.
This pretty palomino, above, is doing a correct foxtrot in the "Old Style" or trail gait. Notice as the forward front legs reaches full extension it is close to the ground so will bear weight before the left front is picked up. Also, at the same time the left rear hock is just passing the other hock in a trotting motion.
This handsome Palomino and Gray are both doing a correct foxtrot motion, but in a modern show style. They are walking in the front and trotting in the rear end, but their exaggerated head nod and stride cause them to have air time under their feet, causing "bounce". Notice that as the rear hock passes the other the front forward knee is not quite extended fully and is above the ground far enough it will have to fall downwards after full extension, thus gravity makes the horse bouncy. If the horse has too much air time, or falling time in the rear as well then it will be very rough to ride...like the show video on previous page. Animation (which includes exaggerated stride & pronounced head bobbing) causes the horse's shoulder to be lifted too high and the hoof then has to fall back to the ground. In the extra time this takes, the left front will already be picked up and starting to move forward to it's predetermined landing spot...so if the right front goes in a hole, stumbles on a rock or bush etc. then the left leg will often be unable to catch the horse and prevent a fall, unless the horse is extremely athletic and can change it's hoof's destination...(much like an arrow that's already shot from a bow!) With the less animated, correct foxtrot, the right hoof will begin to bear weight prior to the left being picked up... so if stumbling does occur with the hoof setting down the other is immediately picked up in a manner to compensate for the stumble, thus the "surefooted" reputation of the original old style foxtrot gait! Old Style smooth gaits also prevent many stumbles that show horses have as well, because they don't have their heads pulled way up in the air each stride to create head shake, and thus they can see sticks and stones and other obstacles and step over them. :)
This silhouette patchwork & official MFTHBA Logo show the foxtrot gait that trail riders worldwide have come to love and that was the original main focus of the foundation of the MFT breed. The horse is walking in front, trotting in back and right feet are put on the ground before the left feet are picked up, thus preventing "bouncing" of the rider. When a horse is doing this gait you will see a pronounced ripple running down the tail in timing with each of the rear hooves hitting the ground, which is the easiest and first sign to look for in determining a foxtrot gait. Through the years, the board of directors have voted, several different times, to change the "official description" of the foxtrot gait to more closely follow the popular show trends. Unfortunately, this has in some ways decreased the popularity of the breed for those who want a smooth ride, but there are also many breeders that still focus on breeding true to the foundation ideals of the wonderful Foxtrotting Horse!
To show an example of gaits changing over the years, or evolving you could say, here are the official definitions of the "Fox Trot Gait" from 1970 and from 2012:
"The fox trot is a 4 beat mostly diagonal gait performed in a syncopated rhythm at the rate of 7-8 miles per hour. The progression of the feet is: left front, right rear, right front, left rear. The horse actually walks with the front feet and trots with the rear feet. The horse moves in a very relaxed manner, with the head nodding and the tail bobbing in rhythm to the gait... As he picks up the left foot, the weight of the horse is distributed across his back and loins; and a split second before he slips the left rear foot into the left front foot track, he shifts the weight to the front withers and chest causing almost a lunge in slow motion. This puts the rear foot into place a split second later allowing it to slip weightless into place, so no jolt is felt by the rider as is felt in a trot. As the horse picks up the right rear leg, he will throw the leg back and then break at the hock as he draws up the rear leg to place it in the track of the right front foot. this motion adds to the syncopation or hesitation of the gait and is another difference between the running walk, as well as the running walk being where the horse is walking with the rear feet and trotting with the front feet, just the opposite of the fox trot. Additionally, when fox trotting, the head, in accompaniment to the shifting of weight, will rise as the weight is in the hind quarters and fall as the weight comes forward to the withers and shoulders. This gives the relaxed nod and the tail bobs in time with each rear hoof striking the ground and weight in the rear quarters. The horse doing this relaxed gait properly, travels with his feet well under his body and can travel many miles without tiring. He is very sure footed with a gentle disposition, which makes him a real pleasure to ride." - The Fox Trot 1970
"The fox trot is a broken diagonal gait with a distinctive rhythm that is created by the horse moving its front foot a split second before its opposite rear foot. The fox trot is a smooth gait because the horse is in contact with the ground at all times. A horse that is fox trotting correctly will never have more than two feet off the ground at any given time. On both the front and back ends, the horse will set one foot down as it picks the other foot up and for a moment both feet will be touching the ground. The exceptional rhythm of the fox trotting horse begins at the tip of the nose with the characteristic headshake and continues back through the ripple of the tail. The diagonal nature of the gait is also what makes the Missouri Fox Trotter extremely sure-footed." - The Fox Trot 2014
There have been numerous changes to the DEFINITION of the gaits through the years, and each change in the definition causes people to try and change their horses movement to match it, thus the evolution of gait. One sad example is was during the early 2000's the MFTHBA board voted to add the words, "as much head nod as possible..." to the description of how much the head should bob with each stride. This resulted in numerous horses being trained with surgical tubing running from their head to their rear feet and riders pumping harshly on the bit to elevate their heads, all to create a huge head bobbing horse. This exaggeration was not only unnatural, but it greatly decreased the relaxation, smoothness, surefootedness, balance and beauty of the horses doing it. This phrase has since been deleted from the definition of the fox trot gait, but it made a big impact on the show ring and you will still see many riders trying to get their horses to do an exaggerated head bob, rather than the nice gentle nod in timing with each stride, as it was intended originally.
In 1948 the fox trot gait was simply defined this way: "The fox trot is a predominantly diagonal, 4 beat gait, where the horse walks with its front feet and trots with its rear feet, always setting down each left foot before lifting the right foot and vise versa. This prevents gravity from making the horse bounce and gives the rider a smooth, sure footed ride. The opposing rear hoof strikes the ground soon after the opposite fore foot. The sound of the fox trot gait rhythm can be heard as, "a chunk of meat and two potatoes." The head gently nods and tail bobs in rhythm with the gait in a natural flowing motion from tip of nose to end of tail."
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