The paces of the horse are the walk, trot, canter, and gallop. There are other artificial paces, such as ambling, pacing, running, etc., but they are not usually recognised in this country.
Walking is, perhaps, the most important pace, and the one to which the riding horse should be trained carefully. A slow, bad walking, or jogging horse is most unpleasant in the saddle, and particularly on long journeys. Though the ordinary walking pace of a saddle-horse in this country is, perhaps, at the best, not more than four miles an hour, yet training may bring this up to five or six miles for short journeys.
This is a natural pace and requires no special training, though to develop and improve it needs tact, time, and patience, like so much else in horse management. It is begun to be taught with a light hand on the reins - just feeling the colt's mouth, and allowing his head ample liberty. He should never be allowed to break from the walk into a jog trot; if he does so, he ought to be pulled up at once to the walk - stopped, if need be, and made to begin the walk again. This tendency to break must be guarded against in every way, and therefore slow walking is best to commence with; when taught to understand that breaking is objectionable, then faster walking can be allowed. But it does not answer to keep the colt too long at walking lessons, and he may be trained to the trot at the same time, the two paces being adopted alternately; but the transition from one to the other should be clear and marked - walking a mile and trotting half-a-mile, changing from one to the other being brought about by the reins, or by the leg or spur, which should also be used to accelerate the speed of either pace. An hour of this tuition is enough at a time, and twice a day should be sufficient. When he understands how to walk, he must then be made to walk fast and true, without any breaking into the trot until required to do so. Months will be required to train a horse to walk well, but it is worth all the time and trouble, and youth is the best time to teach it.
The trot is taught rather differently to the walk. There are three kinds of trot - the jog-trot, true trot, and flying trot. The first is a most objectionable pace - no faster than a walk, and harassing to the rider, it should be discouraged; the second is the one most patronised and useful; and the third is the accelerated trot of the trotting matches. The true trot is the one to be taught for general utility.
The trot is generally commenced from the walk, and is begun by gathering up the reins, so as to feel the mouth more strongly and cause the colt to lift his fore limbs higher, bend his knees better, and bring the hind legs well forward under the body, in order to produce that free action which is not only pleasant to the eye, but desirable for the comfort of the rider. The bit keeps the animal together and in check, while the leg, heel, or spur incite him forward. He should lead off always with the right fore-leg, if possible, though some horses can never do this well with that limb, but naturally and most m 2 comfortably commences with the left. A lady's horse should lead with the right leg. The lesson, as in walking, should not be long nor fatiguing, and if trotting in a circle the direction must be reversed frequently.
Cantering is a slow gallop, the colt being urged from the walk or trot, and well restrained by the bit while being urged forward, the right fore-leg being the leading one. To make a horse lead with one or other fore-leg, the head is slightly bent round to the opposite side.
Galloping does not require any special training other than allowing the animal liberty to extend itself, while stimulating it to put forth its speed.
Leaping should, if possible, be taught when the colt is young, and without any kind of coercion or punishment. If commenced at two years old, when the colt is not yet saddled, the teaching should be begun by the animal wearing a cavesson, or a snaffle-bridle with a thin rope fastened to each end of the bit. In the latter case a man holds on each side by the rope, and a third follows with a whip. Very small jumps are attempted at first: boxes, rails, or sheep troughs placed in a row, then placed on each other, until from stepping over the colt has to jump. Small ditches should be led over in the same manner, and when they are readily taken, wider ones may be tried. In this way the colt will soon jump hurdles, banks, walls, and wide ditches, without hesitation, and even with pleasure, so long as the jumps are not too difficult at first - in fact, they ought to be particularly easy; but the obstacle to be jumped should always be something that will compel the animal to clear it well, else he will jump carelessly. He ought not to be allowed to feel slovenly, and success should be rewarded with encouraging words. Whatever he is desired to do should be done thoroughly and neatly.
Sometimes a ridden horse gives a lead over the jumps, the colt being led over in the cavesson, and the man behind with the whip inducing him to follow; but he should never be punished nor disgusted.
If the colt is sufficiently strong to be ridden, which is not often the case under three years old, and has been ridden, then the best way to train him to jump is to take him out to harriers or hounds, just to show him them; when he is accustomed to the sights and sounds, he might follow a lead in a small jump or two - the force of example is most potent, and a lead should always be given until proficiency has been attained. Common sense, firmness, and kindness, will soon effect wonders in teaching jumping; the object is to give the animal confidence in his ability, and rouse a spirit of emulation in him by giving him a lead, letting him get abreast with his leader, and allowing him to lead him after a time.
Refusing to jump, or "baulking," should, if persisted in, be met with punishment, but only on these occasions; while slovenly jumping should be corrected by making the colt go over something prickly, such as gorse, or a stone wall, a stiff wooden bar, or a felled tree.