The Gallop: Facts You Should Know About The Horse’s Fastest Gait


As you may already know, the gallop is the fastest gait that a horse is naturally able to perform. The gallop is incredibly fast and consists of four beats meaning that in one stride the horse’s feet hit the ground all at different times.

What Is The Gallop?

The gallop is the fastest of the four gaits that a horse can naturally perform. The gallop consists of four beats which basically means that the horse’s hooves all hit the ground at different times. In the gallop, horses are actually airborne for part of the stride. This occurs when all of the horse’s feet are off of the ground. The fastest gallop ever achieved by a horse was done by a Quarter Horse who reached the speed of a whopping 55 miles per hour (88 Kilometers per hour)!

How Can You Tell When A Horse Is Galloping?

There are a few different ways to tell if a horse is galloping rather than performing a different gait. The way to tell is by looking for these things:

Four Beat Stride

When a horse is galloping by, it is a really fast thing to see so counting the beats of the gait can be kind of hard. If you are able to count four beats in a single stride and the horse is moving at a nice clip, it is most likely that they are galloping.

Super Fast Speed

A dead gallop is an incredibly fast gait. The fastest gallop ever achieved was done by a Quarter Horse who remarkably reached the speed of 55 miles per hour! The fastest Thoroughbred racehorse alive today reached the speed of 44 miles per hour. This incredible speed is only able to be achieved at a gallop which is what makes the speed of travel one way to tell if a horse is galloping or performing another gait.

All Feet Are Airborne For A Portion Of A Stride

The gallop is a gait that, like the canter, consists of one part where all feet are airborne at one time. All the feet will be airborne underneath a horse for a portion of the stride.

You Can’t See If One Leg Is Leading

In the gallop, horses don’t have leading legs like they do at the canter. Because of this, if you can’t detect a lead and the horse is traveling at a fast speed, they are likely galloping.

How Fast Is The Gallop?

The fastest gallop ever achieved by a horse was done by a quarter horse who reached a top speed of 55 miles per hour (88 kilometers per hour).

Though this is the fastest gallop ever recorded, the average speed for a gallop is actually just around 25 to 35 miles per hour (40 to 55 kilometers per hour).

What Horse Breed Has The Fastest Gallop?

Most people think that the Thoroughbred is the fastest breed of horse because it is so popularly used for racing. this is actually not the case. The Quarter Horse is actually the fastest breed of horse by a long shot and over a short distance sprint race, the Quarter horse will always have the Thoroughbred beat.

Disciplines Done At The Gallop

There are a few riding disciplines that include galloping in them as the main gait that a horse will perform. Some of these disciplines include:

  • Cross Country
  • Barrel Racing
  • Pole Bending
  • Polo
  • Horse Racing

For the most part, all of these disciplines are competed only at the gallop or they at least include some galloping in them.

Is The Gallop Smooth Or Bumpy To Ride?

From my personal experience, the gallop is actually a pretty smooth gait. The horse moves so quickly under you that you don’t feel too much of anything other than a softer but quick rocking feeling.

The gallop is smooth enough to just sit down and ride it and you don’t need to worry about bouncing all over the place.

How Can You Easily Ride The Gallop?

To make the gallop a little easier to ride, I will sometimes stand for the gallop in a two-point position. This makes it a little bit easier to ride and reduces some of the strain on the horse’s back. You can sit the gallop without any issues as well though in many disciplines, especially in English riding, going into a two-point for the gallop is the most common thing seen.

Do You Sit Or Stand Up For The Gallop?

I personally will do both. If I am riding in an English saddle, I like to stand for the gallop as it is good practice for me to work on my two-pointing skills. If I am riding in a western saddle, I like to sit the gallop as the saddle is comfortable and the saddle horn makes it hard to go into the two-point.

Hailey Johnson

Horses have been my passion ever since I can remember. At school, I was known as that weird horse girl, and I would read horse encyclopedias for fun. Over the years since those days, I have only learned more. My experiences with horses of a variety of breeds have taught me a lot. Now I want to share what I know with you!

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