EFFICIENCY OF TROT VERSUS CANTER
The question of whether
a fast trot is better for endurance than allowing the horse to break into
a canter has been asked on the chat site & is an interesting one.
From the point of view of efficiency of energy utilisation, a critical
factor for endurance horses so that they don't "run out of gas",
there does occur a point at which it is better to "change gears"
into a canter than continue to ask your horse for an extended trot.
To maintain a huge
trot is unnatural for most horses & although many endurance horses
are very good at it, there are some disadvantages. Firstly, efficiency
of energy use, as measured by the amount of oxygen required to maintain
a certain speed - this has been measured & the following graphs clearly
show the points where it is better to "change up a gear" rather
than go faster by using "greater revs", just like in your vehicle.
In that experiment, a canter became more efficient than going faster at
a trot at about 4.5 meters per second (16.2 kph), which is still a fairly
The other benefit
of the canter at higher speeds is the efficiency of breathing, as the
sliding of the abdominal viscera (guts) backwards & forwards acts
like a piston on the diaphragm & does the breathing for the horse,
without it spending extra energy to do that. You will notice your horse
breathing in time with its stride at the canter because of this "visceral
Another benefit of
the canter is reduced concussion on the musculo-skeletal system, because
of the longer period of suspension between foot falls.
The other factors
to be considered are comfort for the rider and often therefore for the
horse if you are not a proficient rider, bouncing around at a fast trot
will require your horse to use more energy. The potential concussive effect
on the musculo-skeletal system of the back by the rider at the trot versus
the canter also has to be considered and may aggravate saddle fit problems.
from the biomechanical point of view is the side to side "screwing"
effect on the pelvis caused by a huge trot, when one hind leg is fully
extended backwards while the other hind leg is fully extend forwards.
This causes more stress on the pelvis/spine attachments than does the
more natural "rocking" motion invoked by a canter. So called
sacro-iliac problems are seen in Standardbreds (trotters & pacers)
and rarely in Thoroughbreds.
And don't forget,
as a general principle even with "normal" trotting, continually
change diagonals to avoid over using one set of muscles & even in
some cases probably contributing to that rather interesting phenomenon
that we see not uncommonly in endurance horses, the unilateral (one side
only) tie up - quite amazing! Just another illustration of how much we
have yet to learn about what causes the condition. And while we're on
the topic, similarly with cantering, frequent lead changes are a must.
So when you're out
on track, either enjoying the countryside, going for it, or both, do what
suits you & your horse up to a point, but don't get carried away thinking
that a huge trot is just the best thing!
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