The difference between a canter and a gallop lies in the footfalls. The canter is a three-beat gait with the outside hind being the "strike-off" leg, then a diagonal pair of footfalls landing at the same time, then the inside front leg landing before the moment of suspension.
The gallop has four beats while all four legs strike the ground separately. It also has a moment of suspension.
Race horses gallop at full speed on the track.
Our less speed-inclined horses probably rarely gallop, if at all. Most of the time, they canter bigger or faster. But in order to gallop, the footfalls actually have to change to 4 beats.
When I was younger, we had a "racing stretch" where my friends and I would head to for a fun run. It was a straight, flat quarter mile and the horses were all familiar with with the lay of the land. Some of my best memories are of the times spent on that racing stretch. We never forced the horses to run hard - just as fast as they wanted. Even then, I doubt that the horses really broke into a gallop. They just cantered merrily along until the end of the stretch and then we walked them out on the way back to the barn.
How about you? Have you ever galloped on a horse? Tell us about it in the comments below.
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