Horses move their legs in different patterns, called gaits, depending on their speed. From slowest to fastest, they are:
A 4 beat pattern, averaging 6 km/h, in which the legs move forward one at a time, with the other three remaining on the ground. The sequence is:
A 2 beat pattern for speeds around 13 km/h. Legs move in alternating diagonal pairs.
At moderate speeds, between 16 and 27 km/h, horses take on a 3 beat pattern called a canter. There are 2 symmetrical canter patterns.
The fastest gait, at 40 to 48 km/h is the gallop, which follows a 4 beat pattern. In a gallop, the canter’s 2nd beat becomes 2 very closely spaced beats as the hind foot hits the ground just before the diagonal front foot.
All images courtesy of Equusite.com.