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Hey Bob, can you tell me the difference between a trotted horse and one that paces? Are they different in the ride? I understand what the trot is but I'm not sure about the pace....

-- S. L.

Major Law -- an early 20th century trotting horse in a harness race ANSWER:

A trotter has a "diagonal" gait -- in other words, the left fore leg moves in tandem with the right hind leg; and the right fore leg with the left hind. Look at the photo at the right and you'll see what I mean.

Although the trot is one of the horse's natural gaits, it takes a lot of training to keep a horse from breaking into a gallop or canter at high speed. Trainers will often use a system of straps and pulleys to keep the diagonal legs moving in unison.

Several years ago, the Walt Disney studio produced a "based on a true story" film, called The Tattooed Police Horse, about a trotter that just couldn't seem to maintain the correct gait -- until one fateful day when.... Hey, it's one of those shows from the days back when they made good, clean family films, and they still show it from time to time on the cable channel. Watch for it.

Dan S. -- an early 20th century pacer in a harness raceA pacer, on the other hand, has a "lateral" gait -- the right legs move together and the left legs move together. (This side-to-side motion is why pacers are sometimes called "sidewheelers.") Sets of plastic loops, called "hobbles" are used in training a pacer to keep the legs on each side synchronized.

Among harness racers, pacers have the faster gait and outnumber trotters on the tracks by about four to one.

If a trotter or pacer "breaks" into a canter or gallop during a race, it must be pulled back to its correct gait and lose ground to its competitors -- or else be disqualified.

Under saddle, a trot has a pronounced up-and-down motion as opposed to the side-to-side motion of the pace. As a Saddlebred, one of Willy's natural gaits was the pace, which I personally found to be much more choppy and difficult to ride than the trot. ...But that might just be me.

(Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress.)

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