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The thrill of the flying pace.
Seimur from Víðivellir fremri.
The pace is a two-beat lateral gait in which the pairs of legs on the same side move together, and there is a clear moment of suspension. This is a fast gait used for racing over short distances, and the horses can reach 30mph.


Pace, very simply put, is 4 footfalls,
        1.  The horse steps in both right legs at the same time
        2.  The horse flyes, does not touch the ground, is suspended.
        3.  The horse steps in both left legs at the same time
        4.  The horse flyes, does not touch the ground, is suspended.
And then the footfalls repeat themselves.

But this is just the simple version.  Some icelandics do not manage the true pace, thus doing a slower pace that is often called piggy-pace, and that is exactly this footfall.  It is usually uncomfortable to sit on, you are thrown from side to side.  Also, when an untrained eye and ear looks at the true pace, these are the footfall the person sees and hears, the beat is just dagg-dagg-dagg-dagg-dagg very clear two-beat.
    But, if a horse that goes fast at pace does just this, it is usually in danger of not managing the pace, and going from pace to cross-canter.
    So, a good pacer (and most pacers at competition level) is a tiny bit 4-beat in the pace, thus having 8 footfalls.  These are the best pacers. But if the 4-beat is clear enough to be heard, the horse gets low score in competition, or even no score, as he is then considered doing pacy tolt.

    The footfall of a 4-beat pace:
    1.  The horse steps in left hind foot.
    2.  The horse steps in both left feet at the same time.
    3.  The horse steps in left front foot.
    4.  Suspension.
    5.  The horse steps in right hind foot.
    6.  The horse steps in both right feet at the same time.
    7.  The horse steps in right front foot.
    8.  Suspension.

    And then the steps 1-8 repeat themselves (if the rider and horse are good enough : )

Riding the flying pace.

The clues for riding the flying pace seem rather simple, but are in fact among the most difficult things a rider can do.  The horse simply has to be ridden long, stretched forward.  But doing this is complicated as the clues have to be done fast and precise, and if they're not done right, the horse doesn't repond as it was meant to do.  It is also important to have a certain "feeling" towards to what you want to do.  The best way to get this feeling is to ride as many horses as possible, horses that are easy to pace.

    You can get the horse to pace in two ways, either by riding tolt, and then allowing the horse to stretch forward into the pace, or by cantering the horse and then doing the pace.

    You are in greater danger of ruining the tolt (making it pacy) by doing the pace by allowing the horse to stretch from the tolt.

    Either way, the horse has to be allowed to strecth, and it has to be urged forward with the seat, the legs and the voice.

    You give a clue with one of the reins, shorten it and give it again.  When clueing with the reins, you have to take the rein and give it again, the clue has to be quick and short.  Do not hang on the reins.  Do not jerk on the reins.  An instant after the clue with the rein, urge the horse forward with your feet, the seat and the voice.

    To make the transition clearer to the horse, it can help to sit lightly (stand in the stirrups) while cantering, then sitting smootly down as you clue for pace.

    Find the side which is easier for the horse to pace from, that is, the side which you give the clue with the rein on.  It is best to pace from the lead which the horse is cantering on, that is, if the horse is doing a right canter, give the clue on the right rein.  Usually one side of a horse is stronger than the other.  If the right side is stronger, the horse wants to go into right canter, and then you clue the right side, and vice versa.  The other rein is held rather neutral but with contact, not too loose, not too tight.

    To be sure which lead the horse is cantering on, it is often good to do the canter/pace transition in the corner of a track, just as you enter the straight side.  Make sure you are choosing the lead which the horse prefers.

    When the rider feels that the horse begins the sideways pace movements, the rider holds the hands/reins rather low.  If the rider feels the horse beginning movements that are nearer to canter, the rider has to give the rein-clues untill the balance comes again.  If the rider doesn't respond to those canter-movements, the pace soon becomes more irregular untill the pace changes totally into canter, usually cross-canter.

    Very often it helps the horse to sit a tiny bit heavier on the opposite seatbone to the clueing rein.  That is, if the horse does right canter, you give a clue with the right hand, and move your weight a tiny bit to the left (take care, no exaggarations).  Usually it also helps to sit a tiny bit behind the usual place in the saddle, that is, you move your seatbones a bit backwards.  But to keep a good balance and follow the movements of the horse well, it also helps to lean a tiny bit forward at the same time.  This sounds very comfusing, but it helps to study wery well pictures of riders doing the flying pace, how they balance their weight in this weird way.  Holding tight with your knees (not nessesarily the lower leg) at the same time also helps you to keep this position, and free the movements of the horse's back at the same time.

    When slowing the horse down after the pace, try to slow down to tolt or even trot, and then walk.  Try as hard as you can to prevent the pace-ride ending in canter.

Common faults in riding the flying pace are:
The rider hurries too much.
The rider uses too coarse clues.
The rider hangs on the reins.
The horse is pacing, but the rider keeps on clueing, thus disturbing the horse.
The rider doesn't encourage the horse enough, so it slows down.
The rider glides too much forward in the saddle, or gets left behind (balance comes with practising).

Training the flying pace.
Not all horses are good pacers.  Many horses are 4-gaited, and have no hope of pacing.  Other horses want to pace all the time (pig-pacers) and they are rarely good pacers, as they don't take big enough steps or have the nessesary tendency for 4-beat in the pace.

    All horses that are ridden in pace and like it, are thinking very often about it.  They get "heavier" on the reins and do more pace-like tölt. Usually it's best to ride pace SELDOM. When you for example start riding the horse after the autumn break, ride it in tölt and trot only (if you ride 3-5 times per week) for the first ca. 3months. Then try pace once in a while, for example once a week. Usually its best to let the horse pace always on the same place in the riding tours. Then the horse knows that on other places it should go in some other gait than pace, and the pshycological problem of wanting to pace, mostly or only occurs on that spot. Most horses need to be well stabilized in tölt and trot until they are mature for the pace. Often horses are shown pacing on shows as early as 4 years old, but that usually means troubles later in keeping all the gaits good. Do not start letting your horse pace until 6-7 years old (preferably older), then he will stand on better grounds to tölt clean in the future.
    The flying pace is very difficult and the horse needs to be strong and have stamina to endure it.  It is good that the horse has good stamina, and is ridden a lot (a bit long tours) on a relaxed, medium-speed tolt with a clean beat.
    A paceracer should be trained so that he can go relaxed and with good carriage in all gaits, in a rather clean beat.  Exersises like stopping, backing and sidestepping are good (exessive dressage-training does not do much good though).

    It is good for a paceracer to be paced for a short distance, and after that, be allowed to relaxed in a relaxed ride.  It is also good to ride a bit long stretches in relaxed canter, both left and right canter.

    You want the horse to be neither stressed nor lazy, keep that in mind all the time when training it, that it does neither turn into a bundle of nerves nor fall asleep.

In short:
    When training pace, pace seldom (so the horse doesn't get bored or filled with anxiety), short distances (30-50 metres, that is 90-150 feet), and not too fast (to make it less likely that the rider looses the horse into canter).
    It is enough to pace 1-2 times per week, not every time you ride the horse.
    Do not train the horse in pig-pace.

    Put some protective boots on the front legs of the horse before pacing, or it can hurt itself seriously, and even doesn't want to pace ever again.

 In a good frame at the flying pace.
Kalsi from Laugarvatn.

Faults in pace and what to do:
Tension, anxiety in the horse.  Do not train pace much, give the horse a time off, or ride it relaxed and for long distances.
The horse is too lazy.  Ride short rides, keep the horse awake while riding it, ride a lot in tolt (not trot or canter).  Pace seldom.  Ride in a group or ponying a horse.  Do not make the horse tired.
The pace has too much two-beat.  Use heavier shoes on the front feet, and try to let the horse carry itself with a bit more raised neck.  Use boots as weights if nessesary.
The pace has too much four-beat.  Use lighter shoes on the front feet, and try to let the horse carry itself with a bit lower neck (stretching more forward).  Use light protective boots, so they don't make the pace more four-beat.
 The pace is mixed with canter (rolling).  Give short clues with one rein, but when rolling stops, carry the reins low and still again.
The horse doesn't want to start pacing. Ride longer in relaxed canter, and begin the pace from slow canter.
The hind legs hit the front legs.  When the hind feet are shoed, have the inner heel of the hind legs a bit lower (cut it more) than the outer heel.  Ride the horse with protective boots.
You are showing, but the horse doesn't pace to the end of the 250 metres, then it slows down. Wait, train the horse more, pace for short distances, take care that a horse that doesn't have enough stamina because lack of training or young age can get bored and disgusted by the whole idea of pace.

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