Thinking about what you are feeling and seeing is important but just as important is an what you are hearing as your horse moves.
Even a barefoot horse feet make a noise as he moves, so it is part of riding to tune into the sound as his feet hit the floor
Listening to your horses footfalls can tell you a lot about how they are moving.
The sound can tell you if your horse is maintaining a rhythm, whether he is syncopating-which is a bad thing as this means the footfalls are not even or regular, and syncopation indicates your horse is not even or balanced as he moves.
In walk you should be able to hear four clear even beats-but often you can hear two footfalls very close together-which is incorrect, and can be a sign of loss of balance or even be a sign of lameness.
I often hear incorrect beats as horses walk down a road (clipclop, clipclop—-there should be a separation. It should be clear and even clip–clop—cilp—clop—-) quite hard to explain in words!
In trot you can sometimes hear much more irregularity than you can in walk. No pause in footfalls-which is where the period of suspension should be, and often there is the sound of toes being scraped on the ground, which can be caused by the stifle being weak or compromised causing the horse being unable to flex at this joint and causing him to drag his toes.
It is not because “he is being lazy”. More often the horse is uncomfortable or weak.
Canter should be accompanied by not only three even beats but also by the horse blowing in time with the canter. The canter and breathing should be in sync (this is also true for the other gaits, but more noticeable at faster gaits like canter). A four beat canter is incorrect, however “nice” and comfortable that it might feel.
A four beat canter has to be strengthened and lengthened and not left to deteriorate.
When you ride next it is important to use all your senses to make sure your horse is working in balance and in rhythm.
Lessons can help you have a good overall perception of your horse, in fact it is one of the things I specialise in as I am teaching.
If you would like to discover more about how to read and listen into your horse and become more tuned in then lessons are available, I can travel to you, do 1-1 sessions or riding in a group is fun and useful. The cover Kent, Surrey, Essex and Sussex
Please do leave a message if you need more information.