Did we always know a horse’s 4 hooves were simultaneously off the ground at a trot and a gallop? NO.
In 1872, Leland Stanford – a former California governor, businessman and race horse owner hired photographer Eadward Muybridge. Stanford believed in the position of “unsupported transit” which meant that at both the trot and the gallop, there was a point in the stride when no hoof was on the ground. Muybridge settled the question with a single image showing Stanford’s Standardbred-trotting horse airborne at the trot.
Muybridge continued his studies and improved his equipment to have faster shutter speeds and emulsions so the photos could capture action more clearly.
In 1878, Muybridge performed a now famous experiment. With several cameras alongside the track and trip threads he captured 24 images of Kentucky-bred mare, Sallie Gardner, at a gallop. While the images supported the unsupported transit theory many were surprised to find that the point when all feet left the ground was not when the legs were stretched out to the front and back, as imagined by most illustrators at the time. Instead all four hooves were seen to leave the ground at the point between strides, while the legs are gathered beneath the body before they reach out to take the next stride.
Galloping horse, animated in 2006, using photos by Eadweard Muybridge