Welcome to The Gaited Horse!
This site is for Gaited Horse enthusiasts with informative articles and calendar events. If you have a story to share, please email us.
A Comprehensive Guide to the Gaited Horse
The movement of a horse is often referred to as the gait. While there are different gaits or speeds that horses move, there is also a distinction between gaited and non-gaited horses. Here is your comprehensive guide to the gaited horse.
What Is a Gaited Horse?
Depending on which horse experts you ask, each may have a different explanation of what constitutes a gaited horse. Gait is the term used to describe the motion a horse uses when they move. There are various gaits inherent to certain types of horses as well.
The trot is the motion common type of gait. In a trot, the horse moves a front foot at the same time they move a rear foot. There is a natural jarring sensation experienced by a rider on all non-gaited breeds.
As the horse freefalls from a point where two feet are off the ground simultaneously, this is what causes the jar. There is a rise and fall as the horse transfers from one trot step to another. However, a gaited horse will not produce this freefall phase.
The gaited horse will have a break in the trot motion that keeps one foot in contact with the ground at all times. This type of motion helps level out the riding motion, since the horse will be supported by at least one foot at all times.
A gaited horse will also be trained to perform more intricate moves beyond the four that are deemed common horse movements. The walk, canter, gallop and trot are the four types of movements associated with most horse breeds. Each of these can generate different speeds.
A gaited horse is one that completes each of the four common gaits, often with distinct variations of each. However, there are other unique movements that are frequently used to distinguish between a gaited and non-gaited horse.
The single defining difference is that a gaited horse will have at least one foot in contact with the ground at all times. Gaited horses produce a smoother ride without the jarring of non-gaited horses.
Gaited Horse Movements
There are a series of special movements that are what we use to make the final distinction between gaited and non-gaited horses. It's these unique patterns of motion that make a true gaited horse.
Certain breeds are inherently prone to perform some of these moves easier than others. Owners who know ahead of time what gaits they want their horse to perform will often prefer these specific breeds. Here are some unique gaits a non-gaited horse will most likely be unable to perform.
- Running Walk - The running walk looks a lot like the normal walking motion of a horse. However, it is done at a much quicker pace. A gaited horse that can perform this move will overstep the freefall of the front feet. This is called overtracking. The more pronounced the overtrack, the smoother the gait.
- Pace - The pace is very similar to the trot. It is a two-beat gait where each leg of the horse moves simultaneously. However, the lateral pairs of legs will move together, creating a smoother motion than a standard trotting gait.
- Flying Pace - The pace motion can be more difficult on riders. However, there are breeds such as the Icelandic that increase the pace speed with an even smoother glide. This faster pace is very similar to a full gallop for speed.
- Rack - This gait is frequently referred to as the single-foot gait. Each of the horse's feet will touch the ground individually and for equal intervals. This is another move inherent to Icelandic horses, plus to a specific breed called Racking horses.
- Fox-trot - This is another gait with a trademark four-beat movement. It resembles the standard trotting motion, but the forward legs land slightly prior to the hind leg hitting the ground. This is different from the standard trot where the horse's legs land at the same time.
Gaited Horse Breeds
Certain breeds of horses have an inherent ability to perform certain gaits easier than others. These abilities are usually handed down genetically. While they are often prone to certain gaits, they still may require special training to perfect the movement.
Out of over 350 breeds, only about 30 are noted as naturally gaited. Here are some of the better gaited horse breeds.
- Icelandic - This is a horse which is known for its sure-footed movements. These horses are a pleasure to ride because of their notoriously smooth gait. Icelandic horses are excellent for riding rough terrain. They also are one of the naturally gaited horses that seem more adept at different types of gaits.
- Tennessee Walking Horse - This gaited horse is especially adept at the fox-trot. It has a smooth motion is one of the more popular horses in North America. A Tennessee Walking Horse will commonly have a calm manner and produce a gentle ride.
- Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse - The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is another gaited horse that is known for an exceptionally gentle ride. They have an equally docile disposition as the Tennessee Walking Horse. This horse naturally produces a four-beat gait referred to as an amble or rack.
- American Saddlebred - The last horse on our list of common naturally gaited horses is one you may see in parades. The American Saddlebred is beloved for its smooth gait and vividly strong stature. It is a very popular horse for work types of environments such as mounted law enforcement.
These are four of the roughly 30 breeds that are considered naturally gaited. Most will still require some specific training, but they will inherently have the necessary characteristics to produce the desired smooth ride of a gaited horse. There are a number of unique gaits that show horses' exhibit.
Each of these gaits is usually a beat or step version of one of the more basic movements. While there will always be some debate about what constitutes a gaited horse, you can follow this comprehensive guide to understand what makes a naturally authentic gaited horse.