Gaited Horse Training

What is a Gaited Horse

What is a gaited horse? That question is hard to answer; almost everyone will have a different opinion about what their horse's gait is called and where the head position should be. Here are some basic principles and guidelines that apply to most gaited horses.

A gaited horse is one that has not only the gaits (or paces) of the walk, the trot (or the pace), and the canter, but also a gait that is in between the walk and the trot or pace. This other gait is often a 4-beat-gait that is smoother than a trot or pace, but it can be just as fast. This gait, as we call it, is the main characteristic of the Gaited Horse.

Here is a list of the most common breeds of gaited horses:
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Rocky Mountain Horse
  • Missouri Foxtrotter
  • Paso Fino
  • Icelandic Horse

There are, of course, other less well know breeds, but these are the ones that you will likely hear the most about. There is also the Standardbred horse that has sometimes been called a gaited horse; I believe that this is mostly because this breed paces, which can be referred to as a "gait."

While there are many breeds of gaited horse, the one thing that is consistent is the natural ability to give a smooth, four-beat gait. This would seem to be the main requirement of a "gaited horse." Of course, there are certain standards within each breed that dictate there specific qualities, but mostly, they must gait a certain way.

The rack is an even four-beat gait. Its footfalls are left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore. There should be an even about of time between each footfall. It should sound like: pucka, pucka, pucka, pucka. To be smooth, there should be an even about of time between each footfall. The footfalls are the same sequence as the walk. This is what makes such a smooth ride. The rack turns into a Stepping Pace when two of the horse's legs on one side hit almost at the same time; the hind just before the fore. This is still a gait, but there is not an even amount of time between footfalls, therefore, it is not usually as smooth. The stepping pace sounds like: puck puck; puck puck.




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Gaited Horse

A "Gaited" horse is one which performs any of the four-beat natural gaits in place of or in addition to the trot or pace. These gaits are the stepping pace, the rack, the running walk, saddle, single-foot, and the fox-trot.

A horse that performs a foot fall pattern outside the normal walk, trot/jog, canter/lope sequence is said to be gaited. A horse that single foots, ambles, paces, tolts, does a running walk, or a rack is ‘gaiting’.

The "Pace"

The pace is when two legs on one side of the horse hit the ground together. It is called a lateral type of gait. It sounds just like the trot. It can be, and often is, as bumpy as the trot. It is often desired on buggy horses where the land is flat as they can go farther and faster than a horse that trot. However, a pacey horse is not desired where there are hills because they do not have the strength to pace up the hills.

The "Stepping Pace"

The stepping pace is half way between a pace and an even 4-beat gait.  It is usually a little smooth when slow, but with any speed, it gets very bumpy.  A lot of horses will do this uncomfortable gait, with their riders thinking this is a smooth "gait." 

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