In the equestrian world, there are many new terms to hear every day. For instance, have you ever asked yourself what is a Gaited horse? It is a name for Equidae that has a unique gait tact different from other horses.
The Gaited horse is good for traveling because of less up and down movements and higher endurance. Thanks to its unique technique, this horse provides a smooth and comfortable ride. Believe it or not, the way of accomplishing that technique is not learned but innate. Let’s take a look.
What Is a Gaited Horse?
Approximately 200 years ago, people knew of riding a horse as only one transportation way. These traveling animals had more stamina and could travel for a long distance. As you can guess, the ones with fewer up and down movements were more comfortable to ride, especially for longer paths.
The mutation gene allows some horses to synchronize independent leg movements since they always have one leg on the ground. Gaited horses follow the four-beat gait and transfers weight to the other legs that reduce energy waste while riding.
Following the pattern with the perfect synchronization makes this horse type smooth to ride without much stress for both the rider and animal.
Therefore, Gaited horses make the perfect choice for everyone. Even though people at any age can ride them, some previous riding experience is necessary. These animals are also an excellent option for people with joint problems.
Keep in mind that Gaited horse is not the fastest horse ever, but it won’t disappoint you with its speed either. It can run fast and reach 15 mph (24 km/h) on average.
Horse Walking Types
1. Natural gaits
There are numerous gait types, but four of them are standard and typical for every horse breed, including:
Although the horse walk can distinguish in pace and type, it is a universal four-beat gait typical for almost every breed. Each foot hits the ground in a unique pattern and independently.
The pattern is typical and can have two different beginning options:
right front-left, back-left, front-right back
right back-right, front-left, back-left front
While following this walking pattern, you can count one-two-three-four over and over again. The walk is known to be the slowest and most relaxed horse gait.
The trot is a two-stroke gait type while the horse moves its legs in crossed pairs. The off hind and near fore work together, followed by the opposite. This gait has many speed variations, and the pattern of this two-stroke gait can differ in two beginning options:
right-back and left front then left-back and right front
left-back and right fore then right back and left fore
The canter way of moving has many variations, but it is pretty universal for almost every horse breed. It is a relaxed three-stroke gait with even and regular rhythmic strides.
The pair of legs work simultaneously while the other two legs follow their pattern. This gait has two leads, right and left, and both have feet striking rules according to the leads.
The gallop appears to be a faster canter gait, but it is not because it stands to be a four-time stroke gait. Horse in gallop has a longer stride and achieves higher speeds than in canter gait.
The gallop also has its unique rhythm. Like in canter, gallop has two leads, and following leads have their unique footfall patterns with the moment of suspension. Gallop speeds can go for 40 to 48 mph (25 – 30 km/h).
2. Artificial gaits
Some gaits are characteristic of only a couple of horse breeds. They are considered artificial in the horsemanship world.
This way of moving is typical for a Tennessee Walking Horse. It is almost identical to a regular walk but with a higher performance speed and emphasis on hind legs. Hind legs can overstep front legs for more than 15 inches (38 cm) while the horse moves this way.
The characteristics of the pace movements are not much different than the trot. That is a faster two-stroke gait. The only difference is in speed and leg pairs. While performing the pace, the animal moves right fore and right hind while contributing weight to the left leg pair.
The slow gait (stepping pace) is unique for the five-gaited Saddlebred. It is a four-stroke gait that performs with a broken pace and is pretty the same as the pace gait but with a time difference.
Different foot landing and foot lifting time between the forefoot and the hindfoot on the same side is one second. The rider can feel a side-to-side hip movement due to an uneven four-stroke gait and the absence of the moment of suspension.
Ways to Recognize a Gaited Horse
It can be challenging for someone inexperienced to see the difference between the Gaited horse and the standard one, but the way they walk is actually pretty unique. The Gaited horse has an even rhythmic two-, three-, or four-stroke gait, while the other walks in the traditional way.
The easiest way to tell the difference between these two horse types is to take a closer look at their movements. The Gaited horse will indeed move a pair of legs simultaneously instead of crossed or parallel.
Each foot has its pattern and falling time, making an individual footfall. Hind legs are usually quicker than the fore ones, and they fall earlier.
The unique sitting position is also one of the crucial differences between these horses. Basically, you are positioned in the center while riding the Gaited horse while the action is everywhere around you.
Common Gaited Horses
Among the plenty of the Gaited horse breeds, the most common ones are:
The American Saddlebred is a horse breed that is not naturally gaited. It goes through different training methods to learn some gaits and perform them perfectly. This beautiful horse type finds its place in the five-gaited division since it performs a magnificent flashy slow gait.
With all the elegance and beauty, it is popular and loved among American Saddlebred fans. It can also perform a slow gait and rack, except for walking, cantering, and trotting.
The Paso Fino horse breed with Spanish origins is well-known for its smooth step. Even its name translated in English means soft step. Each of these animals successfully performs a very smooth and rhythmic step, which is the specialty it is born with.
This horse has a constant and independent leg movement evenly spaced and timed and three different gait speeds. Their four-stroke balanced gait gives almost a motionless ride due to its smoothness, no matter speed.
The Icelandic horse, unlike many other breeds, has five natural gaits. Besides walking, trotting, and cantering, this breed is famous for the tolt (single-footed pace) movements that attract many people.
Tolt is a four-stroke side gait with almost the same speed as the trot. The pace is a two-stroke side gait performed at high speeds.
The Icelandic horse is small and can’t jump that high to compete with other breeds, but it is actually an excellent show horse. This small and strong animal is a perfect riding choice, as well.
Tennessee Walking Horse
The Tennessee Walking horse has a unique and natural running walk with an average length. Covering the ground with rolling and lifting front stride and low and long back stride is the natural running walk for this horse breed.
These horses are always trained to stay calm and friendly, making them good show animals. Plus, their ideal show walk is very flashy and elegant.
Except for their running walk, they perform other walking types typical for the breed, including the rack, the pace, and the fox-trot. Many of these horses can reach high speeds in different gaits and are taught to do so without difficulties in handling.
The Peruvian Paso horses can be proud of their elegant and comfortable gaits. These active and energetic animals provide a very smooth ride and have good preferences for show and trail rides.
Their characteristic move called termino includes each foreleg swinging and forming a circle before stepping on the ground. This short performance can usually trigger and upset other horses around.
Unfortunately, joint and ligament injuries are typical for this breed because of their size. It is estimated that at least 5% of the Peruvian Paso horses have problems with these injuries at some point in life.
If you look for a calm, strong, and brave animal willing to work and cooperate, your perfect choice will be the Peruvian Paso horse. It can give you high speeds and smooth rides, but you need to keep its legs safe.
Some breeds have standard gaits, while others have unique ways of moving. The Gaited horse is a horse type known for its unusual gait. Although gaits can differ in speeds, leg moving patterns, and walking styles, you can always recognize this unique animal thanks to its independent leg movements.