What is a Racking Horse? (Origin, Color, Body Structure & Gait)

As your interest in horses keeps on growing, do you ever wish to own a horse that is strong and beautiful? Well, the racking horse breed is what will match your needs. So, we will explain what a racking horse is, its history, characteristics, and how to train your horse to be like the racking breed.

This horse is also known for its smooth single-foot gait (the rack) and calmness. If you are riding for long distances, a racking horse would be of great comfort.

But what does a racking horse mean? We’ll start with a short description of a racking horse.

What is the Meaning of a Racking Horse?

A racking horse is a type of breed known for being strong, gentle, and beautiful. The strength comes from its single-foot gait that is unique from other horse breeds. It’s a single-foot gait because it only steps one foot at a time on the ground.

Expect the racking horse to have good trotting ability and pace because of the gait. Also, its other name is the RH.

Origin of Racking Horse

RHs became popular in the deeper parts of South America. It was before the civil war.

People on the farms learned that one could ride the RH for long because of its gait. Farmers bred these horses to keep their intellect, strength, and calmness. Also, the horses could carry people while being calm for many hours and at a natural speed.

Early in the 1800s, RHs became popular in some farming shows of South America. You could get them in small horse shows. Remember, the RHs didn’t have any group to protect them.

Together with other business people in Alabama, Joe D. Bright chose to name the horse as a new breed in the 1960s. So, on 1971 May 23rd, the Racking Horse Breeders Association of America came into place to register the horse as a new breed.

Also, the group protects and sells the unique breed of horses. From 1971 onwards, the RH Breeders Association grew very fast because people fell in love with what they did with the racking horses. Up to now, USDA recognizes the association.

But why the name “racking horse”? The name racking during that time meant a single-foot. So, it didn’t mean that the horse came from a specific place.

What are the Characteristics of a Racking Horse?

What are the Characteristics of a Racking Horse

Whether you are a professional, trainer, or beginner in horse racing, it will be easy for you to know that this is a racking horse. Its features are close to the Tennessee walking horse from Northern America. So, here are the characteristics unique to the racking horse.


As lovely as they look, the RHs have many colors. So, expect their coats to be in black, brown, gray, bay, chestnut, pinto (has spots), sorrel, and palomino. These colors match the interest of many people who focus much on looks.

Be sure to easily find racking horses with black, chestnut, bay, and gray colors. You will get horses with sorrel in some shows but not as ordinary as the black ones.

Palomino is not very common but not rare. The racking horses with pinto or spots come as a result of the mixing of genes. Remember, the association registers RHs with this color as Spotted Saddles.

Also, there are racking horses in a roan coat. Remember, the Racking Horse Breed registry accepts all these coat colors.

Body Structure

Racking horses have a strong body conformation. So, their physical fitness makes them light to ride.

The horses have a height of at least 15.2 hands high. You will find that the mares as smaller than stallions that are 16 hands, and some are even higher. It’s their height that makes them fit for the show ring and trail.

These horses weigh 1000 pounds which is 453.59 kgs. Also, you will notice a graceful appearance the first time you look at it. You can’t deny the beauty in these horses.

What about the structure of the body parts? The horses have a neck longer than that of other breeds. Are their shoulders and croup different from other horses? Yes, they are slopy with a musculature look.

Their legs are not slim but are muscular with a strong bone appearance. Also, the hooves are solid and large enough to withstand the power of the single-foot step.


What of the gait? Their single-foot movement (racking) is a smooth one, and it comes from the proper breeding.

So, their movement has lateral ignition, an equal set down, and a four-beat gait with a good speed. If you ride at full speed, racking horses can go up to 30 miles in an hour. Also, while at a smooth pace, they move at 8 miles per hour.

But how do they go this fast? Most racking horses do the ambling gaits instead of trotting. Remember, they focus on being prompt and correct rather than just elevating their legs.


If you happen to own or meet a racking horse, expect it to have good discipline. Expect this breed to be friendly, loving, and gentle to you. It’s what makes people fall in love with them besides their beauty.

Also, in individual features, some horses can be more active. These horses enjoy your company, and thus riding with them will be fun.

How to Train a Horse to Rack

How to Train a Horse to Rack

Racking is a feature that many people want to see in their horses. However, not every horse is born with the racking ability.

If your horse doesn’t have this skill, you can train it to gain it. So, below are the tips to remember before you begin to make your horse develop the ability to rack.

  • Not every horse can rack even with training. So, if you follow the steps without getting any success, know your horse can’t own this skill. Talk to a professional breeder to help you understand if your horse can sustain the ambling gaits.
  • Train your horse to start racking while it’s still young the moment you introduce it to riding. Remember, it’s also not hard to train an adult horse to adapt to the skill.
  • Use the correct equipment like the reins to train your horse to rack.
  • Ensure you train your horse under the guidance of a good trainer. It’s because racking is not an easy skill, so teach your horse correctly.

But what can you do to make your horse rack? Please follow these steps and wait to see your horse begin racking.

1. Pull the Horse Shoes

Before getting on the horse, use the farrier to create the rack. Pull the front shoes from the front legs and leave the heavier shoes behind.

What if you don’t have the horseshoes? Don’t worry! You can use lightweight training chains on the hind legs of your horse.

Remember, this step is to help place more weight on the posterior part of the horse. It will slightly reduce the balance of the horse and make it get into the rack.

2. Get into Position

After giving the horse a bit of gait, get onto the saddle and balance well. Sit in a square position. Then, your shoulders should be at an equal level and in a place directly to your hips. Also, your back should be straight, and put your forearms and elbows close to your hips.

So, without getting the balance on your horse, it will become uncomfortable. And what will be the result? The horse will not follow any of your orders, and you will not teach it how to rack.

3. Ease the Horse into the Rack

As you are steering your horse, raise your hands to its chest to raise the head. Remember to sink deep in your saddle as you do this act, and your legs should be in the stirrups. Try not to grip your legs on the horse’s body.

Then, slowly cluck to make your horse move forward. It will be easy to control the horse’s movement. Ensure you repeat the action within four to five times of your stride until the horse uses the hind legs on its own.

But how will you know that your horse is racking? Since the activity is a four-beat movement, your horse will step one hoof on the ground at a time. Also, the gait will be smooth, and as the legs will be moving faster, you will not be bouncing on the saddle.

Some horses will get into the rack, while for others, it may take time. So, be patient with your horse.

4. Keep Practicing with Your Horse

Once you are sure that your horse moves by racking, keep practicing with it without any tension. Its neck and head should be vertical and relaxed. This act makes the horse master the new posture as it racks.

What if you are using reins to ride your horse? Ensure you apply more pressure on the reins to make the horse’s neck be in a vertical position.

Remember, practice makes perfect. So, for your horse to gain the full gaiting ability, it can even take months. Your horse has to gain strength to keep the gait and have a good posture.

You can train your horse for 15 to 30 minutes a day. It will have less stress as it racks.


To wrap it up, when riding on a racking horse, you will have a smooth time on the saddle. This horse will always look beautiful, and any person will quickly note it. Starting from the 1800s, people always fall in love with it because of its features and behavior.

You can also train some horses to rack, but not all breeds can adopt this skill. If you follow the steps above, training your horse to rack will be easy.

So, do you have any questions or more insights about a racking horse? Feel free to reach to us.

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