What is a Gaited Horse?


In the 1800’s when horses where the primary mode of transportation, people rode what was known as saddle horses. These were horses that were smooth and could be ridden for hours without much stress to the rider or the horse. Since horses were used for transport, a horse that could travel far, with great stamina and a smooth ride was preferred.  The trotting horses came about, when carriages were being pulled and when they needed a horse for quicker actions and speed. The trotting horse was also faster at galloping and better at jumping. So as riding became more of a sport instead of transport, there took a turn more toward the trotting horse.


A gaited horse moves each leg independently, so there is always one foot on the ground, since they are transferring weight to different legs but never suspending themselves in the air, as is done with a trot, there is less energy used by the horse.  This use of less energy gives the horse more stamina and enables him to travel long distances without as much energy that would be required by a trotting horse.


By keeping one foot on the ground at all times, there is no bounce and therefore less stress to the rider.  These horses are great for trail and endurance riding, as you can cover more mileage in half the time then you can with a trotting horse and still be able to walk the next day without being sore from riding.


Since these horses were used for transport, they needed to have a quiet temperament, willingness and trainability.  They also needed to be naturally gaited, in other words, gaiting is in their genes.


To put it simply a gaited horse, moves like a regular horse does at a walk, it places all four feet down independently, the difference is in the upper speeds, the next speed for a trotting horse is a trot, and for a gaited horse it is just a faster walk, and some gaited horses can walk so fast that even the trotting horse cannot keep up. These gaits are given different names, flat walk, running walk, rack, saddle gait, the list goes on and on.


Also the show horse and the trail horse will do different gaits and at different speeds. They are 4 beat gaits, but if you ask a real trail rider if they want a gaited show horse for the trail, they will say no thank you. As they will not be as sure footed or as smooth as the ones bred for the trail. Also you cannot have a horse wear a heavy shoe on the trail as some show horses do, as the horse will not hold up to heavy use and will be injured over time.


The best things about gaited horses are they are smooth and willing to be ridden for long hours, you can talk with your friend the whole time you are riding without getting out of breath from posting, you can cover a trail in half the time and still get home for dinner, you can walk normally when you get off the horse, instead of walking bow legged or limping from being sore. They are sturdy tough horses, they are harder to fall off of, since even their buck or rear is smoother then a trotting horse’s buck or rear. Also due to the way they are built it is harder for them to buck, but it is still possible.


So are you convinced that the gaited horse is the way to go? You can eat a sandwich, drink, and text your friends, it is the not the safest thing to do, but you can.


The only thing they cannot do, is steer themselves and teach you how to ride and to keep them in gait, please people, they do not speak English,  so that part comes from the rider, that’s why it is called riding. So if you like to ride, are willing to learn some about keeping the horse in gait and you are willing to steer then you are on the right track. Even a champion gaited horse will not gait as well with a beginner rider as it would with an experienced rider, so just remember you have to learn and the horse will learn to tolerate you in the process.  So if you go test ride one, it will probably not gait as well as it will, once you understand how to ride it better, so just make sure it gaits well with its present rider or trainer and then you can learn how to get it to gait as well with you.


The most popular breeds of the gaited horse are the Tennessee Walking  Horse, Missouri Fox Trotter, Rocky Mountain Horse, Spotted Saddle, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso and Icelandic Pony. They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Choose the one you feel safest on, can handle your terrain, and has an energy level that will meet your needs.


Someone asked me once, why I liked the gaited horse so much, I said, I just got out of work, its getting dark and I  did a trail in 15 minutes that took you an hour, and got back before it was dark.  I had a blast, nothing hurts and I still have time to go home and make dinner. I didn’t make dinner but that’s besides the point!


Make sure when you ride one, you go on the trail and ride for an hour or two, so you really can understand why gaited horse people love their gaited horses. 


Some gaited horse sayings;

Ride the glide

Gentleman's horse

Cadillac of the horse world