what is a gaited horse

What is a Gaited Horse?

Gaited horses are rare. Of all the horse breeds, about nine percent have a natural gait. So what is a gaited horse? Gaiting means a horse with single feet, meaning that only a foot contacts the ground while gaiting. Others define gaited horses as horses that can do a perfect four-beat gait. 

Gaited horses pace, stroll or have running walks with more effortless and smoother rides. Therefore, they are a preference for aging people and those with joint and back issues. 

what is a gaited horse

Characteristics of a Gaited Horse

A common characteristic among gaited horses they are sensible mounts and sturdy. Therefore, a rider doesn’t need to do much. 

Naturally gaited breeds, especially horses with lateral ambling gaits, including stepping and pace, can be difficult in learning to canter. You may need a gaited trainer to train your horse how to canter for a laterally inclined horse. 

Most gaited horses are high-headed; they can use their shoulders instead of their back. Unlike track racehorses whose primary training purpose is speed, gaited horses’ main uses are driving and riding pleasure. 

How can you tell a gaited horse? If you see a horse doing four-beat gaits, that is, each foot hitting the ground at a time, then the horse is gaited. A gaiting horse appears smoother than a trotting horse. You will notice a trot has more bounces, while an ambling gait will make a horse appear like gliding. 

Can Gaited Horses Jump?

Many people prefer gaited horses because they have smooth gaits on trails or flashy knee action. Horses can jump like other animals, but some breeds are suited for that purpose.

Can gaited horses jump? With some extra guidance and training, a gaited breed can jump. They can even go to higher levels in a jumping competition. However, each has weaknesses and strengths, and gaited horses are better in trail riding and flatwork rather than showjumping. Any horse can jump small obstacles, and it doesn’t matter if gaited or not. 

For instance, if willing to jump and in good health, a gaited horse can learn how to jump the same way a showjumping horse does. It is a rule for most gaited horses to jump; how comfortable or good they are in it is another issue. It is an issue that a rider team and horse can best decide. If you plan to teach your horse how to jump, ensure you set a perfect training foundation. Get rid of special gaited gears like padded shoes and stacks before beginning.

How Are Gaited Horses Unique?

Non-gaited horses can also do the four-beat gaits – the way of moving while galloping, cantering, trotting, and walking. You define each gain by how the foot contacts the ground. The walk is even as each foot hits separately. 

If trotting, the feet move in diagonal pairs. Cantering includes three-beat gaits where the horse propels using the rear legs. This movement is essential to master jumping properly. 

Though gaited horses often achieve the standard gaits, how they perform four-beat gaits and the two-beat racing gaits distinguishes them from the non-gaited horses. For instance, you will notice the smooth running walks in Tennessee Walking Horses that are comfortable to sit on. However, they may seem weird if you have never closely seen them.

Standardbreds may prefer pacing to trot. Though this and other breeds development was as road and trail horses, you can smoothly and efficiently use them to travel in the wilderness or bumpy roads. Ambling gaited horses can comfortably travel long distances, but not for riding in courses with the many obstacles. 

what is a gaited horse

Gaited Horse Breeds

There are about thirty gaited horse breeds in the world. Gaited horses can be either natural or taught. So, which are the best-gaited horse breeds for a smooth ride? Here is a list of the top gaited horse breeds.

1. The Peruvian Paso Horse

The Peruvian Paso breeding was mainly for hard work and is famous for enduring harsh terrains. They have smooth gaits with some left to right bounce. Riders can enjoy riding the horses without worrying about sore butts. 

2. Paso Fino

Paso fino means delicate passage in Spanish. The Paso Fino development was in Caribbean islands like Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. Paso fino horses are sturdy and small and can carry riders in the rugged terrains of their coastal homes.

3. Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse has a smooth gait making it one of the famous horse breeds in North America. Its development was mainly for gentle rides for people going to the farmland. It is renowned for its four-beat flashy movement and running walk. In addition, Tennessee Walking Horses have a calm disposition in general. 

4. Marwari Horse

Marwari horses descended from India and are very rare in North America. They have ambling gaits that look like pace. Most people consider Marwari horses as natural performers hence suitable for exhibitions and dressage. 

5. Appaloosa

Appaloosa gaited horses have a four-beat lateral gait which looks like a pace but smoother. It resembles the running walk that Tennessee walker performs.

6. Morgan

Most people refer to Morgans as non-gaited horses but can gait naturally. A genetics review of the gaited Morgans had a mixture of thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Saddlebred horses. Scientists conducted a DNA test and concluded that 20% of all Morgans have the gaited trait.

7. American Standardbred

American Standardbred horses are stars in harness racing and perfect for riding with two gaits; trotting and pacing. Trotters entail a single-foot running walk while pacers have a single-foot pace. Pacers race faster compared to the trotting horses.

Types of Gaits

Studying locomotion is done in terms of style, physics, and motion. Over the centuries, horse breeding expressed movement for excitement, comfort, athletic prowess, and speed. Simply gaits have two categories; natural and artificial.

Natural Gaits

Horses have five natural gaits, including the gallop, canter, trot, walk, and back, which most breeds can perform. Stock horses like Appaloosa, Paint Horse, and Quarter Horse included. Also, English horses like Morgan, Saddlebred, Arabian, and Thoroughbreds express these movements.

what is a gaited horse


Though galloping appears like a faster canter, it is a four beats gait. Similar to cantering, galloping has both the right and left lead. The left lead pattern is the right, then left hind and right then left front. Similarly, the right lead pattern is left, then right hind, and left, then the right front.


Cantering consists of three-beat gaits, which means a pair of feet land simultaneously while the remaining two feet hit the ground separately. Cantering can be on either the right or left lead. While on the right lead, the horse’s pattern is the left and right hind and the left front hitting the ground simultaneously, followed by the right front. 


Trotting comprises two-beat gaits. The legs of the horse move in paired diagonals. The pattern can be the left front and the right hind, followed by the right front and the left hind. Or it can be the right front and the left hind followed by the left front and the right hind. 


Walking consists of four-beat gaits; that is, each foot lands differently. The pattern may be right hind, left front, left hind, and right front. 


A horse backing naturally with no interference from the rider can do two beat gaits. The back pattern is similar to trot but backward, which may be the left hind moving with the right front and the right hind moving with the left hind. 

Artificial Gaits

The reference made to racking, pacing, slow gaiting, and running walk is artificial gaits. However, these gaits can be natural to particular horse breeds. Some horses descending from gaited species may possess gaits that are unique to the horse breed. 

Most adults that purchase a horse for the first time prefer gaited horses like Missouri Fox Trotter or Tennessee Walking Horse. Most consider the American Saddlebred Horse to be perfect in excitement and glamour. The Saddlebred horses have all the five gaits; canter, rack, slow gait, trot and walk. 

Running Walk

The Tennessee Walking Horse mainly showcases the running walk gait similar to a regular walk but faster. The running walk includes the hind feet overstepping the front foot by 18 inches. It makes the gait have a gliding movement. You can notice a running walk by how the horse rhymes the nodding and bobbing of the head with its legs. 

Slow Gait

Saddlebred mainly showcases the slow gait. It is a four-beat gait, also called the stepping pace. The horse does a broken pace having the front and hind leg on the same side. The horse leaves the ground and lands differently. 


It is a fast two-beat gait with the feet hitting the ground at the same time. Standardbred mainly performs the pace in harness races. The pattern is right hind and front together and left hind and front together. 


The rack is a four-beat gait but more exaggerated, faster, and flashy. Tennessee Walking Horse and American Saddlebred mostly perform the rack. Each foot lands independently. 

Benefits of a Gaited Horse

Riding a gaited horse has many benefits. Here are unique advantages that gaited horse riders enjoy. 

Riding a gaited horse is easier

Gaited horses are suitable for new riders since they are easier to ride. The slight bounce and the smooth ride make gaited horses a good ride for beginner riders.

Though the benefit seems huge, horse riders that want to go ahead with the riding journey can be unfortunate. Riding gaited horses still need keenness in balance and equitation habits. 

Gaited horses are good in long-distance riding

Gaited horses can go for long distances without getting exhausted. In addition to the smooth ride, it makes the horses perfect for trail rides and tours. If seeking a companion for long-distance trips, a gaited horse is the best option.

Gaited horses have calm demeanors

Most gaited horses have a gentle and calm demeanor. Therefore, they are perfect companions for new horse owners. However, horses differ. Choosing a horse because of its gaited nature is not recommended.


Some horses have normal gaits, whereas others have unique movements. Gaited horses are known for their unique gaits. Though gaits differ in walking styles, leg moving patterns, and speed, you can quickly notice a gaited horse for its unconstrained movement of legs.