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Gaited Horses for Dummies



Tenessee Walking Horse (TWH) gaits are: flat foot walk and running walk.

Missouri Fox Trotter (FT) gaits are: flat foot walk and fox trot.


The TWH & Fox Trotter came from the same foundation horses. The TWH went to the plantation where they developed a comfy lateral gait to sail around the flat ground to check the crops. The Fox Trotter went to the Ozark Mountains where they developed a comfy diagonal gait to negotiate steep hills and rocky ground.

The Spotted Saddle Horse is from either a registered TWH or Fox Trotter Spotted Saddle Horse AND has to have specific spots. The gait has to be demonstrated to and passed by a person from the breed registry before the horse is passed. The horse can be certified as a SSH if they have any kind of "gaited horse" gait including a pace. Don't think if you buy a certified SSH, that it won't pace.

A TWH is usually just a hair smoother than the fox trotter if they do their designated gaits. A running walk can be faster than a fox trot. A running walk isn't as stable as a fox trot. The fox trot was invented for horses to scramble easily up and down and over and under the hills and rocks of the Ozarks. The Fox Trotting gait is sure-footed! TWH originated to cover many miles of plantation to check the crops.

However, TWH and FT can all the gaits. I've got a Fox Trotter that prefers the running walk. There are many TWH's that do a fox trot. Just because a horse is a TWH, it doesn't mean that it will automatically shift into a flat foot walk and a running walk. If you want this horse for trail riding...you test out the horse and see if the gait is comfortable. If you have a bad back, you test out the gait instead of the papers. My fox trotting horse, Velvet, has a nice smooth gait until she gets going too fast and then it becomes a Hard Trot. A hard trot in our world is a bone jarring trot. I slow Velvet down and it's comfy again.

Gaited horses can also do a Pace. A pace is a two beat uncomfortable gait. Horses that pace stumble a lot. They drag their toes very close to the ground and catch anything sticking up from ground and stumble. Horses like to pace once they do it. It takes less effort as they don't have to pick up their feet as high as the other gaits. They can go at any speed in the pace. Once their legs get started in a pace, they don't have to do anything else. They can pace slow or fast.

You can fix a horse with a pace and make him/her into doing a running walk or fox trot, but this takes time and knowlege.

My horse Sage paced 100% of the time when I first started riding her. With increased riding skills and knowledge, I was able to get her to do a running walk. Every now and then, she'll drop into a couple of pace steps and then get back into the running walk. Riding her running walk is like sitting on top of a fluffy cloud with a locomotive underneath.

Pacing is smoother than a regular horse's trot, so many people who know nothing about gaited horses go out and buy a pacing horse. The pace is more comfortable than the trot that they are used to. WOWSA, they think! Later they discover the world of pacing (and stumbling) and might be disappointed. People selling gaited horses might not tell the new person that they are buying a pacing horse.

You need to have the owner ride the horse and then look at the legs closely. You can tell when the horse is pacing. Pacing is like Standard bred race horses. The feet on each side move together.

General Stuff
It's best for a beginner to get a horse "set in his/her gaits". That's another phrase we use. We have recorded a young horse doing 5 different gaits in 8 steps!

You want to talk like a fox trotter horse person, here's what you say: That horse looks "slick". "Slick" is close a running walk, but not quite. So their legs are almost going lateral "Square up" that horse. Square up means get the horse back to doing the diagonal gait which is a fox trot.

If the horse you are looking at has ever been shown, you need to know another word, "Sore". Very unscrupulous people cause the horse's feet to hurt when the foot touches the ground. Therefore the horse takes a longer stride to avoid touching the ground. It looks good to some people in the show arena. This is called soring. Scars or bumps around the horse's front hooves are evidence of this. A vet check would be mandatory for a gaited show horse, as it should be anyway.

Other gaited horses are less known, but just as fun and wonderful.

There's also the Rocky Mountain horse known for their chocolate color and flaxen mane and tail. There are existing myths about eye problems associated with the silver dapple horse.They have smooth gaits. They have the same nice disposition of the Fox Trotter and TWH. Their ancestory is similar to the Fox Trotter and TWH. There are many other types ofMountain Horses also.

The smoothest gaits of all gaited horses belong to Paso Finos with that piston-like action of their legs. They are the horses that came over from the Spanish Conquistidors and settled in South American. But, they are usually "hot" horses and not recommended for beginning beginners...unless you find one that has "been there and done that" a lot.

The Icelandic Horse is the size of a pony, but carries all sizes of adults in cadillac style. The Iclandic Horse comes from Norway and Iceland. Their gait, along with the Paso Fino gait, is one of the truest in the world since they've been doing it longer. They are shaggy and cuter than a button and I would like to have one!

There are single footing horses and stepping pace horses.

There are Racking Horses. They can go so fast, that's it's just a blur.  If you want to ride smooth going really really fast, get a Racking Horse. 
A racking horse isn't a breed, it's just a gait.

Here's a discription of all the gaits.

A stepping pace is not even, it is broken...1-2--3-4 2. A saddle rack does not have a one-foot support phase, just 2 & 3 (but the rack does). Stepping Pace - an uneven 1-2--3-4 beat
Running Walk - an even 1-2-3-4 beat
Foxtrot - the only diagonal gait and is an uneven 1-2 3-4 beat
"Singlefoot & rack -one hoof only at certain phases of the gait is on the ground and this is an even interval 1-2-3-4 beat gait.
A saddle rack does not have a one-foot support phase, just 2 & 3
Trot - 1-2
Pace - 1-2
Regular Walk - even 1-2-3-4 beat Back - 1-2(except for gaited horses. They back like they walk. (1-2-3-4)

1. Gaited horse shouldn't canter until they've been "set in their gaits" Can you remember how to walk after you skip? Don't they canter in the pasture, anyway?
2. Gaited horse can't back
3. Gaited horse can't do flying lead changes
4. You must maintain constant pressure on the mouth in order for the horse to "gait".
5. "Drive them into the bit": which will make them gait.
6. Pull back hard and they will gait.
7. Wrap the bit with salt water-that will make them tough mouthed so they can withstand the pulling on the bit.
8. You need a gag bit to make them gait.

One thru seven above - NOT! Join the revolution in Horsemanship! Discover Natural Horsmanship with any of the famous clinicians

In a mythical perfect world, I would like to have my fox trotters, a Paso Fino, a Rocky Mountain chocolate horse and an Icelandic Horse. I believe I would be very happy with that mix. I would have to be retired with money and lots of time to ride all of them.

Many Morgans gait. Some quarter horses gait. There are Appaloosa (Walkaloosa) horses that gait.
There are the five gaited American Saddlebred horses.  They are usually found at high society horse shows.

And that is your education into the gaited world today!



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