Why would I want to own and ride a Tennessee Walking Horse, Missouri Fox Trotter, Rocky Mountain Horse, Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, Paso Fino, Icelandic, or Spotted Saddle Horse? The gaited horses’ smooth easy, naturally inherited gaits, gentle disposition, calm willing attitude, and athletic ability makes them an excellent and versatile mount for all riding disciplines and levels.
What kind of riding suits Gaited Horses? Gaited Horses are perfect horses for any activity an equine enthusiast might enjoy. They are commonly seen in the show ring as English and Western pleasure mounts, and Gaited Breeds also excel out on the trails. Since their smooth gaits are easy for them to perform, trail riders can enjoy many tireless hours of riding in comfort. Their athleticism also makes them a competitive choice for riders who enjoy dressage, versatility, jumping, competitive trail, endurance, cowboy/girl mounted shooting, agility, reining, and driving. As our gaited community continues to grow in popularity, the disciplines represented by our talented horses expands and is limited only by our imaginations.
What size and color are gaited horses? Gaited breeds generally range from 12.3 to 17 hands and weigh 600 to 1200 pounds. Breed associations for gaited ponies also exist. Gaited horses come in many diverse colors and color patterns, including palomino, grey, roans, and, yes, even spotted. The variety of colors is sure to please any horse lover. Today’s Gaited Horses have pretty heads with small, well placed ears and large bold eyes. In the conformation of the gaited horse, the bottom line is longer than the top line, allowing for a longer stride.
How do the gaited breeds differ in movement from other breeds? Smooth gaited horses always have at least one foot on the ground onto which their weight is transferred. This dynamic has no moment of suspension and allows these horses to maintain a constant gliding sensation for the rider.
What are the most common smooth gaits? Flat Walk: The essential elements are four even beats, head nod, and over-stride. Flat walk is a square, four-beat stride with two- and three-leg weight support. Head nod is the natural counter balance with the advancement of each leg. The flat walk is a distinctively slower gait than the running walk. Running Walk: This gait is the same foot falls and head nod as the flat walk with greater reach, extension, and over-stride. This smooth, four-cornered gait has a 1-2-3-4 beat with each of the horse’s feet hitting the ground separately at regular intervals; the left front, then the right rear, the right front, then the left rear. Each individual horse has her own speed at which she can perform these gaits. Correct form must never be sacrificed for speed. Rack: The rack is often referred to as the single foot, one foot on the ground and three feet in various phases of motion. The relaxed gait is a four-beat cadence in which each foot hits the ground in a moment of individual action. In the rack the horse has limited head nod or none at all, because the horse does not have enough time to nod his head. Fox Trot: This smooth rhythmic gait is a broken diagonal gait performed by walking in front and trotting behind with reach in each stride. The front right hoof strikes the ground just before the left rear and the left front strikes just before the right rear. One hoof is on the ground at all times. Horses performing the fox trot also nod their heads in relaxation.
Why do Gaited breeds nod their heads when gaiting? The head nod is unique to the flat walk, running walk, and fox trot. The gaited horses will politely nod their head “yes” with the cadence of their feet as a counter balance in motion. Often while performing these gaits, some horses will also flop their ears, pop their lips, or even click their teeth in rhythm and relaxation.
What is overstride?
Overstride occurs when the track of the hind foot over reaches the track of the front foot; for example, right rear over right front and left rear over left front. As the horse’s speed increases, the overstride can reach a distance of 6 to 18 inches–the longer the horse’s overstride, the better the gait is considered. This unique motion gives the rider a feeling of gliding through the air on a fast moving cloud.
Do American gaited breeds perform the canter? Yes, the canter is performed in much the same way as other breeds, but the gaited horse seems to have a natural relaxed way of performing this gait. The canter is a three-beat gait with suspension performed with rhythm. When performing the canter, the horse begins with the outside hind leg (first beat), followed by the diagonal pair of legs (second beat), then the inside front leg (third beat), and finally followed by a moment of suspension. When the rider matches his or her timing accurately with that of the horse, the rhythm will afford the rider a thrill like no other canter.
Do gaited breeds used for pleasure riding require special shoes or trimming? Gaited breeds do not require special shoes. Your farrier, however, should understand the subtle conformational differences that set the gaited horses apart from other trotting breeds, and your gaited horse may require different trim angles and toe lengths from trotting horses. A farrier, knowledgeable and skilled with gaited horses, will recognize these differences and trim and balance the hoof according to that horse’s individual needs and way of going. All gaited breeds should be fitted to flat shod shoes or trimmed regularly and be allow to go barefoot.
How can I obtain more information about the Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, Rocky Mountain Horses, Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses, Paso Fino Horses, Icelandic Horses, or Spotted Saddle Horses? We are glad you asked! Joining a local organization like Gaited Horses of New England, will provide you with valuable resources of information and education about the great Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Fox Trotters, Rocky Mountain Horses, Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses, Paso Fino Horses, Icelandic Horses, and Spotted Saddle Horses. Membership will also enable you to contact breeders, trainers, and instructors in your area who share your desires and goals and can help you and your horse earn to ride together as a team. Best of all, Gaited Horses of New England membership affords you the opportunity to meet others who share your same interest in these wonderful breeds. For more information about club membership, club clinics, trail rides, shows, and other activities, please contact us.