16 MayWhat Is a Gaited Horse? Everything You Need to Know

Gaited horseback riding

Even as an equestrian of many years, I am constantly learning new terms and phrases. If you are in the horse world for any amount of time, you will hear the phrase ‘gaited horse’. However, you may not fully understand what that phrase means. In today’s post, we will discuss everything you need to know about gaited horses.

What is a gaited horse? A gaited horse is a horse that moves each leg independently. Doing so allows one foot to constantly be on the ground, allowing the horse to conserve more energy than they would while trotting. Gaited horses are used for traveling as they have greater stamina and endurance. 

Are there any advantages to having a gaited horse? Do gaited horses have any restrictions? Continue reading to discover more about this unusual trait seen in several horse breeds.

Recognizing a Gaited Horse

Although there is a substantial difference between a gaited horse and one that is merely moving in an unusual manner, it might be difficult to distinguish between the two at first look. So, how can you tell whether a horse is gaited? The most effective method is to just monitor their motions.

A four-beat gait is typical of a gaited horse. When walking, each foot will fall in a certain way. The majority of gaited horses trot right hind, right front, left hind, left front, or right front, left hind, left front, right hind. Upon closer observation, this pattern should be rather obvious.

Additionally, when you watch a gaited horse walk from the side, you will notice that both legs on one side will move forward simultaneously. The rear foot will always fall before the front foot.

Naturally Gaited Horse Breeds

Icelandic Gaited Horse

Some of the most common gaited horse breeds include the following:

  • American Saddlebred
  • American Standardbred
  • Icelandic Horse
  • Tennessee Walking Horse
  • Paso Fino
  • Peruvian Paso
  • Rocky Mountain Horse
  • Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
  • Appaloosa

Since the early 1800s, naturally gaited horses, often known as saddle horses, have been a popular means of transportation. Gaited horses are characterized by their stamina and endurance, making them easy to ride for long periods of time. By never suspending themselves in the air, a gaited horse is able to conserve more energy than a horse that trots.   

A naturally gaited horse is genetically predisposed to this trait. Natural gaited horses have a calm, easygoing disposition, making them a popular option for extended trail excursions or novice riders.

Benefits of a Gaited Horse

Riding a gaited horse has several advantages. In this part, we will discuss the distinct advantages that this sort of horse brings to its rider.

Gaited Horses Can Be Easier to Ride

Especially for beginner riders, gaited horses are often considered easier to ride. The smooth ride and the limited amount of bounce mean that almost anyone can ride a gaited horse on their first try. Although this may seem like a huge benefit, it can actually be a disadvantage to horse riders who hope to progress in their riding.

When riding a gaited horse, you must still pay special attention to your equitation and balance habits. The easy ride afforded by a gaited horse often encourages sloth on the side of the rider, even if unintentionally.

Gaited Horses Are Great for Long Distance Riding

Gaited horses have the ability to travel long distances without growing tired. This quality, coupled with the smooth ride they provide, make them common choices for tours or trail rides. If you are looking for an equine companion for long-distance rides, a naturally gaited horse is most likely your best option.

Most Gaited Horses Have Gentle Demeanors

Many naturally gaited horses are calm and gentle in their demeanor. Because of this, they are generally agreeable and an excellent companion for newer horse owners. However, every horse is different, so you shouldn’t choose one simply because they’re gaited. You can check out my guide on what to look for when buying a horse here .

Are Gaited Horses Restricted in Movement?

Gaited Trail Horses

So, we know that a gaited horse is easy to ride, can endure long distances, and generally exhibits a calm demeanor. Is a gaited horse restricted in movement in any way? Can gaited horses jump or gallop?

Jumping a Gaited Horse

Gaited horses can be taught to jump. However, since the technique varies from that of other horse breeds, it is critical to introduce jumps gradually. The calm demeanor of most naturally gaited horses provides huge benefits while attempting something new.

When training your gaited horse to jump, it’s important to familiarize them by first walking over ground rails until they begin to feel more comfortable. Once you feel like they are ready to move on, practice this at a canter. With careful training and patience, most gaited horses will learn how to jump just as their non-gaited companions would.

Some gaited horses jump more easily than others. For example, the Tennessee Walking Horse, a popular naturally gaited horse, often excels at jumping! If you’ve never trained a horse to jump before, here’s my step-by-step guide for teaching a horse to jump !

Galloping on a Gaited Horse

Many naturally gaited horses have the ability to gallop! Galloping, on the other hand, should never be done excessively. Some gaited horses may gallop more quickly than others. Riders may often discover that riding their gaited horse at a canter is both more pleasurable and more suited to the horse.

Are Gaited Horses Safe?

A prevalent myth regarding gaited horses is that they are dangerous owing to their lack of footing. This is only a myth! Gaited horses have been used for decades to traverse even the toughest of trails. The calm personality of gaited horses allows them to take a tough trail in stride, handling one obstacle at a time.  

Training a Gaited Horse

Even naturally gaited horses need training to achieve an excellent gait. This begins with laying a firm basis for them. Concentrating on being the greatest rider you can be will help your horse to develop their gait organically. For example, if you are imbalanced when riding, your horse will use a significant amount of energy adjusting.

It is important to remember that a beautiful, natural gait is developed and encouraged over time, just like any other aspect of horsemanship. Patience while training will develop a strong bond between horse and rider, something that should never be taken for granted.

Do Gaited Horses Need Special Saddles?

If you’re looking at gaited horses, you may be shocked to find customized saddles built just for them! This is mostly a marketing ploy.

Despite the fact that these saddles are excellent choices for gaited horses, your gaited horse can wear any saddle that fits them properly, including both English and western saddles.  You can see some of the gear I recommend here .

Whether or not you invest in a gaited horse is mostly up to personal preference. As with any decision regarding horses, it is important to do your research before taking on the responsibility of a new horse. Before you purchase a gaited horse, it may be wise to ride several breeds to determine which gait feels most natural to your riding style!

Related Questions

What horses are easiest to ride on trails?

Many of the horse breeds deemed the easiest to ride are naturally gaited. The most commonly recommended horses for ease of riding include the Quarter Horse, Tennesse Walking Horse, Appaloosa, Arabian, and Morgan Horse.  

These horse breeds are known for their calm temperament and ease of riding. However, each horse will vary in their ability and willingness to participate in long trail rides.

What should I take on my first trail ride?

Trail riding is an enjoyable past-time and a great way to spend time with your horse. There are a few things to keep in mind before you participate in your first trail ride. First, always ride with a trail partner. Especially in the beginning, it’s important that you ride with a partner that has experience with long-distance trail riding.

Always carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency on the route. However, you will often lose mobile coverage when hiking most paths. Another reason why a trail companion is essential for your and your horse’s safety.

It’s also important to come prepared. Be sure to pack wisely and bring any gear or equipment that you or your horse may reasonably need. Do not overpack as you will create an unnecessarily heavy pack for your horse.

You can see my complete trail riding packing list here .

What type of saddle is best for trail riding?

I learnt my lesson the hard way after riding a long-distance path on the incorrect saddle. A Western saddle is the ideal style of saddle for most sorts of trail riding. Comfort is key for any trail ride, for both you and your horse. Do not make the mistake of forcing a long trail ride using tack or gear that is not comfortable for both of you.

P.S. Thank you for taking the time to read this! Please consider sharing this article by clicking on one of the icons provided below.

Sharon Moore

Managing Director at Moore Racehorse Trust

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