Every horse moves forward, and gaited horses ease the journey onward. By moving their legs in a four-beat lateral gait, these horses produce a smooth ride. Their locomotion pattern varies from horses which trot in a diagonal beat. The easy-gaited horses appeal to riders who want a comfortable journey. A smooth gait is the prime quality, and riders also enjoy the unique presence of the gaited breeds. Gaited horses look graceful and flashy as they glide across the ground.

Around the world, more than 30 breeds and breed variations perform these lateral gaits. The most well-known in the Americas are the Tennessee Walking Horse, American Saddlebred, Peruvian Paso, and American Paso Fino. Others seen in the United States are the Missouri Fox Trotter, Racking Horse, Spotted Saddlebred, Walkaloosa, Rocky Mountain Horse, and the Icelandic Horse. Each breed has its own expression of movement.

Laterally Forward

Four-beat gaits distinguish these breeds from those which trot. In most four-beat lateral gaits, the horse is never suspended off the ground. At least one foot–sometimes two or three–is on the ground at all times. The result is that the horse moves forward with minimal motion of the topline. The rider isn’t jarred or jostled as in the trot, when the “float” of the trot (the moment of suspension) is followed by the impact of the diagonal pair of feet hitting the ground. On a gaited horse, the soft ride is easy to sit.

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