Of course, every layman knows what one imagines a horse to be. But what exactly is a gaited horse? Doesn't every horse have gaits?
Of course every horse has gaits, but a gaited horse has more gaits than horses of other horse breeds. In addition to walk, trot and canter, there are usually two other gaits. Many gaited horses have tölt as their fourth gait, a gait that is very soft to sit and hardly causes any vibrations. For this reason many people also talk about the “sofa walk”. However, the names and also the gaits of gaited horses differ depending on the breed of horse it is.
The most well-known of the horse breeds among the gaited horses are the Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses come from poor backgrounds and in their original form are tough, small horses that have no problem carrying heavier men over long distances without tiring, despite their small size of around 1.30 - 1.45 meters. That's why Icelandic horses are often described as weight carriers.
The gaits of the Icelandic horse are called Tölt and Pass . The racing pass is developed from the canter and is ridden at a very high pace. It seems as if a horse in racing pass barely touches the ground, it literally flies across the ground. This horse gait is a common source of error because when an Icelandic horse is tense, it tends to walk in a short, choppy pace known as a pig's pace.
The tölting Icelandic horse should always walk in a clear four-beat manner. However, many Icelandic horses postpone this four-beat rhythm, either to the trot (Trabölt) or to the pace (Passtölt). However, these gaits of the Icelandic horse are not wanted, whereas other gaited horse breeds accept or sometimes encourage shifts.
The Paso Fino, who lives far away from Iceland, also uses a four-stroke cycle. The main breeding areas of the Paso Fino are Colombia, Puerto Rico and the USA. The Paso Fino impresses with its sparkling vitality and temperament, but also has enormous sensitivity and willingness to work. If a Paso with Iberian blood is crossed (with an Andalusian or Lusitano), a Paso Ibero-Americano is created. These horses are promising riding horses with a gaited disposition, large-framed Tölters with a stable foundation, a lot of space and a willingness to perform.
Some pure-bred Andalusians also have extra gears, so crossing Iberian horses into Paso breeding is promising.
But America also produced some gaited horses that were willing to perform. The Tennessee Walker has been around since the early 19th century. Bred in the southern states of the USA in the 19th century and is also enjoying growing popularity in Germany. The Tennessee Walker is very comfortable to ride over long distances and has a friendly, people-oriented character. At a height of 1.50 - 1.60 meters, his character makes him a horse for timid riders or beginners. The typical gait of these horses is the walk, which you have to imagine as an extremely expansive, fast step.
The tölting trotter is native to Germany. It was only officially recognized as a breed in 1996. Since the beginning of the 1970s, the gait of these horses has been used to train a tölting riding horse. It is often possible for people with experience with gaited horses to transform a trotter that is too slow for the racetrack into a very comfortable riding horse. Nowadays, however, breeding is not only done exclusively for the racetrack, but also specifically for the qualities of gaited horses.
The origin of gaited horses is seen in the mutation of English horses. According to the current state of research, Vikings in medieval England encountered wild horses that had this gait mutation and brought the wild horses with them to Iceland. The Vikings recognized the value of this horse gait and laid the foundation for gaited horse breeding.
And we are grateful to them for that. Over time, a diverse gaited horse cosmos emerged, which, in addition to the horse breeds already mentioned, produced the elegant American Saddlebred, the tough Mangalarga Marchador, the enduring Missouri Fox Trotters and the tireless Rocky Mountain Horses.