Gait horses

Of course, every layman knows what a horse is. 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 breeds. In addition to walk, trot and canter, there are usually two more gaits. Many gaited horses have a fourth gait, the tölt, a gait that is very soft to sit and hardly causes any jolting. For this reason, many people also talk about the "sofa gait". However, the names and also the gaits of gaited horses differ depending on the breed of horse.

Probably the best known of the gaited horse breeds are the Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses come from arid conditions and in their original form are tough little horses that have no problem carrying even heavier men over longer distances without tiring, despite their small size of about 1.30 - 1.45 metres. That is 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 speed. It seems as if a horse in the racing pass barely touches the ground, it literally flies over the ground. This horse gait is a common source of mistakes, because if an Icelandic horse is tense, it tends to go a short, choppy pass, which is called a pig pass.

The tolt Icelandic horse should always go a clear four beat. However, many Icelandic horses shift this four beat, either to trot (trot tolt) or to pass (pass tolt). These gaits of the Icelandic horse are, however, not wanted, whereas other gaited horse breeds accept shifts or sometimes even encourage them.

The Paso Fino, which lives far away from Iceland, also has a four-beat gait. The main breeding areas of the Paso Fino are Colombia, Puerto Rico and the USA. The Paso Fino captivates with its sparkling vitality and temperament, but also shows enormous sensitivity and willingness to work. If a Paso is crossed with Iberian blood (with an Andalusian or Lusitano), the result is a Paso Ibero-Americano. These horses are promising riding horses with a disposition for gaits, large-framed tölters with a stable foundation, a lot of scope and a character willing to perform.

Some purebred Andalusians also have extra gaits, so that a crossbreeding of Iberian horses into the Paso breed is promising.

But America also produced some gaited horses willing to perform. The Tennessee Walker has been bred in the southern states of the USA since the beginning of the 19th century and is also becoming increasingly popular in Germany. The Tennessee Walker is very comfortable to ride, even over long distances, and has a friendly, people-oriented character. At a height of 1.50 - 1.60 metres, his character makes him a horse for timid riders or beginners. The typical gait of these horses is the walk, which one must imagine as an enormously ground-covering, fast step.

The töltender trotter is native to Germany. It was not officially recognised as a breed until 1996. Since the beginning of the seventies, the gait of these horses has been used to train a trotting riding horse. In this way it is often possible for people experienced in gaits to turn a trotter that is too slow for the racetrack into a very comfortable riding horse. In the meantime, however, horses are not only bred for the racetrack, but specifically for gaited qualities.

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 mutation for gait and brought the wild horses with them to Iceland. The Vikings recognised the value of this horse gait and thus laid the foundation for gaited horse breeding.

And we are grateful to them for that. Over time, a diverse cosmos of gaited horses developed, which, in addition to the horse breeds already mentioned, produced the elegant American Saddlebred, the tough Mangalarga Marchador, the enduring Missouri Foxtrotter and the indefatigable Rocky Mountain Horses.