what does a gaited horse mean

“Gaited Horse” – Characteristics, Benefits and Essential Gear

by | Jul 20, 2023 | Blog

The term ‘gaited horse’ speaks of a specific characteristic related to the way a horse moves. A gaited horse’s stride differs from the typical walk, trot, canter, and gallop. Instead, these special horses exhibit unique, often smoother gaits that provide a comfortable ride, one that’s usually less jarring and bouncy for the rider.

What is a Gaited Horse?

Simply put, a gaited horse has the ability to perform one or more “ambling” gaits. This unique style of movement is more rhythmical and often provides a smooth, gliding ride. There are many breeds of gaited horses, each boasting its unique style of gait, from the Missouri Fox Trotter, renowned for its foxtrot gait, to the Tennessee Walking Horse, famous for its running walk and rocking chair canter.

The Magic of Gait

The special characteristic of gaited horses, their unusual gait, lies in the sequence and rhythm of their footfall pattern. Non-gaited horses have a two-beat gait (trot) where diagonally opposite legs move together. On the other hand, gaited horses usually possess a four-beat gait that offers less vertical motion, translating into less bounce for the rider.

This specific sequence not only makes the ride smoother but also allows the horse to cover more ground without expending excessive energy. It’s why gaited horses are often chosen for endurance rides, long-distance travel, or when a rider seeks a comfortable ride, possibly due to back issues or simply a preference for a smoother journey.

Understanding the Gaits

The terminology for the gait can vary greatly, depending on the breed of the horse. Some of the well-known gaited breeds and their respective gaits include the Icelandic Horse with its tolt, the Paso Fino with its four-beat lateral gait, and the American Saddlebred, known for its slow gait and rack.

While the unique gaits may differ in style and speed, the common feature among these gaited breeds is the smooth, rolling rhythm that minimizes the rider’s vertical movement. This means fewer jolts and bounces, and as such, it’s no surprise that gaited horses are a popular choice among trail riders, older riders, or those with physical discomfort.

Related: The 10 Best Horse Breeds and Their Unique Features

Special Gear for Gaited Horses

Just as a gaited horse’s movement differs, so too might their needs when it comes to tack and gear. Special saddles designed for gaited horses, such as the King Series Classic Distance Rider Saddle, offer features like a flexible tree to better accommodate their unique movement. These saddles, designed to offer maximum comfort for both horse and rider, can make a significant difference in optimizing the horse’s gait performance.

In addition, using gait-specific training aids like the Weaver Leather ProTack Roper Rein can facilitate communication between rider and horse, enhancing the smoothness and rhythm of the gait. The quality and effectiveness of your gear can be instrumental in fostering the horse’s ability to maintain its gait while also ensuring the comfort and safety of the rider.

The joy of owning a gaited horse lies not only in their distinct and graceful movement but also in the smooth, comfortable ride they offer. The right gear designed specifically for gaited horses can enhance this experience, ensuring that both you and your horse enjoy each ride to the fullest.

Benefits of Owning a Gaited Horse

Among the many advantages of owning a gaited horse is their natural ability to provide a comfortable, smooth ride. This unique characteristic makes gaited horses the preferred choice for many riders. Whether you’re embarking on long trail rides, recovering from an injury, or simply preferring a less jarring journey, gaited horses offer unparalleled comfort.

Not only that, their ambling gaits often enable them to cover long distances without wearing themselves or their riders out. This quality makes them excellent choices for trail riding, endurance racing, or long-distance treks. Moreover, their smooth gaits tend to be less damaging to the terrain, a quality much appreciated by nature enthusiasts and conservationists.

Choosing the Right Gaited Horse

When selecting a gaited horse, it’s essential to understand that each breed and even individual horses within a breed can differ significantly in their movement, disposition, and suitability for specific activities. For example, a Tennessee Walking Horse might be ideal for relaxed trail riding, while a Paso Fino, with its energetic but smooth gait, might be more suited to a rider with competitive ambitions.

Each breed has its own unique strengths, so it’s essential to thoroughly research the breeds you’re interested in and to spend time with individual horses before deciding on the right one. Remember, the goal is to find a horse that matches your riding skills, lifestyle, and equestrian goals.

Caring for Gaited Horses

Like all horses, gaited horses require appropriate care and management to stay healthy and perform their best. However, due to their unique gaits, some gaited horses might require specialized care, especially when it comes to hoof care and saddle fit. For instance, the use of a hoof boot designed for trail riding, like Cavallo’s Simple Regular Sole Hoof Boot, can offer extra protection and support to your horse’s hooves during long rides.

In terms of diet, gaited horses, like other equines, need a balanced diet of high-quality hay, grains, and sufficient access to fresh water. Depending on the horse’s workload, you might need to supplement their diet. Purina | Omega Match Ahiflower Oil, rich in Omega 3, 6, and 9, can promote joint health, which is crucial for maintaining the smooth gaits of these horses.


Whether you’re a seasoned rider, an avid trail explorer, or a novice equestrian, gaited horses offer unique benefits. Their smooth, rhythmic gaits can make riding a more comfortable and enjoyable experience, and with proper care and the right equipment, these majestic creatures can truly shine.

About The Author

<a href="https://www.equiniction.com/author/issabella-m/" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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