Savvy Library

An Introductory Guide to Horse Gaits

Horses have been bred for centuries to be our trusty steeds. They help transport goods and materials, act as pets, and get us from place to place. Above anything else, horses are revered for their movements. Horses are highly susceptible to injuries too and that is the reason they need good care. explains how CBD oil can help horses recover from physical injuries and helps them in various other ailments.

It is important for any budding equestrian to understand exactly the different kind of gaits a horse can use, for both comfortable rides and athletic prowess. Generally speaking, there are two different categories of gaits, artificial and natural. The gait a horse will use depends on its breed and the job at hand. Here’s a basic guide to how they work.

Natural gaits

Natural gaits are most commonly found in stock horses like the Quarter Horse, Appaloosa, Paint Horse, and various English breeds (Morgans, Arabians, Thoroughbreds, etc.). These natural gaits include the following:

Walk: When each hoof hits the ground on its own. The horse walks with the front foot leading with the diagonal foot behind it following, then starting it all over again. For example, a typical walk gait would start with the left front, right hind, right front, left hind.

Trot: As a two-beat gait, this is when the horse’s legs are paired diagonally. Instead of each hoof hitting the ground at the separate time, the parallel legs hit together such as the right front and the left rear hit at once.

Canter: A three-beat gait where one pair of hoofs hits the ground by itself and the other two hit together. Also known as a lope, this is done in either a right or a left lead. In a right lead, the hooves hit in the pattern of left hind hitting alone and the pair of right hind and left front simultaneously. In a left lead, the hooves hit in the pattern of the right hind by itself with the left hind and right front hitting together.

Gallop: Even though this looks like a fast canter, it is a four-beat gait. The gallop happens when each pair of legs, both rear and front, hit the floor together. For example, the rear legs hit at the same time and then the front legs hit together. The horses’ stride is the longest during a gallop, making it the fastest gait.

Backing Up: Consider a horse backing up as a backwards trot. This means the right front moves with the left back, and vice versa.

Artificial gaits

Due to their physical abilities, there are some horses that can handle artificial horse gaits. Also known as ambling gaits, the common artificial gaits are the rack, the fox trot, the running walk, the paso, and the tolt.

Typically, all of these gaits are faster than a traditional walk, but never get as fast as a canter. What makes them interesting is how much smoother they are than natural horse gaits, making them incredibly sustainable for long periods of time. During activities like trail riding where the rider has to spend a lot of time in the saddle, this is useful.

While some horses can do these fun and interesting gaits from birth, the majority of horses need to be taught from a young age how to do so. The most common types of gaited horses are the Tennessee Walker, the Missouri Fox Trotter, and the American Saddlebred Horse. Additionally, Standardbred horses are the ones you will find with a sulky cart in a horse race, and can be considered a gaited horse because they usually have to compete in a specific type of stride when racing.

There are plenty of different kinds of horse gaits, making an exciting challenge for equestrians worldwide.

One Comment

  • Lauryn R

    This was a very interesting post, thank you so much for sharing! Horses are such majestic and beautiful creatures, I love them! I haven’t ridden one in years though.

%d bloggers like this: