I'm doing a feature article on gaited horses for my english journalism class, and I have virtually no knowledge about it, but I'm very very interested :) That's why I'm doing it, it needs to be something we are interesed in.
Could I please have a summary of what a gaited horse is and what they do, the different gaited breeds there are and what gaits they have from all of you knowledgable people out there? Also, if there is any special tack that you use?
Thankyou all very much.
Oh boy, are you going to be confused. The problem with gaited horses is that every breed association claims their breed's gait is different from all the others. Strictly speaking a gait is defined by the sequence and timing that each hoof hits the ground. But by that definition, there are really only four smooth gaits: The rack, the running walk, the step pace and the foxtrot.
The Foxtrot is a separate gait because it's diagonal - the sequence of footfalls is different from the others. The step pace is a separate gait because of the timing - the four beats are not quite even. Step pacing is undesirable though so I wouldn't include it in your report (although the fast gait of the Peruvian Paso is a step pace - I forget the Spanish name for it).
The running walk and the rack have the same sequence of footfalls, but I call them separate gaits because there are other important differences between them. In the running walk, the horse's hind feet reach past the tracks of the forefeet (overstride) and the horse also nods its head. In the rack it does neither of those things.
So, the Missouri foxtrotter does the foxtrot, and the Tennessee walking horse does the running walk. No matter what the breeders call it, all other gaited horses rack. The tolt of the Icelandic is a rack, and the "slow gait" of the saddlebred is just a slow rack. All the "gaits" of the Paso Fino are racks performed at different speeds and degrees of collection. The only other variation on the rack is how Peruvian Paso's arc their frontlegs out sideways during the paso illano, but I don't think that's enough to call it a different gait. The flying pace of the Icelandic doesn't count because even though it's smooth (when fast), it does have moments of suspension like the gaits of regular horses.
The most common gaited horses in the U.S are the TWH, Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino, the Rocky Mountain horse and Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse (not much difference between those two) and the Icelandic. Then there are breeds that are sometimes gaited like Saddlebreds, Morgans and Standardbreds.