Names of different gaits - Also other questions - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 03:40 PM Thread Starter
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Names of different gaits - Also other questions

This may get long, I tend to ramble when trying to explain my thoughts.

When someone says their horse gaits what exactly are they saying? A walk is a gait, as is a trot and canter. Now I get that generally when someone says gait in reference to a TWH they are meaning the particular gait that a walker does that a quarter horse does not. But what is it called exactly? Is it a running walk, rack, or something else? Or are all of those words different ways of identifying the same gait?

Could someone explain the difference please? Do other gaited breeds have the same "gait" as a TWH or is it different? I have not studied much on this before, it was enough that the horse I was riding was sane and went the speed I asked for, I didn't much care what that particular gait/gear was called. Now that I have my own TWH in training I feel like I should know more about it.

Now for a another question. My TWH gelding has four "gears" as I call them. Walk, trot, "gait", and canter. I am happy with this as more gears means more options for me to chose from. Does anyone know how to get him to differentiate between when I want him to trot vs "gait"? They are both a middle speed between walk and canter so I'm not sure using the same signal for both would be very efficient. He just went for saddle training this weekend and the trainer has not had a lot of experience in gaited horses, but is the best known in this area for starting horses with solid basics and getting them in a good working mindset.

This is the gelding in question a few months ago in his winter woolies.
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post #2 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 03:50 PM
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I know some would disagree I am sure but I will say this, You dont want your walker to be "trotting." Thats a no no ha ha. If he is trained to gait so to speak or do the running walk/slow or speed rack. Then over time he will develop a faster 4 beat gait. With muscling the gait can become faster and faster. I have seen many walkers that would do a 8 to 10 mph gait all day. Now as far as a breakdown of the different gaits I will let someone more experienced with the gaited breeds fill ya in. But I definatly think trotting wouldnt be good and cantering is up for debate and I myself want to know if cantering my walker is a good or bad thing?
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post #3 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 04:33 PM Thread Starter
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I was afraid of this. I really don't want folks coming here just to debate if it is, or is not a good idea in their opinion to allow a gaited horse to do a trot or canter. The fact is that he does it, that's just how he is and I am not upset about it, I choose to think of it as a bonus gait. His mother and full sister do both, and both have been shown in hunter/jumper classes where trotting is mandatory and then taken out on the trails and "gaited" away the day. It has not harmed them in any way to do both and they have both ended up very versatile mounts. If anyone would like to debate it perhaps a different thread could be started?

My main concern is not that he be the best gaiting horse out there, it's just that he be a calm safe mount that does what is asked of him. I was drawn to the breed not for the gait but for the level headedness and good sense between the ears. I am just not sure what would be the most effective way to get him to differentiate between the two speeds.
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post #4 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 05:08 PM
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the intermediate gait that TWHs do is called the running walk.
some walkers also pace, although it is undesirable. the pace is a lateral two-beat gait. the right and left legs move in unison - like a human stride, only with four legs. if that makes sense. Some racing Standardbreds do this - they can pace at incredible speeds.
the following is a quick and concise explanation of other gaits:

"The fox trot is most often associated with the Missouri Foxtrotter breed, but is also seen under different names in other gaited breeds. The fox trot is a four-beat diagonal gait in which the front foot of the diagonal pair lands before the hind. The same footfall pattern is characteristic of the trocha, pasitrote and marcha batida seen in various South American breeds.
-The rack or racking is a lateral gait most commonly associated with the Five-Gaited American Saddlebred. In the rack, the speed is increased to be approximately that of the pace, but it is a four-beat gait with equal intervals between each beat.
-The running walk, a four-beat lateral gait with footfalls in the same sequence as the regular walk, but characterized by greater speed and smoothness. It is a distinctive natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
-The slow gait is a general term for various lateral gaits that follow the same general lateral footfall pattern, but the rhythm and collection of the movements are different. Terms for various slow gaits include the stepping pace and singlefoot.
-The Tölt is a gait that is often described as being unique to the Icelandic Horse. The footfall pattern is the same as for the rack, but the tölt is characterized by more freedom and liquidity of movement. Some breeds of horses that are related to the Icelandic horse, living in the Faroe Islands and Norway, also tölt."

hope this helped clarify things... of course, when it comes to gaited breeds and how they move, things usually just get more complicated. lol
OH, and as far as the training... I am by no means an expert, and other members can feel free to correct me if I'm wrong here. If it were my Walker, I would want him to focus solely on the running walk and ignore his trotting. I know you don't want to hear that, but that's what they're bred for, it's their more natural way of going, and trying to teach him both, the two gaits may begin to bleed together. And it could quickly turn into a washing machine gait. Yighck.
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Last edited by arrowsaway; 05-01-2012 at 05:14 PM.
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post #5 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 11:15 PM
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Thanks arrow! I 100,000% agree!
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post #6 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 11:36 PM
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Gait is just a general term for any pace other then a trot in the context of gaited horses.

Outside of gaited horses, a gait is a term used for any gear. The trot is a gait. The walk is a gait. A rack, running walk, fox trot and likewise are more particularly called easy gaits. But, if you're walking about gaited horses, a gait is always their special gear.

My horse has four gears. In order of increasing speed: Walk, gait (saddle rack), trot, canter. I ride all of them. It gives me the ability to move well over all kinds of terrain. I walk where I must, gait through places it's too rough or winding to trot, trot in places I can safely achieve moderate speed, and canter wide straightaways.

I can see why some people don't like this. Whether you should train four gears depends on both horse and rider. There are cons to this approch. Your horse could decide he loves trotting and never wants to gait again. You could confuse your horse with your signals and he not be sure which gait you want him to pick up. There should be NO gray area when training two middle gaits. You need to be perfectly clear which you are asking for. Your horse should never decide which gaits he wants to pick up. That's always your call. If you don't, in the very least he'll develop favoritism for one gait and be sour about picking up the other.

If you use two middle gears, you'll never have an amazing gait and an amazing trot. You'll have two okay gaits. Jack of all trades, master of none.

There are pros too. Having two middle gears makes moving out on different terrian easier. Arguably, it improves your horse's endurance by using different muscle groups. You get tired in one gait and switch to the other. Me and some of my endurance/CTR friends train their horses to do two middle gaits because it this.
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post #7 of 12 Old 05-01-2012, 11:56 PM
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Ick, double post... Sorry! Forgot something!

This is a semi-standard way to cue for trot and gait. Mind you, this works best for "trot dominate" horses; horses who would rather trot than gait if they had a choice. These horses also have a middle an easy gait in the racking family. Your mileage may vary if your horse does a running walk.

Most of the people who do two middle gear thing do it sort of like this:

To gait:

At a walk, take up contact with your reins. Raise your horse's head by holding your reins higher than normal -- about waist level. Ask him to bend at the pole. He should tuck his nose in a bit. Modify your seat into a slight chair seat. Your toes should be a bit in front of your knees. Sit deep in the saddle, pressing your seat bones into the saddle. Squeeze (don't kick) until he moves forwards into what should be a slow gait. Ask for increases in speed gradually.

Another con about making sure the horses doesn't get confused: it's best to keep the speeds different. The easy gait is slower then the trot. Don't ask for a lot of speed in the gait, and don't allow them to trot as slow as they gait. (Makes sense?)

For a trot:

Note: it's never a pretty transition. Don't expect one.

Lighten your seat. Go into half seat. Close your hip angle and make sure your legs are properly under you. Think hunter/jumper. Loosen your reins until you have some swing; you don't want any contact with the mouth. Instead of the gradual squeezing your use to build speed when asking for gait, click and say "TROT" firmly. (It's best to ask going up hill if you're new to it.) Nudge with your heel and allow your horse to go as fast as he needs to without cantering. If your horse is a good candidate for this, you'll feel a couple weird dish washer gait steps. Afterwards, he'll break into a trot. When he starts trotting, gently bring him down to a more modest speed with a couple half halts. Stay out of his mouth as much as possible.

NEVER sit. Ever. Always post or stay in two point.

Kind of complicated, eh? It's not easy. You'll have to decide if it's worth it to you. Some horses just never get it. If you horse doesn't learn to trot and gait on command, it's best to pick a gear and only do that one.
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post #8 of 12 Old 05-02-2012, 12:42 AM
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First of all, thanks Arrow for your explanations. I appreciated them!

My horse (registered as a Kentucky Mountain Horse, although he has a lot of Walker in him) also does a walk, a flat walk, a running walk, fox trot, pace, trot, and we are working on the canter! I, of course, prefer the "true gaits"; after all, I paid extra for them!!

The ONLY time I let him trot is when I am not on him, and he is in the round pen, just getting his muscles going. When I am on him, I don't let him trot ever. The way I do this is to slow him down just a pinch, press in with my calves a bit, and "massage" the reins gently; left, right, left right, This gets him back in gait in a matter of steps.

I can tell when he is pacing; it is smooth, but is more of a left-right feeling in my seat. Although his pace is smooth, I know it is considered "wrong". But seeing how my horse is for trail only, I don't mind, as long as it is comfortable for him, and smooth for me.

Many gaited horses canter a bit differently than non-gaited horses. Some (like mine) of them add an extra step in the back; almost like a bit of a fox trot with the footfall. When I first rode my horse, he cantered beautifully, but on my local trails, I don't have much opportunity to use the canter, so he is out of practice. I have been working on his canter extensively for about 4 months now. When done correctly, it is like a rocking chair; smooth and wonderful. Some gaited horses do it easily; some don't.

I also know that MANY gaited horses cross-fire when cantering, or easily lead with the wrong foot in an arena. Again, it doesn't matter on the trail, but I do want my horse to be balanced, so I work on it in both directions.

"Do you give the horse its strength, or clothe its neck with a flowing mane?" (Job 39:19)
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post #9 of 12 Old 05-02-2012, 09:38 AM
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TWH have several gaits but the main gaits are flat walk, running walk and rocking chair canter. Flat walk and running walk are both a 4 beat gait with the differance being speed. Now these two gaits are a cross between a pace and trot. This means walkers can be on the pacey or trotty side, in other words they would prefer to trot or pace over gaiting. Which they are you can easily see just by watching what they do in the pasture when moving out. What a gaited horse trainer will do for you is set your horse in its gait. A horse that has been set in it's gait can be trained to both trot and gait on command. A horse that has not been set in their gait will most likely just trot or pace and only rarely gait.
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post #10 of 12 Old 05-02-2012, 10:33 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks guys it's all getting a bit clearer now! The geldings dam was always described as pacey. The owner seemed to think it was uncomfortable and hated that she did it, but I actually thought it was quite comfortable and didn't mind it at all. Of course my old paint that everyone else thought had short choppy strides I also thought was comfortable, and other horses who were described as smooth didn't siut me at all. I do have a spinal deformity that affects my riding so it seems to be more about the individual horse rather that what type of gait they are in.

If he just cannot get both of them down like the rest of his family then I will pick one later on. May be trot or may be running walk, obviously I'm not a gait only fanatic In the meantime we will see. I am not aware of any gaited specific trainers in this area so we will just have to do the best we can.

imagaitin- I can see where if that was was you bought the horse for and paid extra for it then you would definitly want it to "gait" only. My boy was a throw away basically. He was free and the owner of the dam was glad to get rid of him (Owners father bred the mare without her permission because she was just standing in the pasure not working. Cause ya know there are not enough horses already)

Brighteyes- Those instructions will come in handy I'm sure.
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