I hope this helps you understand the difference between a running walk and a rack. I personally love the rack gait. I have 2 gaited horses that have an excellent rack and are both very fast at it the faster they go the smmooooother they are. I love the feel and the look of the rack much better than the running walk. Both of my horses love to rack and are very competetive. The Running Walk
is a desirable gait because of the obvious smoothness to a rider. For a horse in good condition, the true natural running walk is an easy gait to maintain and hold for distances. It is a gait that causes the least amount of stress to the horses entire body. The running walk is a four beat gait, independent in set down and in the pick up of the hooves. The hoof support sequence is 2 hooves flat on the ground and then 3 hooves on the ground. It is a lateral sequence in that the hind hoof will set down first, followed by the fore hoof on the same side. Also, you will notice the head shake in a running walk. I find that the running walk truly does have a vertical (up and down) head shake. There should be no side to side head motion
in the use of the head during the gait of running walk. The running walk
is a gait where the rider can feel a slight, soft forward and back movement in the saddle. One should be able to feel the long low reach of the hind legs coming under the horse and the front pulling in the ground giving the sensation of floating across the ground. The rack and saddle gait
are also smooth gaits but tend to move a rider a bit side to side due again to the lateral pick up of each side even though they are 4 beats in hoof falls. The saddle gait (stepped rack) is one that a rider can feel the shorter stride of the gait and feel a slight bump in the base of the spine due to the breaking of the hocks rather than the low sweeping hind legs of the running walk. In the rack gait feels faster. The rack has a lighter off the fore hand, up in front feeling , with more reach to the gait, covering ground faster than the saddle gait. The rack is harder on your horses body.
When the horse is performing one of the rack gaits, he has to assume a frame that will allow him to perform the gait. All versions of the rack require that a horse raise his head and neck, forming a "dip" just before the withers. The Rack family is performed with a steady, upright, head and neck carriage, a ventroflexed back, and up and down motion of the croup, with active hocks. Length of step, degree of animation and execution will vary among the various breeds and version of the rack family, but the basic frame remains the same. In all of the Rack family gaits, the rider will feel as if they are sitting in the smooth center while action goes on all around him, there will be the feeling of the “horse climbing a ladder” as the front end has a fold which gives height to the front legs while the length of step is not increased. Conformation traits
of horses that will tend to make good "rackers".
Certain conformation traits can predisposition a horse to perform a rack family gait. For example many horses who perform a gait in the rack family have a lower shoulder, higher natural head carriage, a longer back (particularly in the loin area) and more open angled hocks. Many have longer hind legs with short femur/long gaskin ratios in the hind. Often the neck is medium or short in length, set high into the chest and coming out at a more upright angle. Long lumbar span with a well developed but rather long and shallow loin. The running walk
is a gait where the rider can feel a slight, soft forward and back movement in the saddle. One should be able to feel the long low reach of the hind legs coming under the horse and the front pulling in the ground giving the sensation of floating across the ground.