Get Started With Gaited Horse Training

If you have never done any gaited horse training you are in for some fun and learning! Some gaited horse breeds you may recognize are the Tennessee Walking Horse, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Rocky Mountain Horse, Paso Fino, and Missouri Fox Trotter.

The smooth gaited horses are very fun to ride, but are a bit different from a regular horse when it comes to training. This is because you will need to know what their special movements are and how to recognize them.

Although these special ways of going generally come naturally to the horse depending on his breeding, training history, and conformation, it is up to you to be able to train each individual animal to pick up and maintain those gaits.


What is a Non-Gaited Horse?

For a starting comparison, let's look at a non-gaited horse. Horses without the smooth movements have four gaits only.

  1. Walk
  2. Trot
  3. Canter
  4. Gallop

The intermediate gait is a trot, which can be bouncy because the horse’s legs move in unison in diagonal pairs:

left front/right hind and right front/left hind

These pairs of legs move at the same time. This creates a moment of suspension when

all four legs are off the ground

followed by concussion that unless you know how to ride well can cause bounce and make your behind sore!

Why Choose and Train a Gaited Horse and What Makes Them Different?

Many people select a gaited horse because they generally lack that jarring motion of the trot, making them ideal for people who want to travel at greater speeds in comfort or for those with back problems. Gaited horses are especially popular for trail riding.

Briefly, all gaited horses have a footfall pattern in which one foot is always on the ground.

Because of this, there is no jarring or bounce when a horse performs these types of gaits. They are smooth riding!

Learning About the Special Movements: A Gaited Introduction


In gaited horse training you can run into an animal that will have have any combination of the following smooth gaits. You will need to be able to identify them so you can be effective in your training. Then when training you can teach him a cue to take and maintain that specific one.

Diagonally Based Gaits

There are diagonally based gaits such as the:

  • Fox Walk
  • Fox Trot

In these gaits the legs move in diagonal pairs

  • left front/right hind and
  • right front/left hind

The front foot lands a split second before the opposite hind foot, giving the gait four beats.

Square Gaits

The intermediate or square gaits are where neither diagonal or lateral pairs of legs move in unison, but instead each foot moves separately. The footfall pattern is:

  • left hind/left front/right hind/right front.

These gaits are divided into the

  • dog walk
  • working walk
  • flat walk
  • running walk
  • rack
  • speed rack

These movements have the same footfall pattern but are differentiated by their speed, animation and differences in stride length.


Lateral Gaits

Lateral gaits are when the pair of legs on the same side move in unison.

  • left front/left hind
  • right front/right hind

There are two lateral gaits.

  1. Stepping Pace- In the stepping pace the legs of the same side move in unison but the hind foot lands just before the same side front foot.
  2. Pace-In the pace the legs move in unison in same side pairs (vs diagonal pairs for the trot) which is similar to the trot in that it is jarring. This is because of the moment of suspension followed by the same side pair of legs landing at the same time. This is not a recommended movement for training riding horses, but is used in speed carriage training.

Using The Horse's Natural Talents to Train Him


Along with being able to identify the smooth movements you will also need to find out what gaits your mount can perform and what his natural tendency is.

The most essential part and one of the best tips for training gaited horses is to use the horse’s natural talents to your favor in his training plan.

His breed may partially determine what gait he does naturally, but not always. His natural smooth gait or gaits will depend on his breed, age, past training and his individual conformation.

Harsh Equipment and Methods Do Not Make for a Happy Horse

Many old school gaited trainers and training techniques involve very harsh bits used to get leverage on the horse’s head to get the gait. Twisted wire and bits with very long shanks have been “normal” for many years.

Many natural horsemanship trainers such as Parelli horse training’s David Lichman have brought gentler, better, and more effective training techniques to those who own gaited animals.

All quality gaited trainers teach the horse suppleness and to come onto the bit properly without the use of harsh equipment to force and maintain the smooth gaits.

Horse training DVD’s and horse training books from those experienced in gaited horse training are a great resource to help fill in your gaps of knowledge in understanding the world of gaited horse training.


Gaited horses and training them can be both fun and satisfying. Many people who switch to riding gaited horses wonder why they ever rode a regular horse!

Many horse trainers assume that gaited horses are the same to train. In principle gaited horse training is the same, but the more you know about their way of going the easier it will make your job.

Becoming more educated on the different breeds of smooth gaited horses and the special gaits they perform is an important first step for your success in training these special horses.

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