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The Gaited Horse Craze

Well, I am about to take the plunge and buy my first gaited horse. It’s not for me personally, but a horse for my sales program. I am strictly a regularly-gaited type horse person although I totally get the current popularity to this type of horse. For myself, I prefer the trot and canter and the athleticism that those gaits bring. But I totally get the appeal of gaited horses.

Between the influence of the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) on the horse industry and the number of new riders coming into the sport (most of whom are in that age bracket), it’s no wonder the gaited horses have gotten so popular. It’s sort of like pushing the ‘easy button’. Have you tried a gaited horse? Are you sold on them or do you miss the trot?

I’ve always had a lot of requests for gaited horses in my horse sales program and the only reason I haven’t bought one before now is that it is very hard to find mature, well-trained, seasoned horses of that type that are for sale. There’s lots of youngsters on the market and the older gaited horses I found don’t meet my high standards for very broke, mannered horses. It’s getting increasingly harder to find good quarter horses in that category too, but they are much more prevalent than the gaited breeds, especially out here in the west.

Another problem with the gaited breeds is that just because a horse is bred and registered as a gaited horse, does not mean that he gaits well or gaits naturally. What many buyers of gaited horses are disappointed to discover is that a lot of gaited horses require the assistance of the rider to maintain their gait properly. Well, if you’re buying a gaited horse because you’re a beginner and  you want it to be easy, this presents a problem. If the rider has the skill to assist the horse in its gaits, she’d probably be just fine riding a regularly gaited horse.

Finally I’ve found a cute little double registered TN Walker/Mountain Horse that meets my criteria for training and temperament. He is a 14 y/o black and white gelding, cute as a button, shown extensively and successfully by a young girl and trail ridden heavily over the past five years. He’s a been-there-done-that broke horse that anyone can ride and he’ll go over, under or through anything you point him at. He’s a great size too, at 14 hands. As I’ve said before, the older I get, the smaller I want my horses to be and this is a perfect size for a trail horse. I am eager to get him here, but it’ll be a few weeks before I can get him on a van.

What’s your take on gaited horses?

Enjoy the ride,



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  1. Well how was your experience with the gaited horse?

  2. BRING IT! I’m game for just about anything! You only go around once, so take a great big bite of the best stuff.

    I also hear good things about the Mangalargas (did I spell that correctly?)

  3. Hmmm.. very interesting comments on here.. both about the gaited breeds and the riders.. I think I agree with a little bit of what everyone said.. we have owned a TWH for many years now.. bred him a few years back & got a beautiful colt.. who is now my personal horse.. however I was raised on quarter horse’s and Thoroughbreds.. and when I first started the TWH I knew nothing of gaiting.. so I just trained him and rode him like any other horse.. it wasn’t until I was ready to start his colt that I wanted to learn about gaiting.. so I took some lessons from a trainer that specialized in riding gaited breeds.. it was worth every penny and I enjoyed every minute of the lessons.. and now I can enjoy the gait’s my horse’s were born with naturally but I had to learn how to get them gaiting under saddle and keep them there.. to me riding a gaited horse on the trail is no different then riding any other regular gaited horse.. after all most trail riding no matter the terrain is done at a leisurely walk with a loose rein.. however I am very addicted to the glide ride.. I’m in my 40’s and even though I have had some awesome QH’s with an excellent trot.. there is no comparison.. simply because there is no bounce.. but let me tell ya that even a gaited horse can trot.. and it’s a horrible! bottom line here is that no matter what breed of horse you are riding.. you need to do the work and learn to ride.. learn to communicate.. as with everything else in life.. you get out of it what you put into it.. there are no short cuts that you wont pay for later.

  4. Our family is relatively new to the gaited horse world, as we just started getting into Rocky Mountain Horses about two years ago. We’re hooked. I got my first horse when I was 11 (2007)-he’s 3/4 Arab. My dad got another Arab to keep him company, but when my younger siblings wanted to start riding we knew that we probably needed something a little calmer, so we looked into the Rocky Mountain Horses. We now have 6 Rockies, including our just-purchased stallion, Rocky Mountain Man. I still don’t know a whole lot about riding gaited horses, but when we went to look at Rocky before buying him I got on him and he gaited on a loose rein. That’s what we want all of our horses to be trained to do eventually. Anne, who posted above, is totally right-if a Rocky is certified, it gaits. Some horses will not gait immediately; a lot of Rockies will be either trotty or pacey until you get them to round themselves and achieve collection and softness. But normally, it’s that easy. And even if they aren’t locked in gait yet, they are awesome trail horses, just because they are naturally curious, don’t spook as much as most breeds, and have an extended “mountain horse walk” which really eats the distance. My Arab trots, and when my dad is gaiting beside me he laughs to see me posting away. He for one doesn’t ever wish for a trotting horse… =)

    Briana Thomas
    Halal Mountain Horses-Upstate SC

  5. That should be spelled “palfrey.” Please correct for me.

  6. Gaited horses are nothing new. The “palfry” of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” was another term for a gaited horse. He wrote during the mid, to late 1300’s.

  7. Until about 5 years ago, I had never ridden a gaited horse. After several years of riding with my friends on a gaited horses, I surrendered. Trotting (posting or sitting) for rides, short or long, was an effort, not a pleasure.

    Gaited horses are fast movers in general. They were used in rural areas for the last couple hundred years, so that Ma, or Grandma or ANY family member could get to the store, post office, etc. in a timely and comfortable manner. My own grandmother rode a Saddlebred mare for errands from the ranch to town and back. Hitching up the wagon and team was a big deal, so why not hop on the mare for trips that did not demand hauling cargo?

    Speed was a practical matter. Getting to town and back on the same day was important. Overall, I have found that gaited horses are very easy to handle, quiet and good natured. The family saddle horse was ridden by everyone, including the kids.

    So, don’t judge the ride until you have been there. Relax, sit back and go with the flow. Gaited horses are for pleasure… why not?

  8. I personally would not be caught riding anything but our Missouri Foxtrotters on the trail.Riding regularly gaited horses was fine when I was a kid.Now,I want to ride a glide!!!

  9. Late to the farm here…
    I agree many gaited horse riders are of the “point and shoot” variety. My mare (KMH) came from such a place. I was looking for a slow horse and the lady who had her said she could not keep up with her big TWH so they decided to sell her. She came here asking “where are the big walkers I am supposed to catch”? I have fear issues and have decided I might never ride again – at least not my own horses.
    Hubby is taking lessons on her. The trainer has them working together much better and after 4 lessons, I think the witch might just learn to do a nice quiet walk after all. Whoa will take more time though.
    Good luck Julie! I’m looking forward to seeing the new horse.

  10. Julie: I rode a TW for several years and retired him. Because all of my friends were riding QH, I purchased a well trained, 8 year old western pleasure QH. Love him, but next horse (if ever), I will go back to gaited horse. Enjoyed the smooth ride, he would go any where you pointed him, lively, but did not spook. I rode him on trails of all types. But if you did not know how to ride him, a rider would be in big trouble. He had to have total confidence in his rider. You did not just sit back and ride. Love every minute on his back.

  11. I’m wondering if people put a little too much emphasis on gaiting in general, for the gaited breeds, that is if you are just looking for a nice trail/pleasure riding horse. Will it hurt the horse if you don’t know the exact gaits? I’m not interested on hurrying through a trail ride in a specific gait, which is how I have seen gaited riders.

    Maybe I’m ignorant on this issue but after reading tons of material on the subject, my conclusion is if I’m not showing, I’m not worrying about the gaits on my Spotted Saddle Horses when I’m enjoying a nice leisure trail ride. Is this wrong?

    I’m 48 and have had my 2 SSH’s for almost 5 years. I don’t concern myself with what gaits, we just enjoy ourselves. If I pick up the pace, my guys are good to go. I honestly detest seeing some of the gaited riders who do not look comfortable as they’re riding in the running walk or whatever gait they think the horse should be in.

    Two hundred years ago, I doubt the first riders of gaited breeds worried too much about what gait their horse was in, they rode the way they rode over long,dirt trails, because the horse got them where they needed to be, comfortably.

    I agree with Anonymous, I believe it’s often the rider and too much emphasis being placed on I gotta ride a certain way on this horse because he’s gaited. Just my opinion on it.

    Julie, I admire your teaching techniques and your advice, so looking forward to more on your gaited horse journey! Love the Horse Master show by the way!

  12. I’ve ridden gaited horses. Truthfully I think I’d miss the trot. (I know gaited fans don’t understand this) I’m late 50’s and thought about this when buying my last horse but pretty quickly knew I didn’t want one. One that I rode was smooth when in gait but when not was a miserable ride. Some of the gaited horse fans I know never learn to ride and I think their horses suffer for it. If I had a serious long-term injury I’d probably go for it. Truthfully I like to post.

  13. Julie,
    I enjoy your blog and respect your commitment to horses. My view on Gaited horses are curiosity mixed with reluctance. I have seen many gaited horses at trail ride events and rode one for abut ten minutes at a clinic. I have yet to see a gaited horse carrying a rider in a relaxed state and this tempers my curiosity with reluctance. Please allow me to qualify this statement by adding that I believe the tension I see, in the Gaited horses I have observed, comes from the riders. It seems that most of the riders are not tuned in to the horses they ride and are unaware of the connection between smooth to ride and suppleness. This could very well be the reason they switched from the walk, trot, canter breeds. Before your readers jump on this, I must mention that I am 54 and have the stiffness, aches, and pains associated with the age group.

  14. Congratulations Julie on the gaited horse! You are correct that just because the horse is a gaited breed it doesn’t mean that it will gait nicely. The Rocky Mountain Horse, that is ceritfied WILL gait… naturally…It goes up in front of a board of examiners, once it is under saddle, for a test to insure that it will gait with keg or no shoes on. That is one of the reasons that we breed and raise the Rockies. The association keeps the breed as pure as possible. If the horses can’t gait or do not have the personality required, then they will not be certified to breed. I have found that if a well gaited horse is ridden by a rider that doen’t understand the movement of the gait that the horse will not gait as nicely just as a troting horse will string out and fall out of frame by an novice rider somtime. If you want a Rockie you know where there are some in SC! Post a picture of the new member of you herd!

  15. Wow! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see THIS topic on your forum, and to hear you’ve added a gaited horse to your barn! I am, essentially, one of the generation of folks finding myself looking for the easier ride as my bones don’t have the spring they did 20 years ago when I was riding quarter horses up the mountains. I happened across this horse in a field that honestly, no kidding, took my breath away. I HAD to ride her. Lucky for me, she happen to be for sale. The catch was I had never, ever, ridden a gaited horse and had absolutely zero knowledge and experience with one. I jump on her and try to ride in my “foward jumping seat” that my 20 year old body (now 43 years old)was so used to, and she just sped up and basically moved under me until SHE had me sitting in the correct position for her gait and in that instant there was no turning back! I bought her two hours later, and have since bought 2 more of the same breed: American Saddlebred. A much overlooked and under-estimated breed. All 3 of mine also happen to be 5 gaited (which means they have 2 walking speeds and two running speeds, essentially, in addition to the wtc) so,there’s an extra bonus! All of my horses are rescues, rescues from abandonment/neglect (3), kill-sale auction (1). So, I took these guys in, and in return, they have taught me individually, and collectively, more than I had learned in my first season of horses (pre-home-making, pre-kids, etc), and more about myself and what I “thought” I knew, compared to what I “actually” know!
    So, to end this rambling, I’d like to say, although I love my warmblood filly, and will not be trading her for any other horse, I have a special and very different attachment to my Saddlebreds, the 1st Saddlebred I bought in particular, that has sent me into a whole new world. My only complaint about riding my long-legged, high-headed, high-stepping Saddlebred on the trails with other gaited horses is that she covers so much more ground even in her “flat-walk” or 2nd gear, that I have a hard time finding anyone other than Saddlebred riders to keep up with us. Even her slowest walk is, in general, much swifter and covers more ground than most any other breed. But this is a minor detail that I can live with, in exchange for the grace, intelligence, comfort, and loaded sense of humor that I have found all of my saddlebreds have. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, maybe they’re not all like mine, but 3 out of 3, without trying, seems pretty good odds to me.
    And, as for the warmblood, I’ve begun my he under saddle this month and will start her on trails this summer. But she was born to be a jumper, and a jumper she will be. I won’t be jumping with her, but there’s a long line of great kids waiting to take her over her first jump. I have effectively been converted to a gaited horse/American Saddlebred lover, from here on out. I hope you enjoy your new gaited horse as much as I have enjoyed mine. You really can’t go wrong with these guys if your interest is in trails, in my opinion anyway.
    Thanks for letting me share.

  16. I definitely agree that gaited horses often do not gait as well as their breeding suggests they may. I am fifteen and have been working with Walkaloosa mare, Sierra, since November for my 4H project. I did not purchase her, and had it been my choice I would have picked a different horse, but she happened to come my way. Sierra hadn’t been ridden in two years when I got her. She has way to much go, and when I started, was pretty agressive when I worked with her. We’ve come a long way, but now the problem has been choosing what classes to put her in at fair. Her natural trot is faster than the average canter and can hardly be called a trot. She does gait but it’s really fast and takes a lot to get it to come out. She does have a nice canter, though it is fast too (Picture: MASTER IS HURT! I’M RUNNING FOR THE DOCTOR!). We’ve ended up just starting to work on slowing her trot down, keeping a less relaxed rein. I know lots of people want gaited horses, but I don’t think I really support trying to get the appaloosa’s coloring and the gaitedness of Tennessee Walkers, if it produces horses that cannot gait consistently or put forth a good trot…

    Really, I don’t know what my take is on gaited horses since I can’t say I’ve ever ridden a horse that gaits naturally. The idea sounds good and I’d love to ride some!
    — Linley


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