What Is A Gaited Horse?

Knowledge about breeds of horses can at times seem to be mystifying. How can you honestly tell one breed of horse from another? What are the ways to distinguish one breed of horse from another?

What is a gaited horse?

If you have ever heard a term like gaited horse, you might be wondering what exactly that is and what connection it has, if any, to gates. 

Well, this article will set your mind at rest and provide you with all the information you need on gaited horses. You will never again have to ask the question what is a gaited horse because you will already know the answer. 

What Is A Gaited Horse?

Let’s start by addressing the simplest question first – what is a gaited horse?

A gaited horse is a horse that can travel across any terrain using all four legs independently, rather than in sequence as the majority of horse breeds do. 

Of the over 300 different breeds of horses, there are about thirty breeds that are naturally gaited and as such these particular breeds of horses are highly prized for both their skill in equestrian circles and as horses to transport people and goods across long distances. 

You might be wondering which horses are part of the gaited subgroup of horses. Well these are some of the breeds of horses that are gaited horses:


These small, gaited horses originated in Brazil and are descended from the horses that were part lost from an expedition in 1541 by the Spanish explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca.

The horses would eventually become wild and feral before eventually becoming domesticated again sometime in the 1700s. 

Icelandic Horse

Another result of historical expeditions, this gaited horse breed is descended from horses taken over to Iceland during the 9th and 10th centuries by Norse Viking travellers who would eventually colonise Iceland.

Mentioned in both historical and literary records, the Icelandic horse is renowned as one of the swiftest horses known to man. 

Missouri Fox Trotter

This gaited breed originated in Missouri and takes its name from the fact that its gaited walk was considered to be similar to someone dancing the foxtrot.

This breed was officially recognized in 1948 and has since become popular amongst people across the United States. 

Morgan Horse

This gaited horse is one of the oldest breeds in the history of the USA and takes its name from Justin Morgan, a late eighteenth century breeder who bred the founder of the Morgan breed Figure in 1789.

The Morgan horse subsequently went on to become the most popular cavalry horse in the US and was used by both sides in the American Civil War. 

Now that we’ve explained exactly what a gaited horse is, let’s explain how you can spot whether or not a horse is a gaited animal or not.

What is a gaited horse?

How To Spot A Gaited Horse 

Whilst you might be able to tell if a horse is a gaited horse or not simply by being told what breed it is, especially if it is one of the ones listed above, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to know how to identify a gaited horse based on its physical attributes.

If the person you are talking to doesn’t know what breed of horse it is that they own then it is always worth having the knowledge to be able to distinguish between a gaited and non gaited horse for yourself. 

The most obvious way to tell if a horse is gaited or not is to see how it moves. Gaited horses vary in size and color so by simply watching whether or not the horse moves its hooves individually or not you should be able to tell if it is gaited or not. 

Most gaited horses have a tendency to follow a pattern of placing their right hind leg down first, then their right front,

then their left hind and then their right front and so on. If you watch the horse walk up and down slowly the pattern should become fairly obvious in a short amount of time. 

Now that we’ve explained how to spot if a horse is a member of a gaited breed or not, let’s explain what benefits there are to owning a gaited horse. 

What Are The Benefits Of Owning A Gaited Horse?

One of the most obvious benefits of owning a gaited horse is one that we have already mentioned – that a gaited horse can be an incredibly quick horse, meaning that it can cover a large distance in a relatively short amount of time. 

However, there are other positives to owning gaited horses. A gaited horse is much easier to ride than other breeds of horse, simply because the horses aren’t as bouncy as other horses and are much harder to cause a rider to fall off than horses that aren’t gaited. 

This means that gaited horses are particularly easy for people to ride who are riding horses for the first time and also if you have older people who want to ride they are less likely to get injured if they ride a gaited horse because it doesn’t dislodge them as easily. 

Similarly, gaited horses are also found to be much gentler than non-gaited horses. Whilst this of course is a generalisation and each horse truly is an individual in the same way each human being is,

this means that gaited horses are also easier to handle if you are of a nervous disposition meaning they are perfect for people who want to interact with a horse but are nervous about doing so.

If they meet a gaited horse, then any fears they have about horses will be sure to disappear instantly. 

Why You Should Own A Gaited Horse 

As this article has illustrated, gaited horses are wonderful animals. They are generally calmer, easier to ride and can be ridden for longer distances than other horses;

they all have fascinating histories and can be connected to some of the most interesting parts of world history, and they will form a special bond with you that is unlikely to break anytime soon. 

So, if you have ever considered owning a horse, then make sure it is a gaited horse because you won’t regret it – they truly are wonderful animals that deserve to be fully appreciated.

Catherine McDowl
Latest posts by Catherine McDowl (see all)