Gaited vs Non Gaited Horse- Everything You Need to Know

It's common knowledge that horses are graceful, but did you know that some have distinctive walking patterns? Yes, you read it right. Before investing in a horse with purpose, we need to look closely at the walking pattern, also called the ‘Gait’ of our tactful creatures. For owners with a passion for buying racing horses, knowing the difference between gaited and non-gaited horses becomes a must.

Every horse has a gait, but it is just that some have certain special gaits.

We’ll dive into the peculiarities of a gaited horse along with the advantages that complement it, further giving them an edge over the non-gaited ones.

What is the Difference Between Gaited and Non-Gaited Horses?

So far, we have covered what is a gaited horse, what is a non-gaited horse, and what are the advantages of gaited over non-gaited horses. Here we will summarize it in tabular format:


Gaited Horses

Non-Gaited Horses






Comparatively less calm

Energy Demand












Walking Gait

Have a specific gait

Perform normal gaits













What are the Gaits of Horses?

A gait is a way of moving or walking in animals or humans. Horses’ style of motion is subject to study under the equine locomotion field.

Horses can walk, run, and pace by depicting different gaits. We categorized the gaits in horses from slowest to fastest:


  • The walk is the slowest gait in horses. The horse moves forward with each foot landing independently on the ground, defining the slowest gait.


  • It is a faster gait than walking. The trot is a two-beat gait in which the horse’s feet move in paired diagonals.


  • Canter is a three-beat gait that includes a simultaneous landing of a pair of feet on the ground, independent of the other two feet.


  • Gallop is the fastest gait in horses containing four beats.
  • Apart from these four gaits, there is a back gait in horses. Back gaits imply horses moving backward, comprising a two-beat diagonal gait.
  • It's important to understand the common horse gaits before studying the variations in gaited and non-gaited horses.

What is a Gaited Horse?

To put it in a single line, a gaited horse is one who “moves each leg independently”. These follow a precise pattern that goes like “right hind, right front, left hind, left front” or “right front, left hind, left front, right hind”. Gaited horses have a four-beat gait pattern that lets each footfall independently for better weight distribution and energy conservation.

Gaited horses, because of their virtue of conservation of energy, have more stamina and are better for long-distance traveling. The gaited horses have extraordinary endurance. They provide a smoother seat to the rider, allowing them to travel comfortably, which makes them preferred transportation agents.

Gaited horses are produced because of the alteration of genes (over time). The higher demand for gaited horses has led to the practice of selective breeding.

Researchers notice a prominent difference in the angulation of the bones and joints of the hind leg of gaited horses from the horses that trot.

Some of the common movements in gaited horses perform are:


It is like walking in which all feet touch the ground independently of each other.


The pace is a two-beat gait in which the same side feet land on the ground at the same time. It’s a lateral gait that creates side-to-side motion, rocking in nature.

Slow Gait

This is also called a broken gait or a four-beat lateral gait in gaited horses.

Running Walk

The running walk is a quicker type of walk where the back feet overstep the front footprints by approximately 18 inches. Just like the walk's gait, it has four beats.

Advantages of a Gaited Horse

A gaited horse brushes superiority over the non-gaited because of various factors. These factors are solely a fruit of the characteristic walking pattern, enhanced stamina, smooth seat, and friendly nature. We list below some advantages of gaited horses;

Smooth to Ride

We often recommend beginners to ride gaited horses because of their comparatively easy ride with less up and down movement. Comfortable seating posture and seamlessly smooth ride is a trademark of gaited horses.

Far-Foot Travelers

These horses also serve as a boon in longer rides where comfortable seats and smooth rides are much needed. Because of their excellent weight distribution system, these horses have high stamina and endurance. This makes gaited horses the first “pick from the pond. "

Courteous Nature

These horses are not very determined to kick you out; What I mean to say is these are friendly and gentle in behavior. This nature of gaited horses makes them excellent companions for their owners. The nonaggressive behavior of horses makes them a first buy for newly became horse parents.

How to recognize a gaited horse?

Many times, an experienced horse breeder cannot identify if the horse is gaited. Although some general identification factors can help you achieve the same.

Gaited horses move in an even rhythmic two-, three- or four-stroke gait.

When observed closely, one can notice the simultaneous movement of a pair of legs instead of crossed or parallel movement.

Gaited horses move gracefully with hind legs, stepping first, followed by fore legs, complemented by individual footfall. In this way, one hoof is always in contact with the ground.

Common Gaited Horse Breeds

Once you are familiar with the distinctive features of gaited horses, it is time we mention some of the most common breeds of them.

1. Paso Fino

Translating to ‘soft foot’, these horses are the Spanish soft whisperers. These are naturally gaited horses and show a smooth rhythmic step pattern. As a gaited horse, he possesses the virtue of independent leg movement or ‘independent foot fall’, which is evenly spaced and timed.

They provide a silky smooth ride to their riders, all thanks to their four-stroke gaited movement.

2. American saddlebred

Popular for its elegant, gracious, slow gait, the American saddlebred is a well-known name among horse breeders globally. These chivalrous giants come under a five-gaited division since they can perform a magnificent flashy slow gate. These horses are not naturally born gaited horses but achieve their tag after training. The ‘non-natural’ gait seems to earn no objections from the selectors, as performing American saddlebred is second to none.

3. Icelandic horse

Well-known for the ‘tolt’ (single-footed pace) movement, the Icelandic horse is a natural five-gaited horse. Tolt refers to a four-stroke side gait with a speed similar to that in a trot. These horses are small and strong in appearance. And despite being short, they jump just fine to put up a show.

4. Tennessee walking horse

The smooth gait from Tennessee upholds North America’s nose in the name of gaited horses. We know this horse for its unique four-beat running walk and gentle riding experience. The animal exhibits calm behavior and is a first choice among gaited horses for many horse owners.

What is a Non-Gaited Horse?

Non-gaited horses have a two-beat diagonal paired trot following a “Left front, right hind, and right front, left hind” pattern of trot. These, unlike gaited horses, do not put “one foot at a time” and are hence not good for traveling longer distances. Although this doesn’t make non-gaited horses any less than gaited horses.

These horses are usually faster than gaited horses and also put up better horse shows. Non-gaited horses are a bit more complex to ride and thus demand a ‘trained rider’.


Q1. What is a gaited horse?

Ans. A gaited horse is simply a horse that moves each leg independently or says has “independent footfall.” This means that one hoof is always in contact with the ground. This leads to better conservation of energy, which leads to endurance and stamina building.

Q2. What is gaited vs. trotting?

Ans. In trotting there is a movement of a pair of diagonally opposite legs while in gaited pairs of front or rear legs move together.

Q3. Are gaited horses slow?

Ans. Gaited horses aren’t the fastest among horse breeds but have a decent speed. These are faster than a walk but slower than the canter or gallop of other horses. With enough training, these horses can also achieve a canter. But the non-gaited horses prove to be faster than the gaited ones.

Q4. What are the best-gaited horse breeds?

Ans. Most advised gaited breeds include Paso fino, American saddlebred, Iceland horse, and Tennessee walking horse. These are well-known breeds with characteristic gait divisions and walking patterns.


The article centers on Gaited horses, which have a distinct walking pattern that distinguishes them from non-gaited horses.

These horses are of major help and are the first desirable “pick from the pond” for travelers, as these horses have more stamina and endurance.

Gaited horses are popular among horse owners because of their smooth ride and graceful walk.

Common breeds of gaited horses such as Paso fino, American saddlebred, and Iceland horse; along with their peculiarities should also ignite the readers.

Every horse is special in its own way. Certain horse breeds may specialize in gaits more than others. Whether it’s a gaited or non-gaited horse, the owner should love his companion unconditionally.


Dr Akanksha Agnihotri is another animal lover like you cum veterinarian by profession. She has earned her B.V.Sc & AH from COVS & AH, Jabalpur, India. She has a knack for befriending animals/pets and treating them compassionately. She believes...