The experienced horseman or horsewoman is familiar with the traditional gaits of the horse, which include walk, trot, canter, and gallop. The working gait of most horses is the trot, but this two-beat diagonal gait can be jarring and difficult to ride. So horse breeders started selectivity breeding horses that naturally substitute a traditional trot for a smooth saddle gait. Thus the resulting horses are what we call today as gaited. For gaited breeds refer to article “What horse takes a Gaited Saddle?”.
There are many additional gaits that gaited horses are either trained to perform or perform naturally. The most common of these gaits are discussed in this article.
Fox Trot: This gait works on the diagonal pair of feet. It is similar to the trot in that manner, but is smoother than the trot because the forefoot lands a split second before the opposite hind foot. This eliminates suspension and concussion, which in turn is what makes the fox trot a smoother gait than the trot.
Pace: This gait is an evenly timed two-beated gait. Horses that pace move the same side pair of feet in a two-best fashion. This gait does contain suspension, which is why sometimes it is not considered a true saddle gait. This gait as a result of the suspension can be jarring in a side-to-side motion.
Stepping Pace: The stepping pace is similar to the pace in that the same side pair of feet move together. However, the hind foot lands a split second before the forefoot of the same side. As a result this eliminates the suspension and concussion, thus making the stepping pace smoother than the pace.
Running Walk: The running walk has the same evenly timed four-beat of the walk, but the gait is much faster. The horse that performs a running walk must have a long stride from behind that results in an over stride. An over stride is when the horse steps in front of the track left by the forefoot. The running walk is usually accompanied by the head nod, which works much like a person swinging their arms to balance themselves as they run.
Rack: The rack has the same footfall pattern of the running walk, however the strides are in track with the forefoot or behind the forefoot. When behind the forefoot track, the stride is called an under stride. The under stride is desired in gaits such as the Paso Fino's classic fino gait. The breed and show ring standards determine whether the rack is shown as an under stride or variation of the under stride.
There are many variations of these gaits which are breed specific. See the article “What type of horse takes a gaited saddle?” to see each breed characteristics. These additional variations include but are limited to:
Fox walk, Tölt, Flying Pace, Classic Fino, Paso Corto, Paso Largo, Indian Shuffle, Amble, Saddle Rack, Paso Llano, Sobreando, Hauchano, Single Foot, Coon Rack, Slick Trot, and Termino.