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Defintion of Gaited

A horse that performs a foot fall pattern outside the normal walk, trot, jog, canter, or lope is gaited. If a horse single foots, ambles, paces, tolts, or does a running walk or rack it is ‘gaited’.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Icelandic Horse

The sturdy Icelandic Horse, is a breed native to... as you may have already guessed... Iceland. This breed incorporates as many as five different gaits.The gaits include the walk, trot, and canter. In addition, he must also have the tolt (running walk, single-foot, or rack). The fifth gait, the flying pace is very highly valued, but, is not always present in all Icelandics.

Icelandic horses are long-lived and hardy. In their native country they have few diseases, and Icelandic law prevents horses from being imported into the country and exported animals are not allowed to return. The only breed of horse in Iceland, they are also popular internationally, and sizable populations exist in Europe and North America. The breed is still used for traditional farm work in its native country, as well as for leisure, showing, and racing.

The Icelandic Horse developed from ponies taken to Iceland by Scandinavian settlers in the 9th and 10th centuries, the breed is mentioned in literature and historical records throughout Icelandic history, with the first reference to a named horse appearring in the 12th century.

Selective breeding over the centuries has developed the breed into its current form. Natural selection has also played a role, as the harsh Icelandic climate eliminated many horses through cold and starvation. In the 1780s, much of the breed was wiped out in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. The first breed society for the Icelandic horse was created in Iceland in 1904, and today the breed is represented by organizations in 19 different nations, organized under a parent association, the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.

This horse is not a very tall animal, the ideal size in the breed being between 12.3 to 14 hands. In fact using height as the primary consideration, many would consider him more properly classified as a pony (a pony being defined as an equine 14.2 hands or under). Breeders and the breed registries always refer to the Icelandic as a horse. Also, in the Icelandic language the animal is only ever called a horse, as there is no word in the language for "pony".

However, don't let this fool you into thinking the Icelandic is limited in his ability! He is quite capable of carrying larger riders as easily as smaller riders and children.

The Icelandic Horse comes in many coat colors, including chestnut, dun, bay, black, gray, palomino, pinto and roan.

His gait is so smooth, that the rider can carry a glass of champagne during the ride, and not spill a drop! If ever the opportunity comes your way to see the Icelandic in action, I can say that you will not be disappointed!

There used to be an annual event here in Western North Carolina called The Southern Horse Fair. At that event, you could spend the day and get to see many breeds from around the world that you would otherwise only know by name. Twice, a group from New York came down with their Icelandic Horses and they were wonderful to watch. My only regret is that I have never had the chance to ride one.

For more information on the tough, and versatile Icelandic Horse, visit the web site of the United States Icelandic Horse Registry or the International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations.

Below is a video of Icelandic Horse's demonstrating their gaits.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tennessee Walking Horse

The Tennessee Walking Horse, or Tennessee Walker, is without a doubt the best known of all the gaited horse breeds throughout the world. This breed has also had an enormous impact on the development of most of the USA gaited breeds, including the Racking Horse, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse, the Spotted Saddle Horse, and various other regional breeds of gaited horse. Indeed, if one looked at the pedigrees of these other breeds, they would find a large number of famous Tennessee Walking Horse names.

Dating back to the early 19th century, the Walking Horse is another old American breed. They were an all purpose horse used by farmers to plow the fields, pull the family buggy to church on Sunday, and used as a general riding horse where they excelled.

They were also used in the days of the old southern plantations, where they provided a reliable and comfortable means of covering the large plantations, and were steady enough to ride through the fields, without damaging the crops. With his flat foot walk, running walk, and "rocking chair" canter, this horse was and still is a good, comfortable, and reliable ride.

During the War Between the States, Union General Ulysses S. Grant "confiscated" some of the Tennessee "pacing horses", as he put it, for his own use during and after the siege of Vicksburg.

It is a popular riding horse due to its calm disposition, smooth gaits and surefootedness. The Tennessee Walking Horse is often seen in the show ring, but is also popular as a pleasure and trail riding horse using both English and Western equipment.

The breed first developed when Narragansett Pacers (a now extinct breed) and Canadian Pacers from the eastern United States were crossed with gaited Spanish Mustangs from Texas. Other breeds, including the Morgan Horse, the Thoroughbred, The Standardbred, and the American Saddlebred were later added, and in 1886 a foal named Black Allen, now considered the foundation sire of the breed, was born.

In 1935 the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders' Association was formed, and the studbook was closed in 1947. In 1939, the first Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration was held, and is still held annually

They are found in all solid colors, and several pinto patterns. Common colors such as bay, black and chestnut are found, as are colors such as the dun, champagne, cream and silver dapple. Pinto patterns include overo, sabino and tobiano.

The Tennessee Walking Horse has a reputation for having a calm disposition and a naturally smooth riding gait. While the horses are famous for flashy movement, they are popular for trail and pleasure riding as well as show.

The Tennessee Walking Horse is best known for its "running walk". This is a four-beat gait with the same footfall pattern as a regular, or flat walk, but significantly faster. While a horse performing a flat walk moves at 4 to 8 miles per hour, the running walk allows the same horse to travel at 7 to 10 miles per hour. In the running walk, the horse's rear feet overstep the prints of its front feet by 6 to 18 inches, with the longer overstep being more prized in the horse. The horse nods it's head in rhythm with the gait when performing the running walk. Besides the flat and running walks, the third main gait performed by Tennessee Walking Horses is the "rocking chair" canter. Some Tennessee Walking Horses also perform the rack, stepping pace, fox trot and single-foot, which are allowable for pleasure riding but penalized in the show ring.

For more information, visit the web site of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association.

Below is a video of a naturally gaited Tennessee Walking Horse.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Gaited Horse

Photo by Dagur Brynjólfsson/ Guðmundur Arnarson rides Sævar frá Stangarholti
(Icelandic Horse, grey with sunfading black base) in tölti at five-gait horse championships in Hella, 2008.

Many horse lovers out there are interested in various breeds of horses, but, do not know what a "gaited" horse is. A gaited horse is any breed or “type” of horse that does not usually trot, producing a ride that is very comfortable to the rider, and is also easy on the horse as well. These breeds pass the gait naturally onto their offspring in most cases, but, some breeds have had the gait artificially introduced through the training of the gait from man.

The word “type” generally means that there may not be an “officially recognized” (i.e., by The United States Department of Agriculture) breed registry for a horse, or that it is a “type” within an officially recognized breed, such as the case with the Morgan Single-footing Horse.

Notice that I said that they usually do not trot. Some breeds are considered gaited horses, yet also have the trot as one of their gaits, such as in the case of the sturdy and spectacular Icelandic Horse (which also possesses an amazing "homing" instinct), and some breeds incorporate as many as five different gaits, like the American Saddlebred.

In these posts, you will find information about the various breeds and types, including a history of the breed, size, color(s), and temperament. You will also find information from most of the associations sites, that can lead you to breeders, trainers, shows, and breed affiliated organizations in your area.

I will try to include here links to the home pages of some of the more familiar breed associations, and some that may be "new" or relatively unknown breeds to many folks. Regardless of your interest in gaited horses, I hope that all horse lovers of all ages will find something here to put a smile on their faces.