Three-gaited breeds are among the most popular horses in the United States: the Tennessee Walking Horse and the American Saddlebred. Other, lesser-known gaited breeds are found in the United States, each with its own fascinating history and characteristics. Although the breeds highlighted in the following sections aren’t as common as the ones that made it to the top ten, they are nonetheless available in many parts of the country.
The Icelandic Horse is known for having either four or five gaits. In addition to the walk, trot, and gallop, all Icelandic Horses possess a gait called the tolt, which is similar to the Tennessee Walker’s running walk. Some Icelandics also have a gait called the flying pace, where the legs on each side of the horse move in unison.
The Icelandic looks somewhat like a pony and measures only 12.3 to 14 hands in height. However, despite its small size, the Icelandic is considered a horse breed and not a pony breed. Full-grown men can easily ride this rugged little animal. These horses are ridden for pleasure and are good in the show ring.
Missouri Fox Trotters are handsome horses, measuring between 14 and 16 hands. They have easygoing personalities and generally are considered a good horse for beginners to ride and to show.
As a result of its Saddlebred heritage, the National Show Horse is trained in two other gaits besides the walk, trot, and gallop. National Show Horses are capable of performing the slow gait and the rack, both four-beat gaits that are comfortable to ride.
National Show Horses are on the taller side, standing 15 to 16 hands in height. They come in a variety of horse colors, and tend to be spirited. Their primary use is in the show ring (hence the name), where they can show off their high-stepping gaits.
The Paso Fino gaits include the paso fino, paso corto, and the paso largo. Each gait varies in speed and is a four-beat lateral gait (each foot hits the ground separately, and the legs on each side move in unison) that is extremely comfortable to ride, and covers considerable ground. Some Paso Finos can also canter.
Paso Finos typically measure around 14 to 15 hands in height and have a pleasing and distinctive conformation. Paso Finos possess a personality trait known as brio, which means controlled spirit. Horses with brio are full of energy but are completely under the rider’s control. Superb on the trail, Paso Finos also are shown extensively in their special gaits.
Peruvians possess three gaits: the paso llano, the sobreandando, and the huachano. Each of these gaits is a four-beat lateral gait and is designed to be comfortable while covering considerable ground. Peruvian horses that are in top condition can maintain these gaits for hours on end.
Peruvians are on the small to medium side, measuring 14.1 to 15.1 hands in height. They have well-muscled necks and long, thick manes and tails. They make excellent trail horses, and are shown under saddle in their natural gaits. You can see a Peruvian horse in the color section.
What makes the Racking Horse so special is that it is a gaited breed, able to perform a four-beat racking gait, in addition to a walk and a canter.
Racking Horses have graceful builds, with long, sloping necks. Their legs are smooth and their hair finely textured. The typical Racking Horse averages around 15.2 hands, and comes in a number of colors including sorrel, chestnut, black, roan, white, bay, brown, gray, yellow, dun, and palomino. You may also see a pinto coloration, known within the breed as spotted. These horses are willing to work and eager to please their handlers.
Riders exhibit Racking Horses in saddle-seat and driving classes that are meant to show off their racking gait, but they also show less flashy individuals in more traditional pleasure classes. Racking horses make good trail horses and are popular for simple pleasure riding.