4 Beat Gaits Explained
The flat walk is a four-beat lateral gait, similar to the ordinary walk, but smoother, with more speed and reach to the step. The hooves lift and set down at distinct, even intervals. The beat is an even 1-2-3-4 set down in an even cadence. The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap. Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot. In a true flat foot walk at least one front foot is touching the ground at all times.
The Running Walk is a four-beat lateral gait during which each foot is picked up and set down in an even cadence. The rear end movement should be smooth and close to the ground without any snap. Each stride should reach forward and slide in as it is set down, over striding the track of the front foot. Suspension occurs only with the front feet, not the hind, which is why the gait is often described as "trotting with the front feet and walking with the hind".
The Foxtrot is a broken diagonal gait with a distinctive rhythm that is created by a horse moving its front foot a split second before its opposite rear foot. The diagonal pairs of hooves lift off and move forward together, as in the trot, but the front foot hits the ground slightly before the hind. The gait is described as "walking with the front feet and trotting with the hind".
The Pace is an even, lateral 2 beat gait. The lateral hooves lift off and set down at the same time. In a pace the front and rear foot are picked up and then set down simultaneously making only one beat. A pacing horse will move its head side to side to counter the motion of its feet.
The Stepping Pace is a broken lateral gait with the hind foot stepping down just before the front foot of the same side strikes the ground. The horse always has either one or two feet on the ground. Suspension occurs first with the hind legs, as they change places, then with the front legs.
The Rack is performed at both the slow rack, and the fast rack. In both the rear of the horse provides the most of the forward motion and support while the front end does little pulling. Both have an even four beat cadence without any head shake. In the slow rack the feet are picked up one foot at a time with the front end moving up and down with little forward extension. In the fast rack the gait is performed at great speed with only one foot on the ground at any one time.
The Single Foot is an intermediate four-beat gait, very near to even in timing. It can be performed at a range of speeds from a relaxed trail speed of 7 to 9 mph, to a ground-eating road gait of 10 to 15 mph, to the racing single-foot of over 20 mph. At the fastest speeds the horse travels with one foot on the ground at a time. Some horses will start single-footing at a road gait speed and others at the racing speed.
Slow Saddle Gait
The Slow Saddle Gait is a four-beat, broken lateral gait. The footfalls for the slow gait are the same as the walk. Each foot rises from the ground and hesitates in the air. The slow gait is restrained, executed with extreme collection and with impulsion from the hind-quarters. The hind legs are placed well underneath the horse and the forehand is elevated.
The Tolt is a four-beat lateral gait in which there is always at least one foot on the gound. All four feet move in the same pattern as in the walk, with higher action and more speed. As there is no moment of suspension this gait is very smooth and comfortable for the rider.