Why are gaited horses gaited?

Sep 14, 2007
Might sound like a really stupid question, but why do gaited horses have their special gaits? My first thought was environment (ie: an Icelandic's tolt is probably more suited to the terrian of Iceland than an ordinary horse's trot) - but don't know if this is the case or not! Is it just one of life's mysteries :p? Can anyone with knowledge of gaited horses help me out :eek:?


It's believed that all breeds, or the vast majority had the additional gaits at one stage.
Selective breeding has retained the Icelandic gaits, and I would presume this is the case in other breeds.

In Icelandics the gait was kept as it was beneficial to the farmers and practical due to the terrain.
It's a chicken and the egg thing, I couldn't tell you if Icelandics were brought to Iceland as the gait suited the terrain (which I presume) or the gait became established as a result of the terrain.


June's River
Oct 4, 2005
Plymouth, Devon
Oooooh, good question!

I have no idea, but I'd imagine in the case of Icelandics that they just developed and evolved to suit their surroundings, making life easier for themselves...maybe?! :rolleyes:


Well-Known Member
Apr 16, 2000
I nicked this from anoather post I did Here are!

They can, Most of the UK M&M have been described by a well known Icelandic trainer as trotty tölters. He watched the M&M classes as the Royal show one year and was facinated.

Charlie can tölt if he has a rider on him who knows how to ask for it. He is a Shetland, Fivla has been known to tölt when we have been asking her to do a really collected trot.

In the old days lots of horses ambled or had lateral gaits, they were very, very comfy to ride and ladies used them for side saddle, they were known as palfreys or amblers.

However it is an inefficient gait to have if you are pulling a load, you want a trotter, so when road became better and better and carts and carriages became more popular tölting was undesirable and nobody bred for the gait specifically. They bred for trtotting carriage horses.

In Iceland you cannot traverse the country by cart as the lave and ice fields change day by day, so they rode and used pack horses, so it was more important to have a comfy gaited horse to ride and carry a pack than it was to have a trotty cart horse, so for hundreds of years the Icelandic has been bred in isolation for the gaits.


Jackson's Mama
Apr 7, 2008
Indianapolis, Indiana. U.S.
Ooh, that IS a good question! I know in the case of Mountain Horses they were bred in the mountains in rough terrain. They were used for all purposes, from plowing the field to riding in parades! I know a lot of the "American" breeds have gaited strains in them. Appaloosas were originally ALL gaited, they did the Indian Shuffle. Most Morgans do some form of intermediate gait. I don't know that Quarters ever gaited, but their conformation is not suited to it at all. Although a friend of mine has a Morgan/QH mix that gaits if asked correctly.


Well-Known Member
Apr 16, 2000
Although a friend of mine has a Morgan/QH mix that gaits if asked correctly.

That's just it, if you know how to ask for it you might find it lying dormant in loads of horses and surprise yourself.....and them! :D :D
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