10 Best Gaited Horse Breeds for a Smooth Ride

wild horses with mountains in background

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In the horse world, gaited breeds are a rare but welcome prospect. Of the roughly 350 horse breeds, only around 30 are naturally gaited. "Gaiting" is the term for a horse that "single-foots" (always has one foot in contact with the ground), ambles, paces, or does a running walk. Gaited horses have a smoother, easier ride and are often favored by people who have back or joint issues.

Here are 10 horse breeds known for their gaiting ability.


Although some horse breeds are naturally gaited, other horses can be trained to be gaited. Mixed-breed horses that aren't gaited might pass down the gaiting trait in their DNA, resulting in naturally gaited offspring.

Breed Characteristics

A common thread among gaited breeds is they are sturdy, sensible mounts that don't require too much from the rider. Some naturally gaited horses, particularly those with lateral ambling gaits like pace and stepping, may have difficulty learning how to canter. If your horse is laterally inclined, you will probably need a gaited trainer to help your horse learn to canter. Most gaited horses tend to be high-headed, with their heads set higher on their shoulders rather than their back. Gaited horses tend to be used more for pleasure riding and driving versus track racehorses that are trained for speed.

  • 01 of 10

    Icelandic Horse

    Icelandic horse with a rider trotting

    Tim Graham / Getty Images

    Icelandic horses are sure-footed and resistant to harsh conditions. The Icelandic word "tolt" describes the horse's single-footed pace. Its gait is comfortable for the rider, and it can carry a person briskly over rough terrain. Icelandic horses are commonly used for pleasure riding, harness races, and horse shows.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 12 hands (48 inches) to 14 hands (56 inches)

    Weight: 730 to 840 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Squat-legged; deep chest; long back; shaggy fur

  • 02 of 10

    American Saddlebred

    An American saddlebred horse standing in a field

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    The American saddlebred is one of the most popular gaited horses often used in parades. It's prized for its smooth ride and flashiness. Some have five distinct gaits, including a slow gait and a rack. Racking is a quick, lateral gait that has a four-beat movement with equal intervals between each beat.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 hands (60 inches) to 17 hands (68 inches)

    Weight: 1,000 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Arched neck; short back; muscular build; high tail carriage

  • 03 of 10

    Paso Fino

    Two paso fino horses in the snow

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    The words "paso fino" mean "delicate passage," which describes this breed's gait in Spanish. The paso fino was developed in Colombia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and other Caribbean islands. These horses are small and sturdy, carrying riders over the rugged terrain of their island and coastal homes.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 13 hands (52 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 700 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Small head; relatively short back; prominent withers

  • 04 of 10

    Peruvian Paso

    Male Peruvian paso horse

    ManuelGonzalezOlaecheaFranco / Getty Images

    The Peruvian paso, or Peruvian horse, has been declared a cultural heritage breed by the National Institute of Culture of Peru. Peru’s national horse has many fans for its elegant carriage and smooth ride. It is famous for its two special gaits: the slow "paso llano" and the fast "sobreandando.”

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; deep chest; low tail carriage

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  • 05 of 10

    American Standardbred

    American standardbred horses racing on a track

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    The American standardbred is a star in harness races. But these horses are great for riding, too. They have two distinct gaits: pacing and trotting. Pacers have a single-foot amble, or "pace," while trotters have a single-foot walk or running walk. Pacers tend to race faster than their trotting relatives.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 17 hands (68 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Deep chest; muscular legs; thick mane and tail

  • 06 of 10

    Tennessee Walking Horse

    Tennessee walking horse looking over a fence

    Ryan Courson Photography / Getty Images

    The smooth gait of the Tennessee walking horse makes it one of North America’s most popular breeds. It was developed to give people a gentle ride as they tended to farmland. It is known for its unique four-beat running walk and flashy movement. Plus, it generally has a calm disposition.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 17 hands (68 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; long head; small ears; straight profile

  • 07 of 10

    Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

    Kentucky mountain saddle horse running in a field

    Carmelka / Getty Images

    Sure-footed and even-tempered, the Kentucky mountain saddle horse has a natural four-beat gait, called an amble or a rack. One hoof is always in contact with the ground, which makes the horse reliably stable. A rider can sit almost motionless while the horse travels at a fast canter.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 11 hands (44 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Muscular build; flat facial profile; deep chest

  • 08 of 10

    Marwari Horse

    Two Indian Mawari horses

    Max Paddler / Getty Images

    Hailing from India, the Marwari horse is rare to see in North America. It has an ambling gait, similar to a pace. Its gait is called a "revaal," "aphcal," or "rehwal." Considered natural performers, these horses are suited to competitive dressage and exhibitions. Marwari horses are also polo horses.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches)

    Weight: 750 to 1,000 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Sickle-shaped ears; long back; slender legs with small hooves

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10


    Morgan horse standing near a fence

    dcdebs / Getty Images 

    Morgans are commonly regarded as non-gaited horses, but many will gait naturally. A review of the genetics of gaited Morgans showed a mixture of saddlebred, standardbred, and thoroughbred horses. Scientists have isolated the gaiting trait in DNA tests and found that nearly a fifth of all Morgans have it.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 900 to 1,100 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short head with wide forehead; muscular neck; thick mane and tail

  • 10 of 10


    Appaloosa horses in a pasture

    Marilyn Angel Wynn / Getty Images

    A gaited Appaloosa has a lateral gait, which is when the legs on the same side of the horse move together. It's often referred to as the Appaloosa shuffle. This four-beat gait resembles a pace, though it's smoother. It looks a lot like the running walk of a Tennessee walker.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 14 hands (56 inches) to 15 hands (60 inches)

    Weight: 950 to 1,200 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Colorful coat patterns; mottled skin; striped hooves

Breeds to Avoid

Horses that are commonly regarded as "non-gaited" breeds are American quarter horses, thoroughbreds, and Arabians. However, a gaiting trainer can train any horse to pick up a comfortable trail gait. Also, any horse may naturally inherit the gaiting trait if passed on through its DNA.

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  1. Petersen, Jessica L. et al. Genetic Diversity In The Modern Horse Illustrated From Genome-Wide SNP DataPlos ONE, vol 8, no. 1, 2013, p. e54997. Public Library Of Science (Plos), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054997