Which Breed of Gaited Horse
Gives the Smoothest Ride?
With over 33 breeds of gaited horses, and most people who own one or another each claiming theirs are the most comfortable, it may seem impossible to know the truth without trying every one of them yourself! This is not necessarily correct though. If you learn your riding style then you can narrow down your search based on the style of gait that best fits your "seat" (the way you sit, balance & ride.)
First, it MUST be understood that In EVERY gaited breed there are many poorly gaited horses and many average gaited ones, as well as a few (I'd guess 20%) that gait pretty well, then there are a small percentage of absolutely wonderfully gaited individuals in each breed. So, if you ride the best quality (trail style) gaiting horses within any of the gaited breeds, chances are you will think that that breed is the best gaited breed. In reality, you are not comparing apples to apples unless you truly have the best of each breed to ride and feel. In most cases, if you ride one of the best of any gaited breed, you will be sold on that breed...because the ride is so wonderful! You won't believe it could get better or be equally smooth and comfortable to ride...unless you try another breed and have the same experience. :)
Next, lets assume you are riding top quality horses of several popular gaited breeds and trying to see what gait you like the best:
(NOTE: All breeds are not mentioned here, just some of the most common to give you an idea of where to start looking. Also, ALL riding styles are not listed, but just the two most common.)
1) If your seat is a "cavalry" style or "dressage" seat, where you are balanced in the center of the saddle or horse's back pivot point & you like to ride with energy and feel constant connections and control of the horse through your seat and legs just as much as with your hands, then you will find the following gaits most enjoyable and comfortable:
Fox Trot, Rack, Single-Foot, Tolt, Indian Shuffle & Paso Corto.
(Breeds that most commonly do these gaits: Foxtrotter, Rocky Mountain, Single-Footing, Icelandic, Paso Fino, Walkaloosa, Montana Traveler)
2) If your seat is a "lawn chair" style where you sit back deep in the seat and want to feel like you're lounging or relaxing as you ride & the use of your legs is just for balance & support and to give cues to the horse, but most of your cues are through your hands via the reins, then you will find the following gaits most comfortable:
Running Walk, Paso Llano, Walking Horse Style Rack & Stepping Pace.
(Breeds that most commonly do these gaits: Tennessee Walker, Spotted Saddle, McCurdy Plantation, Peruvian Paso, Racking Horse)
3) The following gaits often feel equally nice to both style of riders mentioned above...depending on the physique of the horse and how the gaits are performed, as well as the differences between riders:
Flat Foot Walk (Foxtrotter, Rocky Mountain, Single-Footing, Icelandic, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso, Walkaloosa, Montana Traveler, Tennessee Walker, Spotted Saddle, McCurdy Plantation, Racking Horse.)
Paso Largo (Paso Fino) Sobreandando (Peruvian Paso) Single-Foot (Racking Horse & Singlefooting Horse) & Flying Pace (Icelandic) .
Are you confused yet? Just realize, you don't need to understand all the different gaits to come to understand your favorite gait to ride. 1st, figure out which style of rider or "seat" you have and then start looking at horses on that list, as they are most likely going to feel smoother to you than the other style of rider will think to be the smoothest. BUT DO NOT PASS UP THE CHANCE TO TRY A GOOD HORSE OF ANY OTHER BREED as well because it is not uncommon to find nice riding animals that actually do gaits normally associated with a different breed, such as a Foxtrotter that does a running walk or a Tennessee Walker that does a foxtrot or a rack, etc... And, in some cases, you will find that the general guidelines I've listed here do not apply to you or to a certain horse, for a variety of possible reasons. You may find a perfect horse for you, and believe it to be the smoothest horse in all the world, from any of the gaited breeds!
MOST IMPORTANTLY OF ALL:
ONLY CONSIDER BUYING A HORSE THAT IS WELL TRAINED & SAFE FOR YOUR RIDING LEVEL, and THEN look at things like how smooth, how tall, and what color it is! There is nothing wrong with buying a horse you think is PRETTY but only choose your favorite color from the ones that are a good match for your riding experience... And as for me, I'll only choose ones that are VERY SMOOTHLY GAITED TOO... OF ANY BREED, AS THERE ARE EQUALLY SMOOTH & WONDERFUL HORSES IN ALL THE GAITED BREEDS!