Test Your Gaited Horse Knowledge: Footfalls Quiz!

There’s more to life than walk/trot/canter.

How much do YOU know about gaited horses? Test your knowledge with our footfalls quiz!

Anita Ritenour/Flickr/Creative Commons

Anita Ritenour/Flickr/Creative Commons

We in the editorial barn at Horse Nation are woefully ignorant about the nuances of gaited horses (you can read Wylie’s account of her Saddlebred test-driving here). I recently rode a borrowed gaited horse on a three-hour trail ride and was quoted at high speeds to have said “I have no idea what I’m doing!!”…but it was kind of comfortable.

Look, most of us have a hard time just trying to master the basic walk, trot and canter, so when you add things like the rack, tölt, or fox trot it really muddies the waters. Paso corto? Sounds like something I’d order at a taco joint. Single foot? Don’t horses have four? Running walk? Okay, now you’re putting me on…are we running or are we walking?

So in an effort to broaden our minds and embrace our gaited-horse friends, take a stab at our identification quiz. I’ve illustrated each gait with a GIF of a recreational horse outside of the show ring–keep in mind that all of these gaits would appear much different when showing. There are many other gait varieties out there, but I’ve tried to pick just a sampling for the purpose of today’s quiz. Study up!


1. The Fox Trot
A: The front end “walks” and the back end “trots.”
B: Diagonal pairs leave the ground together, but the front lands before the back.
C: Diagonal pairs leave the ground together, but the back lands before the front.

Correct answer: B. In a fox trot, the diagonal pairs leave the ground simultaneously like a regular trot. However, the front hoof strikes the ground before the hind, making the fox trot sound like an uneven fast walk.


2. The Running Walk
A: The same as a regular walk, but with a big-action ground-covering stride.
B: The same as a canter but without the moment of suspension.
C: Lateral pairs leave the ground together, but the front lands before the back.

Correct answer: A. If looking just at footfalls, there’s technically not a big difference between the running walk and a regular flat walk. But gaited horses can cover ground with their running walk, which can almost appear to be a broken pace if the feet are moving particularly quickly.


3. Classic Fino
A: Two-beat lateral gait with rapid footfalls
B: Four-beat diagonal gait with slow footfalls
C: Four-beat lateral gait with rapid footfalls

Correct answer: C. Ah, the Paso Fino, whose rapid footfalls are almost too fast to be seen. To the best of my reckoning, this is essentially a really really fast walk but with very little forward motion. There is no moment of suspension, so there is always at least one foot on the ground.


4. Rack
A: Like a canter, but with one lead in the front and another lead in the back.
B: Diagonal pairs leave the ground together, but the front lands before the back.
C: Lateral pairs leave the ground together, but the back lands before the front.

Correct answer: C. The rack is a pretty unique gait, and when seen in the show ring at top speed it’s really difficult to see the hooves land independently. At slower speeds, it’s much easier to see. For a moment in each stride, the horse’s entire weight is on just one back hoof. Depending on the breed, this gait is also known as the single-foot.


5. Tölt
A: The same as the fox trot, but for Icelandic horses.
B: The same as the rack, but for Icelandic horses.
C: Diagonal pairs leave the ground together but the hind lands before the front.

Correct answer: B. In terms of footfalls, the tölt is actually the same as the rack. Trick question? No, because all of that fluffy hair renders the tölt into something completely unique to these small-but-mighty horses that enables them to do this at speeds up to 30 mph.


So how did you do?
4-5 correct: Gaited Horse Superstar! You really know your gaits. You’re a gaited horse owner or trainer, or maybe you’re just a big horse nerd.
2-3 correct: Gaited Horse Enthusiast. You know your favorite horse inside and out…but some of those other gaits leave you guessing.
0-1 correct: Gaited Horse Ignoramus: Fino, fox trot or tölt–yep, just sit back and enjoy the ride, even if you have no idea what’s going on.

Go riding!

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