The footfall sequence, timing, support and the shifting of the horses body usually define the gaits.
Sometimes the first confusion to over come are the many and varied terms for the same gait in the US and other countries.
THE SQUARE GAITS
1. THE WALK. All horses do an ordinary walk (dog walk), each hoof lifts and contacts the ground at equal, separate intervals. The sound or rhythm is an even 1-2-3-4. There is a gentle, rhythm up and down motion of the head and neck. No two legs appear to move togehter, each lits and sets down independently. The rider feels a gente rock from front to rear. Rider feels each foot hitting the ground and the horse's back rises and falls in a rolling motion unde rider's seat.
2. THE FLAT-FOOTED OR FLAT WALK/SLOW PASO LLANO. Non-gaited horses can be taught to do this gait, but is mostly seen in the easy-gaited breeds. Identical to the ordinary walk in footfall sequence, timing, support and weight transer. The head and neck nodding is more obvious and there is not as much motion in the back. The rider is more comfortable, rolling motion of back disappears, but rider feels some front to rear movement in the seat.
3. THE RUNNING WALK. Hooves leave the ground and set down at even intervals like the walk and flat fwalk. The sound is an even 1-2-3-4. Difference is as it is at a faster speed there is a change in the weight transfer from a walking step to a running step. One hoof sets down as the other lifts, with only part of the lifting hoof still in contact with the ground. Horses still continue to nod their heads and necks, but may not move as far up and down. The back is steady. The horse's hooves leave the ground and set down at even, equal inervals. There is a gentle front to back rock in the saddle wtih no noticeable up and down motion in the hind quarters.
THE LATERAL GAITS
4. THE PACE. Is not usually considered an easy gait. The lateral hooves lift off, move together and sit down at the same time. It is a two beat gait 1-2 3-4. There will be no up and down motion of the head or neck, but may swing from side to side. Rider normally is abruptly thrown from side to side and may be as bouncy as the trot.
5. THE AMBLE or BROKEN/STEPPING PACE. Amble is probably most common easy gait. Lateral hooves lift from the ground close in time and sit down close in time, but not exactly same. It is a broken 1--2 3--4. Horse will sawy head and neck from side to side and may also sway body from side to side. No jolting or jarring to the rider, butside to side motion of rider.
6. THE SADDLE RACK/SINGLEFOOT/CORTO/SLOW TOLT. Second most common of the easy gaits. It has an even foot fall of 1-2-3-4. A horse saddling racking has a steady head and neck without noticeable up and down nod or side to side sway. Tail will bob up and down with action of croup. Very comfortable gait with slight side to side sway and strong sensation of rapid movement. This gait may feel like he is climbing a ladder in front and shaking his tail in the back.
7. THE RACK/FAST TOLT/LARGO. Faster version of the saddle rack and is an even four beat 1-2-3-4. True fact has a one hoof and two hoof support. The feel is the same as the saddle rack.
THE DIAGONAL GAITS
8. THE TROT. The diagonal hooves leave the ground at the same time, move together and set down at same time. Gives same 1 - 2 beat as the pace, but with diagonal and not lateral legss and gives same discomfort to the rider. Unless you have learned to post, this gait will bounce you up and down.
9. THE FOXTROT/TROCHA/PASITrote. The only diagonal timed easy gait. 1-2-3-4. Horse nods head and neck up and down a little. Diagonal hooves lift over realatively close together and front hoof lands noticeably before the diagonal hind. The rider is pushed from front to back with slight stutter step. There is never a side to side, but shoulders fel like they are reaching and pulling and the hindquarters are actively moving up and down without jarring.
Do not get discouraged if you can not see these movements in your Gaited Morgan, hear or feel the difference in the gaits immediately. Be patient and keep looking and riding the horse and ask for assistance in identifying the various gaits. Also understand there can be variations in the gait from the perfect described gait. If you look at GaitedHorses.net animation and the videos of the various Gaited Morgans and the other gaited breed examples, you will be able to visualize the various movements of the horse and rider.
SYNCROGAIT GENE A
Prior to 2012 there was no scientific genetic test to determine the gait potential of a horse. Capilets from Sweden produced a DNA test which is avaiable through UC Davis. The DNA test will ID the horse's gait genes as one of the following three. Homozygous A/A --- the horse will perform ambling and lateral gaits. Heterozygous A/C --- the horse will perform lateral gaits. Homozygous C/C -- the horse will perform the walk, trot and canter. This is covered in greater detail in the following articles: Frequency-Keeper Mutation ; SynchroGait-Research ; and SynchroGait-Summary. I used the follwing briefing in Nov 2014 to seek approval of the AMHA BOD to authorize and provide the test. It was approved at the Feb 2015 AMHA BOD meeting and can now be found under the AMHA Registry Forms. SynchroGait-AMHA Briefing We will use the SynchroGait Gene A test in conjunction with the concept covered in the following article. Gait is Made in the Breeding Shed Note since the approval by AMHA for the DNA test you will need to contact them for the current price.
AA x AA = 100% of the offspring will be AA
CA x AA = 50% will be AA and 50% will be CA
CA x CA = 25% will be AA, 50% will be CA, 25% will be CC
CA x CC = 50% will be CC, 50% will be CA
AA x CC = 100% CA
CC x CC = 100% CC
Roberta Bradbury, the Mother of Lee Ziegler, has graciously allowed the paraphrasing or make reference to her daughter's works. If these short summaries covering the gaits tweak your interest, then you may want to buy her book EASY-GAITED HORSES by Lee Ziegler.