Gaits of the Heritage Walking Horse
The IHWHA is focusing on natural gaited horses barefooted or with keg shoe only. In the past decades, too much focus was on stride and animation causing function to be overlooked by speed and animation. The signature gaits of the Heritage Walking Horse are flat-foot walk, also called flat walk, running walk, and canter. The walk and gallop are inherited by all horses. Heritage Walking Horses may also inherit the ability to other gaits like foxtrot, trot, rack, stepping pace and pace. These gait standards are based on the documented speed, gait, style, and performance characteristics of the ancestors of the Heritage Walking Horses. We thank Allanna Jackson for her support in describing the various gaits.
The flat walk is the same gait as the walk that is universal to all horses when we look at the footfall. The walk is an evenly timed four beat gait in which the horse keeps two or three hooves flat on the ground at all times. The stride is balanced with the hock action the same height as the knee action. A leisurely flat walk of less than 3 mph may be referred to as an ordinary walk, among other terms, and is useful for many purposes. The flat walk is purposeful, brisk, yet relaxed, at a speed of 3 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour. It is desirable and practical to use the full range of speeds of the flat-foot walk, from a slow ordinary walk to a brisk flat walk, when training and using a Walking Horse. The Heritage Walking Horse nods its head “yes” from the shoulders when walking. At the flat walk a Heritage Walking Horse may overstride, which is setting the hind hooves down on top of or in front of the hoof prints left by the front hooves. Overstride does not define the flat-walk. The overstride may be only a few inches and should not exceed 14 inches at the flat walk. Too much overstride is a sign that the horse is ambling or pacing. There is no swinging, swaying, hopping, bobbing, or bouncing in the flat-foot walk.
Some Heritage Horses are multi-gaited and can also perform other four beat saddle gaits, like the rack, foxtrot, or saddle rack. These gaits come in addition to the flat walk and running walk.
The beat is an even 1-2-3-4. however, in the rack the horse is supported first by two, then by one hoof at a time. In a rack, the lateral hooves lift at the same time and set down separately. The horse jumps forward between his transverse pairs of legs (both front, both hind) so that there is a moment when all his weight is supported by first one hind hoof, then by one front hoof. This gait is also known as tölt in Icelandic horses.
There is no head nod in this gait, and the shoulders and hindquarters are very active. There is some overstep in this gait, but not as much as in the running walk. The horse can travel at significantly higher speed than the running walk.
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