How To Train A Gaited Horse – Single Footing Horses

 Gaited Horses



The Single Foot, The Tolt, The Rack


I’m going to explain to you three gaits, all of which I’m putting into the category of Single Footing Horses.  These three gaits are the Single-Foot, the Tolt, and the Rack.  While all three of these gaits may indeed be somewhat different from one another, they all have some of the same basic characteristics.  Here’s three characteristics that all three gaits have in common.


#1.  They are all intermediate speed gaits.  They’re what you might call, smooth pleasure gaits.

#2.  They all have the same foot-fall sequence.  That sequence is actually the same as the walk.  Beginning with the left front foot, the foot-fall would be; left front, right rear, right front, left rear.

#3.  They are all performed with the same rhythm and timing.  By that I mean, there is the same interval of time between one foot-fall and another.  The rhythm would be a simple 1-2-3-4, repeated over and over again.



Rhythm And Timing


TimingI want to make sure you know what I mean by rhythm and timing.  Let me try to explain myself a little.  If a particular gait has even rhythm, it means that there is the same interval of time between each foot-fall.  that’s why I illustrated it as 1-2-3-4.  If there was a longer interval of time between the first and second foot-fall, I would illustrate it this way..  1—2-3-4.  Or if there was a longer interval between the second and third foot-falls, it would be illustrated like this..  1-2—3-4.  This is what is meant by rhythm.  It’s just like the beat of music, it has a certain rhythm to it.




A canter, for instance is a three beat gait in which two diagonally paired legs move together, and the other diagonal pair of legs move separately.  (See the previous post, Different Gaits of Horses)   Though the rhythm is 1-2-3, two of the feet hit the ground at the same time, so the foot-fall would actually be, 1–2/3–4.  The second and third feet hitting the ground at the same time, would  make up the #2 beat in the rhythm.  Now if those two feet didn’t quite hit the ground exactly at the same time, the timing might be illustrated like this, 1–2-3–4, with a very short space of time between the second and third beat of the rhythm.  This kind of slightly broken timing and rhythm will be seen again when we talk about diagonal and lateral gaits.



Difference Between The Single-Foot, The Tolt, and The Rack


All three of these gaits can be done at various speeds, but then that would actually be true of any gait that a horse travels in.  A horse can walk fast or slow, and he can gallop very fast, or he can slow down a bit.  So when it comes to these three gaits, the Single-Foot, the Tolt, and The Rack, I’m really only going to make one distinction.  That one distinction or difference in the gaits, is going to be the amount of lift that the legs have in coming off the ground.  In other words, how high does the horse lift his legs when doing these gaits?



Now these are not “hard and fast” rules, but these are generalities in regards to these gaits.  A Single-Foot gait has the least amount of lift to the legs, while a medium speed Tolt has more lift to the legs, or “leg action”.   A very fast Tolt, and the Rack have by far the most amount of leg action.  I should point out that there are people who would disagree with me on this.  I believe that there are many breeders who raise both Racking Horses, and Single Footing Horses, and who regard the two as being just about the same.  I know if you look at pictures of Racking Horses, and then look at pictures of Single Footing Horses, a lot of horse farms will be showing you the same thing as far as gait is concerned.


From my experience though, a Racking Horse and a Single Footer are not the same thing.  Although a Rack is a type of a single foot gait, a Single Footer used to be regarded as a horse that simply displayed an easy going four beat intermediate gait.  It was, in the old days at least, a very relaxed, comfortable gait, that just ambled down the road.  While a Rack is a very showy and high-stepping gait performed at great speeds, where the rider had better be “hanging on” to some degree.


I had a Morgan horse once that could travel in a single-foot gait, but it was a very relaxed ambling type of a gait.  So even if some breeders disagree with me, I still say that a Rack and a Single Foot, are not the same.  If you will go back to the first Post in this series, you can read about a horse named Sherman, who could walk faster than anything if ever seen.  The only thing that made Sherman’s walk, any different than an old fashioned single foot, was that it had hardly any lift to the legs at all, hence it was still a walk.  As far as speed and comfort are concerned though, she was single footing.


Let me show you some pictures of horses performing various gaits.



The Rack


Racking Horse
This to me, is the epitome of the Rack with high leg action , both front and rear. It’s a very “showy” gait.
Racking Horse
These Racking Horses are “Speed Racking”. A Racking Horse can also perform the gait at more moderate speeds though.













The Tolt


Tolting Horse
Compare this picture with the Racking Horse picture. Not much difference is there?
Tolting Horse
This Icelandic Horse is really Tolting with speed. This horse doesn’t seem to have as high of lift with his hind legs.










Here’s a couple of pictures of Icelandics doing the Tolt at slower speeds.



Tolting Slowly
A nice moderate speed Tolt. Still plenty of front leg lift.
Moderate speed Tolt
Tolting at a moderate speed, but still considerable leg action.











Single-Footing Horses



Single Footing Morgan Horse
Here’s a Single Footing Morgan Horse
Single Footing Morgan Horse
Here’s another Single Footing Morgan








If the rhythm remains 1-2-3-4, then it remains a Single Foot gait.  If the rhythm were to change, then the type of gait would change to a different gait.  If the speed and leg action would be increased drastically, then it would change to a Rack, or a Tolt.  In case you’ve been wondering, the term Tolt, is only used in reference to Icelandic Horses.  But as I said earlier, the Tolt is no different than the Rack.  And to be very plain about it, if the Tolt were slowed down enough, it would become a simple Single Foot gait.



Rack or Single Foot
Is this horse doing a Rack or a Single Foot? Not much leg action here.
Single Footing
Same with this horse. Has it gone into a Rack, or is it Tolting, or is it Single Footing?












Gaits Can “Blend” From One To The Other


Do you see how the different gaits are really not that much different?  Do you see how they can kind of “blend” into one another, by just altering the speed or the amount of leg lift?  As long as the timing and rhythm remains in that 1-2-3-4 pattern, it will still be either a Single Foot, or a Tolt, or a Rack.  I guess it all depends who you’re talking to.  I think that down in the southern states, the Rack and the Single Foot are about the same.  They may differentiate some things that I’m not aware of.  But out west here, I think that the gaits can be distinguished pretty much as I’ve described.


The Running Walk and the Foxtrot


In the next Post, I’m going to talk about the Running Walk and the Foxtrot.  I’m dealing with these two gaits separately because there are some unique identifying features that makes each one what it is.  But that will have to wait till next time.  I’ll be putting out that Post very shortly, so please come back and read about these next two gaits.


Thanks for being here though, and I really do hope that you’ll come back.  As always, if you have any comments or questions, please leave them in the comment area below.  I’d love to hear from you.  thanks again, and “Happy Horse Training” and “Happy Gaiting”, Jim.








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10 thoughts on “How To Train A Gaited Horse – Single Footing Horses

  1. Wow Jim this is a great explanation of the single footing horse gaits. I’m not that familiar with horses but I’m sure those who are would appreciate these great descriptions of the tolt and the rack. Thanks Jim

    1. Thanks for your comments. These haired horses are great fun. When you live riding like I do, you appreciate the fast smooth ride. Thanks for visiting. Can I talk you into coming back, I hope so. Have a great day, Jim.

  2. Very informative article. I did not know about those different gates. Obviously you are the expert and have a good eye because I couldn’t tell the difference in the gates.

    1. You can tell the difference in the gaits when you ride the horses. Just looking at them move, you do have to know what to look for. But it’s all about riding, and what’s comfortable for you. Of course it’s but what type of riding you’re doing also. There are many riding disciplines where you wouldn’t want a gaited horse. Everything has it’s own purpose you might say. Have you ridden horse before? If you have, what type of riding have you done? Thanks for visiting, Jim.

    1. Isn’t it almost amazing how many different ways a horse can travel? I’ve sure had lots of fun dealing with gaited horses. Do you have any horse experience? Thank you for visiting the website, and please come again, Jim.

  3. Wow I’ve never heard of those gaits before!!! I used to ride and it was the walk, trot and canter that I had to learn to master, just imagine if I’d had to learn three more! It looks very elegant doesn’t it! I think I remember watching a video with a Frisian horse doing something similar except he was sticking out his front legs in a sort of prancing way without bending the knees. A lot of people were saying it was straining for their legs 🙁 I’m looking forward to reading your next post about the running walk and the foxtrot! I would love to find out what they are!

    1. I’ve seen other horses trained to move the way you describe the Frisian horse was going. I’m actually not sure why this gait is performed. I’m fairly sure that it’s just for looks. As far as it being hard on their legs, I don’t know that it would be. It’s a lot like a soldier marching in a similar fashion. I suppose anything can be overdone though. So do you still ride horses?

  4. Amazing article on horse training, this is down to a science with different gaits. I never realized there was so much to horse training, every article I read you write about horse training amazes me even more.

    How did you learn so much yourself about horse training, is this your profession? Horses are amazing animals, people should respect them more and appreciate them more as well.

    1. Hello again. Glad you stopped by once again and visited. Thanks for your comments too. Aren’t horses just amazing? I was quite confused by all the different gaits when I began dealing with gaited horses. But by being around them and riding lots of different ones, I learned a lot. Also I’ve had a good friend from Missouri that was a professional gaited horse trainer, and he helped me to understand the gaits. Mostly though, you gain knowledge and understanding from actually riding horses that can perform the different gaits. I did breed and train gaited horses myself for over 25 yrs. It’s sure been fun! Thanks again, Jim.

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