The Ambling Gaits of the Horse
Recently I went trail riding with friends and topic came up on the trail about the gait that Tennessee Walkers perform. The argument was if they all naturally did it or if it had to be trained. Five of us out of seven were riding Tennesse Walkers. One of the riders argued that her horse had never done a ambling gait, but had always troted and she was on a Tennessee Walker. The two friends who I was riding with and whom so graciouly let me ride one their Tennessee Walkers disagreed and said that it was natual and that they all did it a little bit. This was a very intriging argument, I thought, because I grew up with Saddlebreds and had always been told that the slow-gait and rack was a man made gait. I had really never read or aquired any knowledge supporting either view. So I decided to do some research to find out what the facts were.
First, I found the rack and slow-gait of the Saddlebred, the running walk and and flat walk of the Tennessee Walker were in a category of gaits called the ambling gaits. Ambling gaits are a series of smooth gaits of footfall patterns which appear naturally in certain breeds. Although they do require training to fine tune the gait and enable the rider to ask for them on command. In other words all of the gaits that are trained usually start with a horse that ambles naturally.
The ambling gate is a lot smoother than the trot and the horse can perform this for long distances. It makes the ambling gait great for trail riding or anytime a rider has to be in the saddle for a long period of time.
Gaited horses are horses that have the ability to perform one or more of the ambling gates. They use different names for the gaits in certain breeds. Example is the rack in the Saddlebred or the Running Walk in the Tennessee Walker. Not all horses can perform a ambling gait, but several breeds inherit the ability naturally and some can be trained. Some of the breeds that have this natural ability are Tennessee Walkers, American Saddlebred, Paso Fino, Icelandic horse, Missouri Foxtrotter, Mangalarga Marchador, Racking Horse, Peruvian Paso, Spotted Saddle Horse, Rocky Mountain Horse, Walkaloosa.
Certain horses can be trained to amble even though it is not a natural to there breed. The main thing to look for in a horse if you want to train it to be gaited is in the conformation. Most gaited horses have uphill conformation which allows them to raise up in the front which is needed to perform some sort of ambling. Uphill is when the horses wither are higher than the croup when standing square. If you notice the breeds above, are uphill conformations. Example of downhill conformation is the Throughbred. Think about it, have you ever seen a Throughbred racking? I'm not saying it is not possible, just unlikely due to there conformation. Their conformation is for running, just as the conformation of the Saddlebred make it a natural in the show ring.
So the final answer to the question is yes! Some breeds of horse have a ambling gate naturally.