Rocky Mountain Horse Gaiting Explained

Last Updated on December 2, 2021

In the past, gaited horses were very popular, and they are now making a resurgence. People enjoy riding these unusual horses as they have several advantages. But what about a gaiting horse like the Rocky Mountain Horse – are they easy to ride?

Gaited horses are very different from other horses to ride and need specific training methods. The Rocky Mountain horse is famous for its gaited movement, so let’s take a look at what this pace is all about!

What Are Rocky Mountain Horses?

To find out about the Rocky Mountain Horse gaiting, we need to learn about the history and characteristics of this breed of horse.

  • Rocky Mountain Horse History

The Rocky Mountain Horse actually originates from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky, not the Rocky Mountains! Farming and surviving in this region were tough in the 1800s, and families needed a horse that could fulfill many roles.

This meant they tended to choose a horse that was very versatile and also able to survive in tough conditions. They wanted a horse that could pull plows and carts and herd cattle, but which was also gentle enough for children to ride.

Over many decades, the calmest and most agile horses were kept and bred. No real records were kept, but over time the most desirable traits of these horses were retained and emphasized. The winters were bitter and tough, and only the most resilient horses survived.

The strengths and characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse were noticed by a rancher named Sam Tuttle. He took a stallion from the mountains to breed from. This stallion, named Old Tobe, became the foundation stallion of the Rocky Mountain breed.

  • Rocky Mountain Horse Characteristics

The Rocky Mountain Horse is a riding horse of medium build, standing between 14 and 16 hands high. The predominant color of this breed is a solid chocolate brown with a pale mane and tail, although other colors are accepted.

The Rocky Mountain Horse is sure-footed and nimble, due to many centuries of navigating difficult terrain. They have strong limbs and an athletic body, which tends to be short in proportion to the body. This breed has an alert, intelligent appearance.

As the breed society was not formed until recently, much interbreeding and outbreeding have occurred. The current focus is on breeding from only the best examples of the Rocky Mountain Horse, and the studbook will only accept registrations from the offspring of horses already registered. DNA testing of foals is mandatory to prove their parentage.

  • Rocky Mountain Horse Uses

The Rocky Mountain Horse is popular for many equestrian disciplines, particularly trail riding and endurance racing. They are also used for cattle driving and farm work and can excel at events such as rodeo games and carriage driving.

  • Rocky Mountain Horse Temperament

One of the most notable things about this breed is its gentle and placid nature. It is popular with elderly and disabled riders, as well as beginners and nervous riders.

The Rocky Mountain Horse loves to be around people and will be curious and interested in what you are doing. They retain information well, making them easy to train. This breed also has excellent problem-solving skills, and can learn to open doors and gates easily!

 rocky mountain horses

What Is A Gaited Horse?

So, if we want to learn about Rocky Mountain Horse gaiting, first we need to understand what a gaited horse is.

Most horses have four paces – walk, trot, canter, and gallop. However, gaited horses are different, as they have an additional or different pace. Some gaited horses can carry out the four normal paces plus an extra gait. Others will have a gaited pace that replaces one of the standard paces.

Gaited horses tend to breed that historically needed to cover large areas of ground quickly. There are many different types of gaits, but they all have some characteristics in common.

Most gaited paces are fast but require less effort than a trot or canter. They are also normally more comfortable for the rider. It is common for gaited paces to mean the horse always has one hoof on the ground, reducing uncomfortable jolting movements.

To perform a gaited movement, the horse must move its limbs in a different order and to a different beat. Most gaited horses can move very quickly whilst using a minimal amount of effort, perfect for covering huge areas of land rapidly. When they hit top speed it really is a very impressive sight!

Why Are Some Horses Gaited?

Some breeds of horses are naturally gaited. This ability is passed down through the bloodlines in the horse’s DNA. This is why certain breeds of horses have specific gaits.

In the past, gaited horses were highly desirable. They were considered to be preferable mounts for ladies, particularly the gentry. Gaited horses were also sought after by farmers, particularly those who needed to spend many hours each day in the saddle.

This meant that if a horse from a particular breed was a talented gaited horse, it would be more likely to be selected for breeding. Human influence over the years has meant that gaiting is now ingrained in the DNA of many different breeds of horses.

Is The Rocky Mountain Horse Gaited?

The Rocky Mountain Horse is a naturally gaited breed. Foals of this breed may be seen carrying out the gait from a young age, and careful training can emphasize this unusual movement.

The gaited movement of the Rocky Mountain Horse is split into two different types, although one is simply a faster version of the other:

  • Stepping Pace, or Amble – this is an uneven 4-beat lateral movement and is the slower version of the gait. This means they move each limb in turn, and four separate hoof beats will be heard. The four hoof beats will be uneven in rhythm.
  • Single-foot, or Rack – this is an even 4-beat square gait. You will hear four beats, with equal timing between each footfall. This is a faster gait and can reach speeds of 16 miles per hour.

This brilliant video shows how the Rocky Mountain Horse moves when gaiting:


So, as we have learned, the Rocky Mountain Horse has an ambling gait that replaces the trotting pace. This is a comfortable movement that enables the horse to cover many miles with minimal effort. Riding a gaiting Rocky Mountain Horse will feel unusual at first, but it is generally more comfortable for the rider.

We would love to hear about your experiences with gaiting Rocky Mountain Horses – have you ever ridden one? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!

Next up, learn all about Home Remedies For Thrush In Horses Hooves.