gaited horses

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Elegant Peruvian Paso Horses are descended from ancient Spanish breeds. Photo courtesy North American Peruvian Horse Association. Photo by April Visel.


Paso Fino

Origin: Colombia and Puerto Rico     Horses in US: 57,000

Description: A compact horse with a strong neck, long mane, and refined head harkening back to ancient Spanish breeds, the Paso is called “the smoothest riding horse in the world.”

Ideal for people who don’t need a large or extra large horse, they’ll go tirelessly on the trail all day and are competitive in many western and English disciplines.

Contact: Paso Fino Horse Assoc.,

Peruvian Horse

Origin: Peru     Horses in US: 14,000

Description: The stylish Peruvian horse originated from stock brought to South America by the Conquistadors and developed as a plantation horse with a fast and completely natural four-beat gait. Kind and willing in temperament, they make an elegant impression with their raised heads, arched necks and flowing manes.Primarily a recreational horse, this stylish breed also shines in parades and in the show arena, especially with traditional tack and costume.

Contact: North American Peruvian Horse Assoc.,

The chocolate color and flaxen mane seen in many Rocky Mountain Horses results from a rare silver dapple gene acting on a black coat. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Horse Association.

Rocky Mountain Horse

Origin: Kentucky     Horses in US: 20,000

Description: Legend holds that a gaited stud horse from the Rocky Mountain region arrived in Kentucky around 1890. Little is known about “the Rocky Mountain Horse,” but that he was chocolate colored, with a flaxen mane and tail. The breed owes greatly to a small herd maintained by a local man, Sam Tuttle. Today, one can find a variety of solid colors, but chocolates are still prized.  “They’re easy keepers, friendly, curious and perfect for trail riding,” says Suzanne Buchanan-Donaldson, executive director of the breed registry. “These horses make it easy for that first step in owning a horse.”

Contact: Rocky Mountain Horse Assoc.,

Icelandic Horse

Origin: Iceland     Horses in US: 5,000

Description: These thick coated, pony-sized horses developed from hardy stock brought to Iceland by Norse settlers in the 9th and 10th Centuries. A national treasure (no other horses are permitted to enter Iceland), they likely trace back to the first horses domesticated in Mongolia.  Icelanders have more than 100 names for the native breed’s various colors and patterns. Their five-gaited tendency is a source of great pride, and registries exist in 19 nations throughout Europe and North America.

Contact: US Icelandic Horse Congress,

American Spotted Saddle Horse

Origin: American South     Horses in US: unknown

Description: Breeders took the colorful pinto ponies of the West and crossed them with the larger, gaited breeds of the South. The result: a flashy, smooth-moving horse with a characteristic four-beat gait. A “color breed” (like the palomino) rather than a true breed (like the American Paint Horse), Spotted Saddle horses need only possess an ambling gait and pinto coloration. However, the ideal most resembles a Tennessee Walker, but slightly smaller and stockier.

Contact: National Spotted Saddle Horse Association,