Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gaits of the Icelandic Horse

The Icelandic horse is bred to have up to five gaits--walk, trot, canter, tolt, and flying pace.  Not all Icelandics exhibit the flying pace.  It is one of the few breeds that require a tolt and the trot.  FEIF, International Federation of Icelandic Horse Associations, defines the breeding standard as "to breed a versatile, consistent in gaits and reliable horse with

good, clear gaits and an excellent, lively temperament. A horse that is beautiful when
ridden – a true Icelandic 'gæðingur'.”

Below are descriptions of the gaits of the Icelandic horse.

You can check out videos of Icelandic horse gaits and how international Icelandic judges score them at my post:

Photo by Andrea Barber
WALK is a 4-beat, lateral gait, with 2 to 3 foot support, and no suspension.  The footfall is LH, LF, RH, RF.    Per FEIF:  "The horse is impressive and walks forward enthusiastically, with an even beat and a supple body. The head is carried at medium height and the horse moves 
with long, energetic strides, tracking up well."

Photo by Martina Gates
TROT is a 2-beat, diagonal gait with 2 or no foot support since there is a moment of suspension in the gait

Footfall is LH and RF, RH and LF.  Per FEIF: "Secure 2-beat trot, movements high and supple, long strides and suspension. Excellent speed."

Photo by Martina Gates
CANTER is a 3-beat, lateral gait with 1, 2, 3, or no feet on the ground (a moment of suspension).  The footfall is LH, RH and LF, RF. 

Per FEIF, canter/gallop is "Good beat. An attractive gallop: the horse is well off the forehand yet stretches out in nice round, powerful movements with good suspension. Excellent speed."

Per FEIF, slow canter is "Supple 3-beat canter with good suspension the horse is well off the forehand, moves effortlessly, but impressively."


Photo by Martina Gates
TOLT is a 4-beat, lateral gait, with 1 to 2 foot support, and no suspension. The sequence of the footfall is LH, LF, RH, RF, but the actual movement is different from the walk. 

Per FEIF Tolt is "Even 4-beat rhythm with long strides in front and behind, elegant lift and action of the front legs, movements extremely flexible and supple, excellent speed."
Per FEIF, slow tolt is "Even 4-beat tölt with long strides in front and behind, lots of lift and action of
the front legs, movements extremely flexible and supple."

Recent high speed studies of fast tolt have shown that there is a moment of suspension.

FLYING PACE is a 2-beat, lateral gait with 1, 2, or no feet on the

Photo by Martina Gates
ground and has a moment of suspension. The footfall sequence is LH and LF, RH and RF. Per FEIF, "Secure, impressive pace, good 2-beat lateral gait with good suspension and excellent speed."

As FEIF summarizes, "The horse is very impressive and elegant to look at, with energetic, attractive
movements and a lot of charm: The horse carries itself well, is flexed at the poll, on the bit, and off the forehand. The leg movements are light, high and supple with good coordination and energy. The horse covers the ground well in great style, its tail carried high."



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