The 5 gaits

The Walk is a slow and natural four-beated gait, during which two of the horses hooves always touch the ground, and in which all hooves move forward at an even pace.

The Trot is a two-beat gait, and is faster than a walk. It is called a diagonal gait, because the horse lifts a hind leg and a front leg simultaneously, and in mid-stride has all four of its hooves suspended off the ground.

The Canter has an easy, three-beat rhythm. Instead of moving directly forward, the horse “canters” slightly diagonal to one side. Because the four hooves lift from and touch the ground in odd-numbered sequence, two legs must simultaneously bear the entire weight of the horse. Thus, the canter is a bit strenuous on a horse.

The Tölt is a natural, fluid gait of the Icelandic Horse, during which at least one foot always touches the ground. Foals often tölt in pastures at an early age. The tölt is an extraordinarily smooth four-beat gait, which allows the rider an almost bounce-free ride, even at 32 kmh (20 mph). It is said a rider can drink a pint while riding, without spilling a drop. The footfall is the same pattern as the walk, but is much faster, almost as fast as a gallop.

The Flying Pace is a fast, high speed gait (48 kmh – 30 mph), during which both legs on one side of the horse simultaneously touch the ground. The gait is used for short distances, and can equal the speed of a full gallop, thus it is the primary gait used for racing. Being a two-beat gait, at one interval all four hooves of the Icelandic Horse are suspended off the ground during a flying pace. Riding at a flying pace is considered the crown of horsemanship.