Since most soft-gaited horses have the ability to perform more than one of these specialized gaits, it is vital for them to be trained to stick to one at a time. For riders new to soft-gaited horses, it is easy to become bewildered by the horse's "shifting of gears." As an observer, when you first start studying the gaits, don't get discouraged if you can't tell what gait a horse is performing.
At first, all you will see is a flurry of legs. Your work is to better understand the basic classifications of a horse's way of going.
The five categories of "second gear" movement are:
1) Lateral 2-beat. 2) Lateral 4-beat. 3) Square 4-beat. 4) diagonal 4-beat. 5) diagonal 2-beat
We can hear a two-beat sound. The horse's hooves on the same side move at the same time. First the right front and the right back hooves move together, then the left front and left back hooves move together. The gait is called the PACE.
We can hear 4 beats that are not even. The horse's hooves on the same side leave the ground together but hit the ground separately. This gait has different names. It can be called a broken pace, stepping pace, sobreandando, slick pace and the Paso Finos call it andadura imperfecta.
We can hear 4 even beats. Each hoof moves separately. Each foot picks up and sets down alone. This gait has different names, depending on the breed. It can be called a running walk by the Tennessee Walkers; a paso llano by the Peruvian Paso; a picado by the Mangalarga Marchador and a tolt by the Icelandics.
In another square 4-beat gait the hooves on the same side leave the ground together and the right rear hits the ground when the front is at its highest point. This is repeated on the opposite side. This gait is called a rack or saddle gait by the Mountain Horses; a fino, corto, or largo by the Paso Fino; and a singlefoot, even gait, square gait, and amble by other breeds.
We hear an off-beat 4-beat rhythm. The diagonal hooves move almost together. The right front and the left rear hooves leave the ground at almost the same time, but land separately. Then the left front and right rear repeat the step. The Fox Trotters describe it as sounding like: "hunk of meat and two potatoes." This gait is called a fox trot by the Fox Trotters, troche by the Paso finos; batida by the Mangalarga Marchadors, and broken trot by other breeds.
We hear a clear 2-beat sound. In this gait, the front right and the back left hooves move together, and then the front left and back right hooves move together. This gait is called the trot.