For as long as there has been recorded information on horses - both traditional and written - there have been gaited horses. If the horse was your only mode of transportation, wouldn't you want it to be as comfortable as possible? The ability to transport us in comfort is the foundation for the soft-gaited horses being a true cohort to humankind since the beginning of time.
In early 17th century Europe, the ratio of soft-gaited to walk-trot horses was 80/20. By the early 18th century, the soft-gaited horse had all but disappeared in Europe. As cities developed, the need for wagons and carts expanded. It was no longer necessary for a horse to be smooth and comfortable if it was pulling a carriage with on one on its back.
For pure pleasure, the remarkable category of soft-gaited breeds developed in the Americas, has been maintained here in the Americas. The soft-gaited plantation horses were designed to provide comfortable and efficient transportation over roadless terrain. They could also be hitched to the plow to plant the fields or pull the buggy to town for supplies. The same horses were spruced up and decked out to take the family to church. With their kind and pleasant nature, they provided companionship and a willingness to participate.