Gaited Horses

SynchroGait® is used to test horses’ natural capacity for alternative gaits. There are three genetic classes:


AA horses

  • Most often easy gaited horses
  • Usually classified as five-gaited (walk, trot, gallop, amble, and pace)
  • Less talent for a balanced canter than CA or CC horses
  • High frequency of AA horses in gaited breeds worldwide

CA horses

  • Can often but not always amble
  • Usually classified as four-gaited horses (can amble but not perform flying pace)
  • Some of the CA horses may not show ambling easily at the beginning of their training
  • The genotype may be “hidden” in a three-gaited horse because the horse has not been trained to amble (e.g. among Morgan horses 40% of CA individuals were classified as three-gaited by their owners)
  • Better talent for canter than AA horses 

CC horses

  • Classical three-gaited horses
  • Probably the optimum genotype for horses used for show jumping, eventing high-level classical dressage, heavy pulling, and gallop racing


Locomotion is a complex trait

Gaits in horses are influenced by several factors, both genetic and environmental. The summary above is what we see most often, but there are exceptions. Horses can to some extent be trained to re-shape their natural pattern of locomotion. Conformation also has an impact on the gaits and we have had reports of CC horses that are gaited and AA horses that seem unable to perform pace. However, these instances are quite rare and the gait-gene has a proven dramatic impact on horses’ gaits.


When is it good to know the horse’s genotype?

  • To plan mating in order to maximize the chances of getting a horse with the pattern of locomotion that the owner prefers
  • To predict the gaits of foals and young horses (i.e. for buying/selling youngsters)
  • To match the right discipline, training, and rider with the right horse
  • To avoid pressuring a CC horse in attempts to amble or pace
  • Keep a distinct part of the population as classical three-gaited horses or as gaited horses by taking informed breeding decisions


An aid in breeding

Click here to see the average outcome from different mating’s.


For those preferring classical three-gaited horses

We have seen that some CA horses largely behave like three-gaited horses. However, when these are used in breeding they may produce different kinds of offspring compared to traditional CC three-gaited horses. If a CA horse is crossed with a CC horse half of the offspring will be CA and might amble. If they are crossed with another CA horse, 25% of the offspring will be gaited AA.


For those preferring gaited horses

A horse that is presented as four-gaited in competitions or breeding field shows can be either AA or CA (or in very rare cases CC, if the horse has unique conformation and is trained very much). The genotype is then important information for breeders to know. For example, if you have a gaited CA mare you do not want to cross her with a gaited CA stallion because 25% of the offspring will be CC and therefore very likely “non-gaited.” 


World wide distribution of A



In several gaited breeds, most individuals are AA. However, unlike the five-gaited AA Icelandic horses many of these other breeds are described to only preform an ambling gait.

Both training and the genetic background may cause the differences observed in the pattern of locomotion between the different gaited horse breeds. 

Some breeds are represented by a quite low number of horses and the frequency of each genotype should therefor be thought of as an approximation.

Click here to open the table in new window.



Research in brief

  • Significant correlation between gaitedness and genotype in Icelandic horses, Morgan horses, American Curly horses, Finnhorses and Nordic trotters
  • Out of 81 tested Mangalarga Marchadora all AA horses presented the gait Marcha Picada (lateral coupling), all CC horses the gait Marcha Batida (diagonal coupling), while CA horses presented either of these two
  • Some Icelandic CC horses can be taught to amble but they are significantly more difficult in the beginning of the training. AA horses are easiest to set into tölt in the initial training (CC= 5.1, CA= 4.0, AA= 2.2, scale to 6.0**) 
  • CA Standardbreds have significantly better balance in canter and higher score for show Jumping than AA horses
  • Similarly, CA Icelandic horses have higher scores for the basic gaits compared to AA horses

*The breed has been breed for gaitedness for centuries and thus has a conformation suitable for this purpose. **Where 6.0 is most difficult.



Read more about SynchroGait® for Morgan horses

Read more about SynchroGait® for Icelandic horses

Read more about Horse gaits in Wikipedia


Scientific publications related to gaited breeds

Gaitedness in Morgan and American Curly horses

Gaitedness in Mangalarga Marchador horses

Gaiting ability (all gaits) in Icelandic horses 

Tölt training in Icelandic horses & canter ability in Standardbreds


Worldwide frequency distribution of the ‘Gait keeper’ mutation (larger table than presented above)

The discovery: our initial Nature publication