The Gaits

Icelandic horses can ‘walk,’ ‘trot’ and ‘canter or gallop,’  just as all horses do, but Icelandic horses can also tölt, and some can also perform a gait called ‘flying pace.’ 

Little Viking Horse’s Gait Map, by Mic Rushen of Solva Icelandics

Tölt is a four beat gait, where the feet land on the ground, left hind – left front – right hind – right front, in an even rhythm. This is a gait which can be performed at all speeds, from a fast walking speed through to canter speed. There is always at least one foot in contact with the ground and this makes the tölt very smooth and comfortable for the rider.

An Icelandic horse that can walk, trot, canter/gallop and tölt is known as a “four gaited horse.” Some Icelandic horses prefer trot, others prefer tölt. Correct training can improve the horse’s weakest gaits, but many Icelandic horses tölt completely naturally, and it is common to see foals tölting after their mothers. There are also Icelandic horses which are “five gaited.” These horses can walk, trot, canter/gallop, tölt and pace.  

Pace is a two beat gait with a moment of suspension, where all four feet are off the ground, which is why it is sometimes called Flying Pace. The hooves on the same side land almost together. This is a fast gait used for racing, and some Icelandic horses can reach speeds of up to 30mph! Some horses pace slowly, which is uncomfortable for the rider, and not encouraged.

Flying Pace is a gait for well-balanced, well-trained horses with good riders – it is not generally used as a “day-to-day” travelling gait.

Gait drawings by Mic Rushen

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