What is a Flat Walk?
A flat walk is a four-beat gait where each foot hits the ground independently. It is a smooth and comfortable gait that is easy to maintain for extended periods. During a flat walk, the horse’s head should nod up and down in rhythm with its footfalls, creating a steady, relaxed motion. This gait is often used for pleasure riding, trail riding, and showing in pleasure classes.
What is a Running Walk?
A running walk is a lateral, four-beat gait unique to certain breeds, most notably the Tennessee Walking Horse. During a running walk, the horse’s head nods up and down, and its feet move in a sliding motion, creating a smooth and speedy gait. The running walk is a natural gait for some breeds, but it can also be trained in others. This gait is often used in competitions and shows.
Difference in Footfall
The main difference between a flat walk and a running walk is the footfall pattern. During a flat walk, the horse’s feet hit the ground independently in a four-beat gait. In contrast, during a running walk, the horse’s feet move in a lateral motion, with the front and hind feet hitting the ground at different times. The running walk is a faster and more energetic gait, while the flat walk is steadier and more relaxed.
Stride and Speed Variation
The stride and speed of the two gaits also differ. During a flat walk, the horse’s stride is shorter, resulting in a slower pace. In contrast, during a running walk, the horse’s stride is longer, creating a faster and smoother pace. The running walk can reach speeds up to 10-20 miles per hour, while the flat walk ranges from 4-8 miles per hour.
Common Breeds for Each
Certain breeds are more likely to perform each gait. The flat walk is commonly seen in gaited breeds such as the Missouri Fox Trotter, the Paso Fino, and the Icelandic Horse. The running walk is unique to the Tennessee Walking Horse and related breeds, although it can be trained in other gaited breeds as well.
Which is Right for You?
The choice between the flat walk and the running walk depends on personal preference, riding style, and breed of horse. If you’re looking for a comfortable, leisurely ride, the flat walk may be the right choice for you. However, if you’re interested in competitions or showing, and you have a gaited breed such as the Tennessee Walking Horse, the running walk may be a better fit. Ultimately, both gaits are enjoyable and offer a unique riding experience.