HOW GAIT IS INHERITED: Research and article by Victoria Varley (copyright 1993)
During the development of a new breed of horse where middle gaits and Lp gene spotted coats were desired, the hypothesis that there is a gene for gait, was also tested and verified, but not mapped.
The work was done by myself, with over 100 horses observed, and blood typed. While various breeds were used to extract the desirable components for the new breed, if qualified, most of their offspring were registered as Tiger Horses with TIGRE, a Registry I created to promote and protect the emerging breed. This new "Tiger Horse" breed should eventually share the phenotype of an extinct one that was once used to hunt the Siberian tiger.
In order to create a colorful, and gaited breed that would share an Iberian profile, (horses with Iberian profiles were developed by the Spanish several centuries ago. Some including those with spots and gait were in shipments to the USA during the 1800's). I located individuals that shared this phenotype from a variety of unrelated breeds. These were homozygous Appaloosas but that did not necessarily gait, and non Appaloosas that did gait. I chose as many breeding prospects as possible that shared certain desirable physical traits, regardless of gait or color. I found some individuals that were already first generation out-crossed, ie., Appaloosa X TWH or Appaloosa X MFT etc.. Gaited horses should perform one or more of the three most commonly recognized middle gaits. Although gaited horses can also trot, they must never perform a hard lateral pace which is outside the realm of middle gait.
The on-going work was done over a period of 18 years beginning in 1992, by crossbreeding gaited horses to non-gaited horses. We are currently recording 3rd and 4th generation offspring, and have begun selecting from these where both parents gait, and/or demonstrate copies of the Lp gene. Several have inherited the desirable oriental angled eyes, and a refined Iberian profile with a slightly convex nasal bone, large well placed eyes, and triangular shaped heads.
A total of 41 mares and 15 stallions (parent horses and offspring) are recorded here, consistently exhibiting verifiable evidence that there is a gene for Gait, and that Gait is gender related. The only exception involves a specific type of LP/LP (homozygous) horse, and some of their offspring that inherit the leopard spotted coat pattern, for which there is a separate study underway.)
Gaits described: "Gaited horses" are commonly known for performing the following middle gaits:
a) Running Walk. Referred to as an evenly timed square gait, where each foot moves independently of the others, in what is described as an "evenly timed 4-beat rhythm," ie, 1,2,3,4 repeated by 1,2,3,4
b) Stepping Pace. Referred to as, "an unevenly timed lateral gait." le, 1,2 & 3,4 &
c) Fox Trot. Referred to as, "an unevenly timed diagonal gait." le 1,2 & 3,4 & There is a newly discovered middle gait we have named;
d) The Glider Gait. Also referred to as a shuffle, "an unevenly timed lateral or, diagonal gait," this is the least comfortable to ride yet provides a comfortable sitting type of trot for the rider and resembles the jog-trot of the Quarter Horse breed.
Some gaited horses are capable
of performing more than one of the above "middle" gaits. Gaited horses are described as always having at least one
foot on the ground therefore eliminating any bounce to their
forward movement. They sort of "crawl" like a spider might, but at speeds ranging from 1327mph. Often referred to as an
arm-chair ride, no special rider skill is required to sit most gaited
horses and they drive off naturally from behind, collected and
on the bit without training.
As a comparison, it is necessary to recognize and describe horses that are outside the realm of "middle gait." There are two types of "non-gaited" horse, both exhibit an evenly timed 2-beat rhythm.
a) The Trot. Referred to as an evenly timed diagonal gait, opposite pairs of legs liff together, move forwards together, and strike the ground simultaneously, followed by the opposite pair in a perfect 2-beat rhythm. The Trot causes the horse to bounce in order to transition from one diagonal pair to the other. It is a stable and efficient gait, but requires rider skill to enjoy.
b) The Pace. Referred to as an evenly timed lateral gait, where same side pairs of legs lift together, move forwards together, then strike the ground simultaneously then followed by the opposite same side pair creating a perfect 2-beat sound, or rhythm. The Pace causes the horse to roll from side to side in order to move forwards. It is an unstable but extremely fast gait, best suited to other than rider use.
In conclusion, When one parent is gaited and one parent is not gaited, parent gait is inherited by the opposite sex foal. ie, daughters inherit gait type from their sires, while sons inherit gait type from their dams The inherited "middle" gaits are usually, but not always identical to that of the opposite sex parent. Example: Lateral middle gaiters bred to diagonal middle gaiters have produced foals that tend to be more perfect in their way of going, than that of either gaited parent. Foals born from Hard Pace X Hard Trot horses, are either Hard Pacers or Hard Trotters having inherited their gaits from the opposite sex parent, and with no obvious variations in strength. This confirms that there is a gene for gait and that depending on the sex of the foal, gait inheritance is predictable.
This information is valuable to breeders and buyers of all types of equine. The stallion is often given great credit for desirable breeding results when in fact the mare is entitled to 50% of the credit and/or 100% depending on the sex of foal.