Icelandic Horse Connection

Definition of "Tolt"

There are several intermediate gaits (gaits between walk and canter) other than trot, that horses can do, occasionally referred to as easy gaits or soft gaits.

Some of these intermediate gaits are: foxtrot, runningwalk, saddle rack (saddle tolt), rack (tolt), and stepping pace.

Rack, a gait with a one-foot / two-foot support, is given different names in different countries, i.e. tolt in Icelandic; trippel in African, and largo in Columbian.

These easy gaits are divided into three categories: square, diagonal, and lateral. The gaits are defined and categorized by foot fall sequence, support sequence, foot fall timing, lift off and set down, and transfer from foot to foot.

The trot and foxtrot are diagonal gaits, the flatwalk and runningwalk are square, and the rack / tolt, as well as the saddle rack / saddle tolt, are lateral gaits.

"Lateral gait" means that the lateral legs lift off and / or set down closer in time than the diagonal pairs.

In the tolt (rack), the timing is 1-2-3-4; even set down. (As a matter of interest, at the rack / tolt, you cannot hear each foot set down; if listening, what one hears are the front feet.)

In both the saddle tolt (saddle rack) and tolt (rack), it is an even set-down and lateral lift-off; meaning that the laterals lift off closer in time than they set down.

The difference between the saddle tolt (saddle rack) is speed and support.

In the tolt (rack), the support is one-foot / two-foot; meaning that the horse supports himself, at times, during a stride on either one foot or two feet.

In the saddle tolt (saddle rack), the support is two-foot / three-foot; meaning that the horse supports himself, at times, during a stride on either two feet or three feet (more similar to the runningwalk, but not the "same" gait).

Biomechanically, it's easier to have one-foot support at speed (possibly similar to hopping or skipping wherein you need some dynamic movement going on to meet the definition). Slowing the tolt down, switches it to 2 / 3 foot support, making it a different gait, that of the saddle tolt.

The frame in which the horse tolts (racks) is slightly hollow in the back, as the top muscles tighten, the pelvis is tipped upwards and outwards (bringing the tailhead higher), and the base of the neck is lowered. These three indications of tolt are opposite of the three components of collection, which are coiling of the loins to engage the hindquarters, rounding of the back, and lifting of the base of the neck.

The saddle tolt and the tolt look similar to the naked eye, but can be identified on slow-motion video.

In the tolt, the steps taken between either the front feet (or rear feet), are leaping, as there is a moment of time when neither front foot (or neither rear foot) is on the ground (hence one-foot support).

In the saddle tolt, the steps taken between either the front feet or rear feet are momentarily supported by the other front or rear foot, therefore the two foot / three foot support).

The tolt can lean towards the diagonal or towards the lateral, frequently referred to as trotty-tolt or pacey-tolt. These deviations are not necessary the foxtrot or stepping pace, however.

Support phases:

[] Right Hind (one foot support)

[] Right Hind, and Right Front (two foot, lateral support)

[] Right Front (one foot support)

[] Right Front, and Left Hind (two foot, diagonal support)

[] Left Hind (one foot support)

[] Left Hind, Left Front (two foot, lateral support)

[] Left Front (one foot support)

[] Left Front, Right Hind (two foot, diagonal support)

See the individual support images here.

Two foot and three foot support of the saddle gait.
Icelandic Horse tolt..Icelandic Horse tolt

One foot support of the tolt.
Both hinds are momentarily off the ground.
Icelandic Horse tolt

The following is an abstract of a study done on the tolt, which reflects that true tolt "is present only over a narrow speed range".

Motion pattern of the toelt of Icelandic horses at different speeds.
Zips S, Peham C, Scheidl M, Licka T, Girtler D
Equine Vet J Suppl 2001 Apr :109-11


"The toelt of the Icelandic horse is a symmetric 4-beat gait, with alternating single and double support phases. By definition, the duration of the diagonal and ipsilateral stance phases should be similar. The aim of this study was to investigate the stride characteristics of horses ridden at toelt, and to compare these to previous descriptions of this gait. The kinematics of 23 Icelandic horses was measured using the Expert Vision System. Mature and sound horses, used for pleasure riding and / or competitions, were ridden at toelt at 3 different speeds. For each horse, 10 strides were measured at toelting speeds of 2.9 m/s (s.d. 0.28), 3.7 m/s (s.d. 0.29) and 4.7 m/s (s.d. 0.53). Seven horses showed true toelt pattern at one or 2 speeds. At the highest speed, 60% of all motion cycles showed the pattern of 4-beat pace. This investigation shows that the previously described toelt pattern is present only over a narrow speed range, and toelt at extended speed is, in fact, a 4-beat pace or rarely a 4- beat trot."

We know that many gaited horses, as well as non-gaited horses, can tolt / rack if they are put into the frame of a hollow back and upright neck (lowering the base of the neck). It has been said of one Icelandic Horse who scored a 10 for perfect tolt, that it took three years and the arms similar to Arnold Schwartzeneger to get him to tolt. This would lead us to ask: how important / relevant / true are evaluation scores; and: what kind of gaitedness would a horse like this beget to his offspring?
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