The walk is a four-beat gait that averages about 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h). When walking, a horse’s legs follow this sequence: left hind leg, left front leg, right hind leg, right front leg, in a regular 1-2-3-4 beat. At the walk, the horse will always have one foot raised and the other three feet on the ground, save for a brief moment when weight is being transferred from one foot to another.
A horse moves its head and neck in a slight up and down motion as it walks. This helps maintain balance.
Ideally, the advancing rear hoof oversteps the spot where the previously advancing front hoof touched the ground. The more the rear hoof oversteps, the smoother and more comfortable the walk becomes.
Individual horses and different breeds vary in the smoothness of their walk. However, a rider will almost always feel some degree of gentle side-to-side motion in the horse’s hips as each hind leg reaches forward.
The fastest “walks” with a four-beat footfall pattern are actually the lateral forms of ambling gaits such as the running walk, singlefoot, and similar rapid but smooth intermediate speed gaits, such as the saddle rack. If a horse begins to speed up and lose a regular four-beat cadence to its gait, the horse is no longer walking, but is beginning to either trot or pace.
The running walk, a four-beat lateral gait with footfalls in the same sequence as the regular walk, but characterized by greater speed and smoothness. It is a distinctive natural gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The slow gait is a general term for various lateral gaits that follow the same general lateral footfall pattern, but the rhythm and collection of the movements are different. Terms for various slow gaits include the dead pace, slow stepping pace, flat walk and singlefoot.