One of the many reasons why people are attracted to the gaited horse breeds is because of their easy, ground covering gait that is smooth and relaxing to ride, even in the roughest of terrain. Since the Mountain Pleasure Horse was developed in the mountains and foothill areas of Eastern Kentucky in the United States there was a great deal of emphasis placed on the gait as well as the disposition in the breed. Unlike many of the gaited breeds where flash or appearance came first, the Mountain Pleasure Horse was bred for performance first and foremost.
A gaited horse may be one of several different breeds, but some gaited horses need to be taught to continue to use the four beat lateral gait as a selected gait. Almost all foals will naturally use a four beat gait to keep up with the mare as a sort of an in between jog and canter that the smaller foal needs to use to keep up with the extended walk or trot of the mare. In non-gaited breeds this gait is dropped once the foal is able to pace more in synch with the mare. In gaited breeds, there is a greater likelihood that the gait will continue, especially when taught or reinforced by the rider or trainer. The Mountain Pleasure Horse is one of the few gaited breeds that do not need to be specifically taught to use the four beat lateral gaits. This is a natural gait that stays with the horse through maturity, making them a natural for riders that want a smooth, gently rolling ride at any speed.
The four beat lateral gaits produce four even footfalls when the horse is in motion. This means that the horse will always have one foot on the ground when he or she is in motion, not the feet moving in opposition or parallel to each other as in other non-gaited breeds. The result is a point of stability through all the gaits, resulting in a smooth, more balanced ride. Since the Mountain Pleasure Horse has been bred selectively for over 160 years for this gait there is a consistency within the breed that has been used to establish and enhance other gaited breeds, particularly in the United States.
The movement of the Mountain Pleasure Horse is designed to be practical for covering rough terrain. This breed does not have the flash of the Racking Horse or the Hackney type movement often seen in gaited horses, rather the breed has a natural grace and elegance that adds to the overall athletic appearance and performance of the breed. The legs are extended moderately to cover the ground in long strides, but without the exaggerated hock and knee action that is common in many of the show type gaited breeds. This gait would be impossible to maintain over the uneven ground in the mountains, plus it would be unsafe for the both the horse and rider. Unbelievably sure footed, these horses are popular as working horses, trail riding horses, pleasure riding as well as dressage, jumping and even endurance horses.