HOW GAIT IS INHERITED: Research and article by Victoria Varley (copyright 1993)
     It is already a known fact that trotting horses bred to trotting horses produce trotting foals. The same is true for hard pacing horses and also for gaited horses, but what happens when you breed a trotting horse to a hard pacing horse? Or a hard pacing horse to a gaited horse? and what happens when you breed a trotting horse to a gaited horse? To cut a long story short and generally speaking;

I have discovered that gait inheritance is gender related. Sons inherit the gait of their mothers, while daughters inherit their fathers gaits.

     When I began creating the Tiger Horse breed, and early on began developing my personal herd to resemble the ancient Soulon of China, I had a huge task ahead of me. I had to use homozygous Appaloosas for color production that could not gait, and a variety of gaited breeds for gaited infusions but that would not produce spotted foals. I wanted a spotted gaited Soulon just like China was attempting to develop.
     From each group and wherever possible, I selected individuals that were quite different from their original breed’s standards, ones that more closely resembled the statuesque Soulon horse. The Soulon are the ceramic horses seen in ancient art, always adorned with gilded blankets, bejewelled tassels and other fine head gear and accouterments. They were a ceremonial horse and much revered during the exotic and most illustrious
T’Ang Dynasty.
     Fortunately “genes take millions of years to disappear, let alone change” and is the reason I was able to produce my Soulon look-alikes during  my lifetime. Well..... I worked at it for a solid 20 years producing over 100 horses from diversely different breeds, which proved my gait inheritance theory.
     By crossing a variety of non gaited horses to gaited horses I was quite early on able, to study how gait was inherited. I am currently (2011) in the process of having a paper published that offers the data collected and am enjoying the professional assistance of Professor E.Bailey at the University of KY where the Tiger and Soulon Tiger Horses have stored DNA and blood typing info from the start of my work.
     There are lots of spotted horse breeds and lots of gaited and non gaited horse breeds but my SOULON are as unique as their extinct Chinese cousins and will continue to turn heads for centuries to come. One lifetime is not long enough to breed excellent horses, let alone bring a new breed into existence so it makes no sense to me to breed for anything less than perfection and with anything less than breeding quality stock..
     What could be more exciting than sitting astride a magnificent and powerful horse in full gait, and feeling as though you are sailing on a cloud? My name is Victoria Varley, I am the Founder of
Tigre and SOULON and have been involved with horses of all breeds for over 30 years. If you have never taken a ride on a perfectly gaited horse, you don’t know what a heavenly ride is.  In 1986 I was an open rider with the USA team and competed in the First World Championships 100 miles in one day endurance race, near Rome, Italy. My horse was a dapple gray mare named Miss Lexa who recently celebrated her 30th birthday. We flew with our horses for this momentous event. Individual USA riders brought back the gold, silver and bronze medals. In 1987, I was again selected to represent the USA, this time as one of the “4 man team” at the European National Championships 100 miles in one day endurance race. This time we flew with our horses to Germany, Europe and this time I brought home a team gold medal. Once again, Miss Lexa was my horse of choice. Arabians who excel at the sport of distance riding are remarkable animals but exhausting to ride especially at the trot where one must rise and falll in rhythm with the horse or have blisters for several weeks.

Medal1986 MedalGold987

    Here are some of my distance riding medals. My mother referred to them regularly as “dust collectors.”  Some are in fact “rust collectors.” I have a box full somewhere in the attic, but these 4 seemed important enough to keep out, and available for bragging rights.  In my 40’s I rode countless horses for thousands of conditioning miles, and hours. Six horses stand out in my memory as the most talented and each gave me an exciting tale to tell.


     When conditioning yourself and horse for long distance events,  the logs you keep only serve as a reminder to yourself. Privately logged miles do not count with the official organizations responsible for overseeing these events, and official miles completed on race day, only count whenever a rider completes the distance according to the rules. Withdrawing from an event for any reason disqualifies both horse and rider, even if only one mile is left to go. I don’t remember withdrawing from too many, but there were a few I would like to forget. Six hundred of the official AERC or NATRC miles recorded in my name are probably the most exciting events in my challenging competitive riding career. I have lost track of many events and always surprised when I uncover a buried award declaring me a Top 10 winner, or a Best Condition winner, or both.  
Photos top far right: Top 10 winners medallion National Arabian Endurance Championships 2-day 50 miler. Below that: 1985 Top 10 Winners Buckle International Arabian Horse Association Competitive 2-day 50 miler Trail Ride. Above left: 1986 First World Championships 100 miles in 1 day buckle (USA team, Open Rider) Above center: 1987 European National Championships, (USA Team Member) FEI Gold Medal winner. Some day I’ll write a book!

     In order to ride long distances on any horse, both horse and rider must be physically and mentally prepared.  If the horse is not Gaited, one must learn to ride in rhythm with the animal. Trotting burns up a lot of horse and rider energy. Gaiting is easier on both. When a rider gets tired, the horse picks up on it, and also becomes lethargic. There is strategy in being able to complete a long distance event. It is a science all on its own.

     All takes years of preparation and learning, and is exhausting for both horse and rider, yet even at the 75 mile mark, fresh energy is summonsed for the thrill of the final 25 mile leg and a race across the finish line. Horses seem to want to win and pick up renewed energy from an inspired rider.
     By the time I decided to stop competing in this type of challenge, I was becoming familiar with Gaited horses. I may not have won as many events on a Gaited horse, but I would not have “burned out” as soon either.
     My first gaited horse was a magnificent palomino Missouri Fox Trotter. I named her Annandale’s Honey Bunny and competed on her in a few 2 day 50 mile competitive events. It was amazingly stress free, and although the breed is more heavily muscled than the Arabian breed, her pulse and respiration ran only 4 points higher than my winning Arabian mare Tsaarific. I was immediately hooked.
     Honey proved to be extremely efficient and became the love of my life and personal riding horse for the next 14 years.  At the end of each ride, I always felt as though we could head out again, and we often did.
     There would be no more hobbling to the water tank for me, and groaning  with relief as I collapsed into my camper bed for the night.  For the first time in all those thousands of miles, I was ready to party around a camp fire with others. I needed no further convincing; Gaited horses or nothing!
     Then along came Lindy van der Walt, a fellow artist and horse enthusiast who was visiting from South Africa. Lindy was a fan of the spotted Appaloosa horse. She filled my head with the possibilities of putting Appaloosa spots on my Gaited horses. That is where this whole Tiger Horse adventure began, on a farm we owned in Mena, Arkansas and with the help of others who had gone before me and knew what would not work.    
     I take everything I do seriously, and selected the very best gaited horses I could find for the experiment. I did not like the low ground clearing gait of the TWH. I did not like the infirmities found in some of the Spanish breeds, like excessive rotation in shoulder and pastern, and I certainly did not like the suspensory problems I saw in gaited breeds whose breeders focused on color first, ignoring the physical problems they were cementing in.

     Fox Trotters were built more like trotting breeds, broader than the lateral gaiters. Their leg lift was higher than some breeds I inspected. This was a good attribute.  Their dispositions uniformly pleased me and they are a handy size for trail riding. I found them to be brave horses and a pleasure to be around. They were my first choice for the leopard coat pattern/gaited horse experiments, but some horses were obtained from others that had already been produced by crossing Tennessee Walkers with Appaloosas. I found a few gaited and registered Appaloosa horses too. The list goes on and on and I learned that just because a horse from a gaited breed has won the title “World Champion” doesn’t mean he deserves the title at all.

     Eventually I found which types clicked well and which did not and I also discovered how gait is inherited. It is complicated and I with the help of Dr. E.Bailey at the University of Kentucky’s Animal Pathology and Genetic Testing laboratory, have prepared a science paper for peer review and scientific publication.  If anyone would like a copy of the paper before it is published, it is for sale for $150.00 and you can
contact me here.


This web site was created July 2012, by Victoria Varley. All materials and photographs are the copyright of Victoria Varley,
and may not be lifted without prior permission.