What Is A Racking Horse?

If you’re curious about horses with a smooth and comfortable gait, then the racking horse breed might pique your interest. Racking horses are known for their unique four-beat lateral gait called the “rack,” which sets them apart from other horse breeds. With a history deeply rooted in the American South, these horses were originally bred for their comfortable ride and endurance. Today, racking horses are popular among pleasure riders, trail enthusiasts, and competitors who appreciate their smooth and flashy movement.

what is a racking horse

Racking Horse Characteristics: Gait and Temperament

When it comes to horse breeds, the Racking Horse stands out for its unique characteristics, particularly in terms of its gait and temperament. In this section, we will explore these two key aspects of the Racking Horse and gain a deeper understanding of what makes them truly special.


The Racking Horse is renowned for its smooth, comfortable gait known as the “rack.” This gait sets it apart from other horse breeds and makes it a popular choice among riders who value a comfortable ride over long distances. The rack is a four-beat lateral gait, meaning that each foot hits the ground individually in a consistent pattern.

What makes the Racking Horse’s gait so remarkable is its evenness and fluidity. Unlike some other gaited breeds that may exhibit a more exaggerated or flashy movement, the Racking Horse maintains a steady and controlled motion throughout. This makes it an ideal choice for riders who seek a comfortable ride without sacrificing speed or agility.

Moreover, the Racking Horse’s gait is naturally inherited and does not require any special training or artificial aids. This is a significant advantage for riders who prefer a horse with a naturally smooth gait, as opposed to breeds that require extensive training to achieve a similar level of comfort and consistency.


Alongside its unique gait, the Racking Horse is also known for its pleasant and gentle temperament. The breed exhibits a calm and willing nature, making it a favorite among riders of all experience levels, including beginners and children.

Racking Horses are known for their intelligence and eagerness to please, which makes them relatively easy to train and handle. They are known to develop strong bonds with their owners and riders, often displaying a loyal and affectionate demeanor towards them.

Furthermore, the Racking Horse’s temperament makes it an excellent choice for various equestrian disciplines, including trail riding, pleasure riding, and even competitive events such as endurance riding and horse shows. Their calm and cooperative nature ensures a harmonious partnership between rider and horse, enhancing the overall riding experience.

In addition to their gentle disposition, Racking Horses are also highly adaptable and versatile. They can excel in a variety of environments, whether it be on the trails, in the show ring, or even as reliable work horses. This adaptability further enhances the breed’s appeal and makes them a popular choice among riders with different riding goals and preferences.


The Racking Horse is truly a remarkable breed, known for its smooth and comfortable gait as well as its gentle and cooperative temperament. The even and fluid rack sets it apart from other breeds, offering riders an enjoyable riding experience over long distances. Additionally, its calm and willing nature make it an ideal choice for riders of all levels, further enhancing its versatility. Whether for pleasure riding or competitive events, the Racking Horse is undoubtedly a breed that captures the hearts of equestrians worldwide.

The History and Origin of Racking Horses

Racking horses have a rich history that dates back to the early 19th century in the southern United States. These horses were developed specifically for their smooth, four-beat gait known as the rack, which provided a comfortable and efficient ride for long distances. Let’s dive into the fascinating history and origin of racking horses.

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The Influence of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds

The development of racking horses can be attributed to the influence of two prominent horse breeds: Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds. Thoroughbreds, known for their speed and agility, were crossbred with other breeds to enhance their gait. The result was a horse with a naturally smooth and rhythmic rack gait.

Standardbreds, on the other hand, were renowned for their ability to perform the lateral ambling gait known as the pace. Crossbreeding Standardbreds with Thoroughbreds further refined the rack gait, creating a distinct breed known as the racking horse.

The Influence of the Tennessee Walking Horse

While racking horses were being developed in various parts of the South, a significant influence came from the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. The Tennessee Walking Horse’s unique running walk gait, also known as the “Big Lick,” became popular in the mid-20th century.

As the popularity of the Tennessee Walking Horse grew, so did the interest in developing horses with similar smooth gaits. Racking horses were often crossed with Tennessee Walking Horses to produce horses with a more refined and smooth rack gait.

The Early Use of Racking Horses

Initially, racking horses were primarily used as plantation horses, carrying riders around vast plantations and estates. Their smooth rack gait made them ideal for covering long distances comfortably. These horses were also used for various tasks, including herding cattle and pulling carriages.

Over time, racking horses gained popularity among everyday riders. The smoothness of their gait made them sought-after horses for pleasure riding and trail riding. The breed’s versatility and comfort appealed to riders looking for an enjoyable and comfortable riding experience.

The Formation of the Racking Horse Breeders’ Association

In 1971, the Racking Horse Breeders’ Association of America (RHBA) was established to promote and preserve the racking horse breed. The association aimed to maintain the breed’s distinct characteristics, including the smooth rack gait and gentle temperament.

Through the efforts of the RHBA, the racking horse breed gained recognition and popularity. The association organized shows and events, showcasing the breed’s unique abilities and attracting enthusiasts from all over the country.

Modern-Day Racking Horses

Today, racking horses continue to be cherished for their smooth rack gait and versatility. They are popular among pleasure riders, trail riders, and those seeking a comfortable ride over long distances.

The breed has also made its mark in competitive events, with racking horse shows and competitions held across the United States. These events highlight the breed’s natural abilities and showcase the skills of both horse and rider.

In conclusion, the history and origin of racking horses can be traced back to the crossbreeding of Thoroughbreds and Standardbreds, as well as the influence of the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. From their humble beginnings as plantation horses to their recognition as a distinct breed, racking horses have become beloved for their smooth rack gait and gentle disposition.

Racking Horse Riding: Tips and Techniques for a Smooth Ride

If you are a horse enthusiast looking to try out a new riding style, racking horse riding might be just the thing for you. Racking horses are known for their smooth and comfortable gait, making it a pleasurable experience for riders of all skill levels. In this section, we will explore some useful tips and techniques to help you have a smooth ride on a racking horse.

1. Proper Mounting and Positioning

Before you start riding, it’s important to ensure that you mount the horse correctly and maintain the right position throughout the ride. Here are a few tips:

  • Approach the horse calmly and confidently, avoiding sudden movements that may startle the animal.
  • Place your left foot in the stirrup and swing your right leg over the horse’s back, gently settling into the saddle.
  • Sit up straight with your shoulders relaxed and your heels down. This will help you maintain balance and communicate effectively with the horse.
  • Keep a light but steady grip on the reins and maintain a soft contact with the horse’s mouth.
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2. Mastering the Racking Horse Gait

The unique gait of a racking horse, known as the rack, is what sets it apart from other breeds. The rack is a smooth four-beat gait where each foot hits the ground independently. To make the most of this gait, follow these tips:

  • Start by asking the horse to walk and establish a rhythm.
  • Gradually increase the speed and maintain a steady and even pace.
  • Focus on sitting deep in the saddle, allowing your body to move with the horse’s motion.
  • Use your legs to cue the horse to maintain the rack. Light pressure with your calves can encourage the horse to stay in gait.
  • Avoid leaning forward or backward, as it can disrupt the horse’s balance and gait.

3. Building Trust and Communication

Developing a strong bond with your racking horse is essential for a smooth ride. Here are some ways to build trust and effective communication:

  • Spending quality time with your horse outside of riding sessions can help establish a deeper connection.
  • Practice ground exercises, such as lunging and leading, to improve obedience and responsiveness.
  • Use clear and consistent cues to communicate your intentions to the horse.
  • Reward your horse with praise or treats when they respond correctly to your cues.

4. Regular Training and Conditioning

Consistent training and conditioning are vital for maintaining a smooth ride on a racking horse. Consider the following:

  • Establish a regular riding schedule to keep the horse fit and maintain their gait.
  • Incorporate a variety of exercises, such as circles, serpentines, and lateral movements, to improve the horse’s balance and flexibility.
  • Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your rides to build the horse’s stamina.
  • Ensure proper nutrition and regular veterinary care to keep the horse in optimal health.

By following these tips and techniques, you can enhance your racking horse riding experience and enjoy a smooth and enjoyable ride every time. Remember to always prioritize safety and respect the horse’s needs and comfort throughout the ride.

Racking Horse Competitions: Showcasing Skill and Elegance

Racking Horse Competitions, also known as Racking Horse Shows, are events that bring together horses and riders to showcase their skill, precision, and elegance. These competitions have gained popularity in the equestrian world due to the unique gait of the racking horse and the thrilling displays of horsemanship.

The racking horse is a breed known for its smooth and effortless gait, called the rack. This gait sets them apart from other horse breeds and makes them perfect for showcasing their abilities in competitions. The rack is a four-beat lateral gait that allows the horse to cover ground quickly while maintaining balance and poise.

Competitions are divided into various classes, each emphasizing different aspects of horsemanship. One of the most popular events is the Speed Rack, where riders showcase their horse’s speed and agility as they navigate through a timed course. The precision and control required in this event are truly remarkable.

Another exciting class is the Stacked Rack, where horses are judged based on their form, style, and grace while performing the rack. Riders must demonstrate excellent communication and connection with their horses to achieve a fluid and harmonious ride. It’s a stunning display of both the horse’s natural ability and the rider’s skill.

In the Pleasure Rack class, the focus shifts to the horse’s temperament and suitability for pleasure riding. Judges assess the horse’s manners, smoothness of gait, and overall performance. This class showcases the versatility of racking horses and their ability to provide a comfortable and enjoyable ride for recreational purposes.

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Furthermore, there are divisions for youth riders, amateur riders, and professionals, ensuring that participants of all ages and skill levels can compete and enjoy the sport. Racking Horse Competitions offer an inclusive and welcoming environment for everyone passionate about horses and showcasing their abilities.

These competitions also serve as an opportunity for horse enthusiasts to come together, share their knowledge, and learn from one another. Riders and spectators alike can witness breathtaking performances, exchange training tips, and immerse themselves in the equestrian community.

In summary, Racking Horse Competitions are not only a celebration of the racking horse breed but also a testament to the partnership between horse and rider. Through various classes and events, participants have the chance to showcase their skill, precision, and elegance while fostering a sense of community within the equestrian world. Whether you are a seasoned rider or simply a horse lover, attending a Racking Horse Show is an experience that will leave you in awe of these magnificent creatures and their extraordinary abilities.


1. What is a racking horse?

A racking horse is a breed of horse known for its unique gait called “the rack.” This gait is smooth and comfortable for riders, making it popular for pleasure riding and showing. Racking horses are generally medium-sized with a muscular build and a calm temperament.

2. What is “the rack” gait?

“The rack” is a smooth, four-beat gait performed by racking horses. Unlike trotting or pacing, where the feet move in diagonal or lateral pairs, the rack is a lateral gait where the horse moves each foot independently. This results in a smooth and comfortable ride for the rider.

3. Are racking horses suitable for beginners?

Yes, racking horses are often considered suitable for beginner riders. Their gentle nature, smooth gait, and comfortable ride make them a popular choice for riders of all levels. However, as with any horse, proper training and supervision are necessary for beginners to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.


In conclusion, the racking horse is a remarkable breed known for its smooth and comfortable gait, making it a popular choice for both pleasure and show riding. With its distinctive and unique “rack” gait, this breed provides a comfortable and enjoyable ride for equestrians of all levels. Whether you’re looking for a horse for leisurely trails or competitive events, the racking horse’s smooth, four-beat gait ensures a pleasurable ride. Their natural ability to perform the rack gait effortlessly sets them apart from other breeds, making them a sought-after choice for horse enthusiasts. So, if you’re in search of a horse that combines beauty, grace, and comfort, the racking horse is an excellent option to consider.

The racking horse’s versatility extends beyond its gait, with its temperament being one of its most desirable traits. Known for being gentle, willing, and adaptable, these horses easily bond with their riders, making them suitable for various disciplines and riders of all ages. Their intelligence and willingness to please make them trainable and easy to handle, imparting a sense of trust and partnership between horse and rider.

Overall, the racking horse’s unique combination of a smooth gait, gentle temperament, and versatility makes it an exceptional breed for those seeking an enjoyable and rewarding equestrian experience.