I often get asked this. Many people assume that, if they don’t want to be involved with shows requiring crazy shoes and crazier equipment, that gaited horses are only good for trail rides (which they are great for). But, they can do anything another horse can do! Well, nearly. Assuming you have a sound, healthy horse, there is only one limitation. You cannot enter a class that calls for a gait your horse cannot perform. This means that if your horse can’t trot (many gaited horses also trot), you can’t enter a class that calls for trot. If your horse only does a running walk, you can’t enter a class that calls for a fox-trot. Of course, at home you can play with adapting any sport to your horse’s gait.
So what can you do? Aside from gait or breed specific shows, gaited horses are becoming popular in performance sports. Trail is of course where the benefit of gait is most seen, but you also see gaited horses in open jumping and barrels. There is also an eventing format just for gaited horses!
The hardest thing for most riders is finding a way to show at the local level. You need to do two things for this: be creative, and get involved. Look over you local class listing and see what your gaited horse CAN go in (assuming they don’t trot). This takes some creativity, as you usually can’t do a “division.” You can do trail (english, western, or both); “go-as-you-please” or “all day” classes (these usually call for a walk, and then choice of gait); cakewalk, musical posts, or other similar fun classes; and any gymkhana or timed classes, even if you don’t want to go fast. If all else fails, just show up and ride around the grounds. Think of it as a colorful trail ride. Get to know people. Then comes step two! Get involved, help out with your local saddle club. Then you can suggest adding a class or two for gaited horses.