If you’re used to ‘normal’ horse gaits, you might find it hard to distinguish tölt from trot and to understand how the horse’s legs move.
Tölt is a genetically natural gait in Icelandic horses. The manifestation of tölt, however, is different in horses and depends on many factors.
A professional, gentle training of the horse creates an important basic for the gaited horse. It should be neither stressed nor tensed by the tölt.
Some horses need not only physical but also spiritual maturity for the additional gait, and an experienced instructor will give even more time to such a horse. The rider aims at riding the tölt with the same fluent and casual ease like all other gaits.
Tölt is a four beat gait, similar to the rhythm of the words ‘zicke-zacke’ (Trot would linguistically be mirrored as ‘zig-zag’). The horse’s legs beat the ground one after another with an even rhythm, as you can see in this sketch:
The four-beat gait can change towards trot or pace, both for genetic reasons or for training defiance. When defining the gait, it’s better to rely on the ears than eyes and listen to the four beats.
There are several types of speed in tölt: working tempo, where the rider can handle 200 meters in one minute, or easily ride a volte, the medium tempo and the fast tempo.
In general, the slower the speed, the harder it is for the horse, because collection is not only a matter of physical power, but also a question of balance.
Fast tölt in tournaments usually is the most spectacular part of the show, as the horses seem to fly effortlessly. However, a lot of hard work lies behind it, and as the tempo is very stressful, it is demanded only on short distances.
Almost as popular is ‘tölt on loose reins,’ to prove the ability of the horse to show fine tölt in good pose without reins. Manipulations such as jerky rein actions or sitting on the saddle edge should be rejected.
Here you can see a video footage from the finals of the Íslandsmót of 14 July.
The tests presented are tölt, tölt on loose rein, four-gait and five-gait.