(Also known as the INDIAN SHUFFLE)

For those of you who have never come across the term 'Indian shuffle' before, here is the on

s published by Appaloosa News, June 1978 Issue


Some folks think the "Indian shuffle" is as much a birthright of the Appaloosa as its spots and striped hooves. Others have never heard of it. Is this Indian shuffle a skeleton in the Appaloosa closet or a valuable asset to the breed?

The Indian shuffle, like the pace, is a lateral gait: the legs on the same side of the horse move together. In the shuffle, the pace is broken as each hoof hits the ground a fraction ahead of the other which results in four beats as in the walk. The shuffle is sometimes called the "running walk," but the true walk, like the trot, is a diagonal gait.

The shuffle, as its name implies, does not have much elevation. The horse moves with a rolling motion of the shoulders and hips, the motion of the horse is absorbed in its back and loins giving the rider a smooth, gliding ride. Also, because the pace is broken, it lacks the side-to-side motion of the true pace.

The Spanish were the first to bring horses to the Americas. Among their horses were many the Spanish called "paso fino," which simply means smooth-gaited. These horses were not a breed but were prized for their natural broken pace that forced any other horse to trot or lope to keep up.

These horses are still prized by the Spanish descendents in South America where selective breeding for the gait has been maintained for hundreds of years. You may recognize the names: The Paso Fino, the Peruvian Paso, the Columbian Paso. All are now true breeds, descendents of the easy-gaited horse brought to the Americas by the Spanish.

What happened to the Spaniards paso fino in North America? The Spanish established settlements in New Mexico, taking local Pueblo Indians to work as serfs, farming and taking care of the large numbers of horses the Spanish kept to herd their cattle.

From the Spanish the Indians learned how to care for horses, and though it was forbidden, they also learned to ride. Occasionally a stable boy would run away with one of his charges, or some of the plains Indians would capture the runaway serfs and bargain with the Spanish for horses. But the Indians acquired many of their horses in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

Under the leadership of Pope, a deposed medicine man, Indians all over New Mexico arose on the same day, killing some 400 Spanish. The rest of the Spanish fled leaving behind their settlements and their herds of horses. The Pueblo Indians, being a sheep-herding people, traded most of the horses to the buffalo hunters of the plains.


When white settlers came to the Northwest Palouse region, they called the spotted horses "Palouse horses" or "a Palouse horse."

The Appaloosa's heritage is as colorful and unique as its coat pattern. Usually noticed and recognized because of its spots and splashes of color, the abilities and beauty of this breed are more than skin deep.

Appaloosas are found in nearly every discipline. Setting speed records on the race track, excelling at advanced levels of dressage, jumping, games, reining, roping, pleasure, endurance and as gentle family horses - any of these roles can be filled by the versatile Appaloosa. Their eager-to-please attitudes and gentle dispositions make them a pleasure to work with in any area.

Humans have recognized and appreciated the spotted horse throughout history. Ancient cave drawings as far back as 20,000 years ago in what is now France depict spotted horses, as do detailed images in Asian and 17th-century Chinese art.

The Spanish introduced horses to North America as they explored the American continents. Eventually, as these horses found their way into the lives of Indians and were traded to other tribes, their use spread until most of the Native American populations in the Northwest were mounted (about 1710).

The Nez Perce of Washington, Oregon and Idaho became especially sophisticated horsemen, and their mounts, which included many spotted individuals, were prized and envied by other tribes. Historians believe they were the first tribe to breed selectively for specific traits - intelligence and speed - keeping the best, and trading away those that were less desirable.

When white settlers came to the Northwest Palouse region, they called the spotted horses "Palouse horses" or "a Palouse horse." Over time the name was shortened and slurred to "Appalousey" and finally "Appaloosa."

During the Nez Perce War of the late 1800's, Appaloosa horses helped the Nez Perce avoid battles and elude the U.S. Cavalry for several months. The tribe fled over 1,300 miles of rugged, punishing terrain under the guidance of the famed Chief Joseph. When they were defeated in Montana, their surviving horses were surrendered to soldiers, left behind or dispersed to settlers. Nothing was done to preserve the Appaloosa until 1938, when a group of dedicated horsemen formed the Appaloosa Horse Club for the preservation and improvement of the diminishing spotted horse.