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First Posted: July 9, 2009
May 1, 2011

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse (KMSHA) and Spotted Mountain Horse (SMHA)

by Debora Johnson

The following article showed no copyright designation on the home page. I am using it in its entirety so that there will be no mistakes about the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse breed.


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We took this picture in the winter so Rusty is a hairy boy!


Country of Origin: United States

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse has been bred in the hills of Kentucky for over 200 years. How the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse got its original start is still a great mystery, but for centuries the mountain people of Kentucky bred for a smooth even four beat gait, temperament, disposition and for a horse that could be self sufficient.

KMSHA requires that all horses have video submitted in order to get certified for registration. KMSHA suggests that to register by video, you do the following with the horse:

  • Show it leading with a halter, without a saddle, in a 30 foot circle in both directions (clockwise and counter clockwise). Record in good light, but avoid positions that throw shadows on the part being recorded. Hold the camera steady, have the handler of the horse turn the horse as needed rather than the operator of the camera moving about the horse.
  • Show the horse at four angles standing (a) front view; (b) right side;(c) rear views: (d) and left side. Be sure to record a FULL-BODY view of each side. Zoom in for a close-up of the face. Pull the forelock aside for a full view of the forehead. Zoom down the neck and chest and legs to the feet. Zoom in on the rear, pull tail aside, and move down the legs to the feet. Zoom in on the shoulder and move down legs to the feet, showing all markings if any are present. When recording close-ups, especially of markings, PAUSE long enough to allow recording of the part completely.
  • Pick up the horse's foot and show close-up, and show if shoed, the kind of shoe it has on.
  • Saddle up the horse, mount (record horse and rider as the horse is being mounted) and ride for at least two minutes (more as needed) to show gait as observed from the right/left sides; moving straight away from the camera and straight back toward the camera. Don't ride the horse in grass too high to see or hear the feet. At times, the video must be reviewed in slow motion to evaluate the gait, so the feet must be seen.
  • Ride the horse on a road or hard surface to hear the count beats, record close-up of feet and legs in action. By riding on a hard surface, it will be easier for the person reviewing the tape to see and hear clearly the hoof beats.

In order to achieve our goal that KMSHA horses be ASD (AA) free the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association has adopted the following policy:

    1. All existing certified to breed stallions will be grandfathered in, but must be blood typed for identification purposes by December 31, 1998.

    2. All foals registered in 1998 must be blood typed for identification.

    3. All foals registered in 1999 must be blood typed for parentage.

    4. All mares must be blood typed for identification by December 31, 1999.

    5. Because the mare books are still open, mares to be certified that are not out of KMSHA registered stock or do not have registration papers from another breed must prove parentage by blood typing or be accepted with unknown pedigree.

    6. Geldings do not have to be blood typed.

    7. With the exclusion of existing certified breeding stock (grandfathered in as is), all horses certified to breed in 1998 must be examined by a qualified veterinarian (approved by the KMSHA board) and found to be free of ASD (AA). New Rule: When a vet wants to have an ASD diagnosis accepted by the KMSHA, he/she may view the tape of Dr. Ramsey's presentation or provide evidence of sufficient training. Documentation on the appropriate form must be provided. As far as the association is concerned, we are only interested in a diagnosis of "ASD (AA) free." Any report of the condition of the horse's eyes is between the buyer and seller. It is not the responsibility of the KMSHA.

The association strongly suggests responsible breeding practices. It is not recommended that ASD (AA) horses be bred. Foals from ASD(AA) parents that are presented for certification must be ASD (AA) free.

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association

Breed Standards for the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association (KMSHA) and Spotted Mountain Horse Association (SMHA)


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My Spotted Mountain Horse, A Patchy Star

The horse pictured above is my horse, A Patchy Star. He is a registered Spotted Mountain Horse. A Patchy is a tri-colored Tobiano and very fine! A relatively new breed, these horses are colorful, versatile, good natured and best of all, have a extremely comfortable gait for riding. The required "saddle gait" of the Spotted Saddle Horse includes the stepping pace, fox-trot, single-foot, flat walk, running walk, pace, rack or combination of all gaits. This breed also canters. A Patchy is five gaited, although I do not let him trot unless we are jumping. I take the jumps from a trot or a canter.

Foals by a Certified KMSHA/SMHA stallion and out of a Certified KMSHA/SMHA mare can be registered with a Temporary Certificate of Registration. This is done by submitting:

  • A completed application for registration

  • Five clear, color photographs showing front, back, left and right sides, and under the chin.

  • A Breeder's Certificate prepared by the stallion owner a the time the mare was bred. If no Breeder's Certification is available, an affidavit stating the same information requested on the Breeder's Certificate and signed by the stallion owner, will be accepted.

  • For any KMSHA foal to receive a Temporary Certificate of Registration, it is also necessary to submit a DNA sample for proof of parentage.

  • Spotted Mountain Horse foals who do not have registered/certified KMSHA/SMHA parents may be issued a temporary certificate of registration if the foal is filmed gaiting on a leadline and a video is sent to the KMSHA Officer or it is examined by two (2) KMSHA examiners.

Spotted Mountain Horse foals who do not have registered/certified KMSHA/SMHA parents may be issued a temporary certificate of registration if the foal is filmed gaiting on a leadline and a video is sent to the KMSHA Officer or it is examined by two (2) KMSHA examiners. Once a horse is "under saddle" and before it is either bred or has attained the age of four (4) (age being determined as of the date their fourth birthday occurs) it must be "Certified to Breed" (Mares or Stallions). Before a horse can be certified, DNA or Blood analysis must be on file with the University of Kentucky to establish identity. On or before Jan.1, 2007, all foals must confirm proof of parentage by the same DNA or Blood analysis before a temporary certificate of registration will be issued.

Upon satisfactory examination of a horse for conformation and certification of gait under saddle by two (2) KMSHA licensed examiners or a video of the above requirements sent to the KMSHA office for approval, a horse will be entered into the permanent registry books of the association. As a part of the certification process, a horse must display the following characteristics;

Show evidence of a gentle temperament and a willing disposition. This evidence must be observed by two (2) examiners or shown on a video tape submitted to the KMSHA office at the time application for certification is made. Any horse that displays a temperament that is unruly or unmanageable will not be eligible for certification.

Demonstrate a smooth, comfortable and natural four beat gait (with four distinct hoof beats) under saddle.

There are two size categories of the KMSHA/SMHA. At maturity a horse must stand 14.2 hands or above in order to qualify for a class A registration. Class B registrations are for horses 11 hands to 14.1 hands at maturity. No horse can be registered KMSHA or SMHA if at maturity it stands less than 11 hands. All measurements are to be measured on a perpendicular at a point where their neck joins the body. In finding that point the head and neck should be raised at the throat latch, pushing toward the back of the body, to produce a tuck in the neck and should not be in a relaxed position. There is no upper height limit.

Conformation characteristics; the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and Spotted Mountain Horse should show an above average degree of beauty and refinement. They must be of medium bone and substance, reflecting their heritage as an all-around utility breed. The horse should present an appearance of athleticism and the ability to perform useful work. Traditionally, KMSHA/SMHA horses have a compact, well-muscled and close-coupled frame. The head is attractive, cob sized, not too long or wide in appearance, proportional, with a broad flat forehead, well defined jaw and a face in profile that is neither severely Roman nor dished. Looking straight at the front of the head, the distance from the middle point between the eyes to the middle point between the nostrils, is of medium length. The facial composure overall, is very pleasing to the observer. The neck is of medium length and thickness, with the top line of the neck longer than the underline, and meets the back behind the shoulder. The neck should show an ability to flex at the poll and not be tied into the body too low in the chest. Little to no wither is desirable.

Principles of sound conformation relevant to all breeds are applicable to the KMSHA/SMHA horses. Planes of the legs when viewed from the front and the rear should be straight and aligned. Severe cases of sickle hocks, cow hocks, hoofs turned in or out, and all other variances from correct structure of the major joints are not desirable. When viewed from the side, horses should have near equal proportions between the forequarter, body and hindquarter with proper angulations of the shoulder and humerus. An upright humerus and front legs not set too far underneath the body also allow for good stride and reach. The horse has a strong topline, short in the coupling, with a rounded croup. The tail set should be natural.

KMSHA horses can be any solid body color. White markings should be limited to the face, (no bald faces) the legs (no excessive amount of white above the knees or hocks) and an area on the belly that is behind the breast bone and under the ends of the rib cage not to exceed 36 square inches (6x6 - no bigger than the size of the hand).

Any horse that does not meet the limited amount of white requirement as stated above but carries significant white markings known as tobiano, overo, sabino, etc. may be registered/certified SMHA, (a subsidiary of the KMSHA). A colt or a filly that is of solid body color and is foaled by one or both Spotted Mountain Horse parents, must be registered SMHA with no exceptions. At this time, there is not a fool proof genetic test that can determine that a solid colored offspring will not throw spots. A solid colored gelding from a Spotted parent(s), may be registered/certified either SMHA or KMSHA, but not both.

The KMSHA breed registry foundation books are closed for Mares and Stallions. A "grandfather clause" may be utilized for foundation registration if a Mare or Stallion has full registration from the Rocky Mountain Horse Association, Mountain Pleasure Horse Association or Kentucky Naturally Gaited Horse Association registries only.

The KMSHA Gelding books are still open for registration of geldings who meet the standards of the breed.

Appendix Mares for the KMSHA registry are open and consideration will be given to outside mares for registry who meet the standard of the breed as stated above. These mares are not restricted from showing but are required to have all male offspring gelded, while a female offspring derived from a registered/certified KMSHA Stallion may receive full registration.

The SMHA foundation books are open to spotted Stallions, Mares and Geldings who meet the breed requirement and pass the certification standards according to the requirements above. It is strongly suggested that breeding habits be directed towards purifying the breed (one mate should be of strong genetic Mountain Horse characteristic, such as a KMSHA stallion, of at least 50% or better Mountain Horse blood). If this practice continues generation after generation, the Spotted Mountain Horse will contain the maximum amount of genetic characteristics possible to recognize them as a true Mountain Horse.

On or before Jan. 1, 2007, all SMH horses must have DNA or Blood analysis on record with the University of Kentucky for identification purposes.

For More Information:

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association® (KMSHA) and
Spotted Mountain Horse Association® (SMHA)

Spotted Saddle Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
Gaited Horses - Spotted Saddle Horse
National Spotted Saddle Horse Association


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