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Horse Breeds
First Posted July 11, 2009
Sep 26, 2010

Rocky Mountain Horse Gaited Breed

Rocky Mountain Horse

3-D Flags
Country of Origin: United States


Around the turn of the century, a young horse soon to be called the Rocky Mountain Horse appeared in eastern Kentucky that gave rise to a line of horses prized by North American and European owners. On the farm of Sam Tuttle, in Spout Springs Kentucky, there stood a stallion "Old Tobe." This sure footed, gentle horse carried young, old, and inexperienced riders over the rugged mountain trails of Natural Bridge State Park where Sam held the concession for horse-back riding. Even though Old Tobe was a breeding stallion, he carried riders without faltering. He fathered many fine horses up until the age of 37, and many of the present Rocky Mountain Horses carry his bloodline.


The basic characteristics of the breed are a medium sized horse of gentle temperament with an easy-ambling four-beat gait. This gait made it the horse of choice on the farms and rugged foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It was a horse for all seasons. It could pull the plows in the small fields, work cattle, be ridden bareback, or be hitched up to a buggy. Because of its rugged upbringing it tolerated the winters in Kentucky with a minimum of shelter. Naturally, outcrossing with local horses did occur, but the basic characteristics of a strong genetic line have continued.

In the summer of 1986, as a way of preserving the breed, a number of people got together to form the Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) as a non-profit corporation in the state of Kentucky. The association established a breed registry and formed a panel of examiners to provide vigorous supervision to the growth and development of the breed.

The horse must be of medium height from 14.2 to 16 hands. It must have a wide chest sloping 45 degrees on the shoulder with bold eyes and well shaped ears. The breed is best-known for its characteristic coloration: chocolate-brown body color and flaxen mane and tail, an expression of the uncommon silver dapple gene. But Rocky Mountain Horses can be any solid coat color.

The horse must have a natural ambling four-beat gait (single foot or rack) with no evidence of pacing. When the horse moves you can count four distinct hoof beats which produce a cadence of equal rhythm, just like a walk: left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore. Each individual horse has its own speed and natural way of going, travelling 7 to 20 miles per hour. This is a naturally occurring gait, present from birth, that does not require any training aids or action devices.

The horse must be of good temperament and must be easy to manage. All Rocky Mountain Horses have a solid body color. Facial markings are acceptable so long as they are not excessive. There may not be any white above the knee or hock. The breed is best known for its gentleness, often being compared to the Golden Retriever dog as a means of describing their unusual enjoyment of human company. It is an easy keeper and a wonderful riding horse with a strong heart and lots of endurance. Today the Rocky Mountain Horse is being used as a pleasure horse, for trail riding, in the show ring and for endurance riding.

A word of caution: ASD (Anterior Segment Dysgenesis) is an ophthalmic abnormality caused by a gene that is found in some Rocky Mountain Horses, mostly the chocolates. Anterior Segment Dysgenesis means that there is abnormal formation of the front part of the eye. This occurs in utero. There are various physical expressions of this abnormality that can be found by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

For More Information:

Rocky Mountain Horse Association

Horse Breeds