A one-in-a-million breed of horses that ambles as it moves around with a spring in its step, the Missouri Fox Trotter is a winner. These horses amble with their heads facing towards the ground, tails in the air, stepping with deliberation and power.
This majestic gait that befits a king, has earned the breed its name. From this distinctive movement, the ambling gait, the horse is sought after by breeders and trail riders across the globe. Fox Trotters are a breed among many such horse breeds. Smooth gaits afford movements that are fluid and appealing among breeders. Incredibly solid and robust, these well-built horses are desired for their agility and easy riding stance.
Considering its name, you don’t have to think much to discover its origin. In the early 19th century, settlers in the Ozark mountains developed and managed the breed. This was in 1821. The conducive weather and environment suited the breeding of horses in the Ozark mountains, blending other stock breeds and breeds with characteristic gaits. Typically, Tennessee Walking Horse strains mixed with other local horses like the American Saddlebred, to attain perfect horses having gaits.
The locals soon got accustomed to the horses in their vicinity, admiring smooth gaits. This was a boon in maneuvering the rocky landscape of the Ozarks. The Fox Trotter Horse effortlessly traversed through the hardy terrain, making trail riders comfortable. The horse is famous in the United States of America and in Europe, to this very day.
Working exceptionally well for families in nearby locales, to haul logs, plow fields and control cattle, these horses made prized possessions. Uniquely, the Fox Trotter looked beautiful at work and while gracefully drawing a carriage into town. This versatile nature of the horse brought many fans. Settlers and working people had the best of both worlds with this convenient breed.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA), established in 1948, in Ava, Missouri, chose specific horses for export to the European continent. In 1992, a need for an official organization to represent the breed gained recognition in Europe. The European Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Association formed in Europe brought the breed attention on a global scale from then on.
In 2002, the Missouri Fox Trotter became the horse of the state of Missouri. In the year 2006, an organization called the Foundation Fox trotter Heritage Association was formed. It aimed at the preservation of the original breed of the horses registered in the first twenty years of the registration process as stipulated in the Missouri Fox Trotting Association. The association’s goal was to minimize the Tennessee Walking Horse strain as breeds that resembled the original Fox Trotter were desired more than mere copies of ancestors.
Medium-built, the stature of this horse is impressive. Docile, this horse is amenable to training and commands. It is clever and loyal and has no trouble as it moves on rocky highland forested areas of the Ozark mountains. Good-natured and prone to human company, horses have straight faces and athletic bodies. Though not tall, like Thoroughbreds, these horses are handsome. Bodies are ideally proportionate and legs are equipped with reliable sure-footed hooves.
With a high tolerance for work and an endurance that is enviable, these horses need a healthy diet of hay and grain. Like most horses that work and perform, health in the form of voracious eating and exercise are required to keep this horse going.
Breeding And Uses
The Missouri Fox Trotter Horse originated in Missouri, United States of America, and was formally developed in the early 19th century. Produced from a variety of stock horses such as the American Saddlebred and Tennessee Walking Horse, the breed has some ancestry in Arabian, Morgan and Standardbred horses too.
Official registration of the breed began in 1948, and horses are represented by the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association in the USA. Commonly used for trail riding, and in riding courses for the physically challenged, these horses are also used for endurance riding and in competitive events.
The horse is well-loved for the following gaits witnessed in performance events:
- “Fox Trot” – A four-beat, diagonal gait, this is much like the dance by the same name.
- “Flat-foot Walk” – A lateral step sequence, followed by a canter, this is a three-beat gait that has a rhythmic quality about it.
Of fairly average height, the Fox Trotter usually stands at 14 hands. This is around 5 feet (1.52 meters), but heights can go to 16 hands. Sturdy and strong-boned, these horses weigh in at 1,200 pounds (0.54 ton).
What Breeds Make Up The Missouri Fox Trotter?
Developed and bred from stock horses such as the American Saddlebred and Tennessee Walking Horses, the Fox Trotter has a well-balanced lineage. Bred from equine stock, primarily horses with gaits, this breed was introduced to Missouri by settlers from Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia.
Settlers tried new breed blends by mixing Arabians, Morgans and Standardbreds into the gene pool. This resulted in a horse with a distinctive gait, the “foxtrot”. This is the signature of this horse. The horses have inherited the stamina of Arabians and the flowing gait of the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The most wonderful colors are seen in this horse breed. Black, roan, champagne and cremello are adored. You can also see horses in dun, palomino, perlino and buckskin. White markings are significant on the face and leg areas of this horse breed.
What Do They Look Like?
The Missouri Fox Trotter Horse is singularly different by its straight face and typical amble. Sharp in facial profile with a muscular body, the neck of the horse has a regular length, concluding in pronounced withers and pointed ears.
Bright eyes, a tapered muzzle, sloping shoulders and a short back make this horse a compact and well-proportioned animal. Sturdy legs on robust hooves are good for any purpose of rugged use, as well as steady performance. Superb tendons and well-developed joints make this a dependable horse that forest rangers can rely on.
What Are They Used For?
Common uses include trail riding, field trials and endurance events, as well as competitive sports. The year 1996 saw the first European Championship for this horse breed. In the west USA, donkey jacks are crossbred with Fox Trotter mares to produce mules with a foxtrot gait. These are efficient at trail riding and hunting in the uneven terrain of the region.
The rare fox trot gait requires no specific shoeing for this breed. Horses need flat plates to help their hind feet glide across surfaces.
Where Do They Live?
Primarily found in the Ozark mountains, for these horses, Missouri is home. They are most at ease in the surrounding highlands. They live all over the USA, and many parts of Europe today.
How Long Do They Live?
Along with their average sizes, their lifespans are about average too. Horses may live longer than the typical 20 to 30 – year range if tended to well. Frequent check-ups to the vet and vaccinations are mandatory for this breed, as it tends towards equine viral arthritis and influenza. Daily doses of vitamins and plenty of water keep this horse energy-packed and healthy.
How Fast Are They?
These horses are not pacers, but smooth movers. Although not adept at stepping high, they are sure-footed and have unmistakable foxtrot steps. Gaits are rhythmic, stable and as smooth as silk. Whether horses gallop or walk, they are a pleasure to behold.
How Much Do They Cost?
On the west coast of the USA, Fox Trotters have sold for $10,000 for trail horses. Registered foals have sold for $7,500 and upwards of that price. The price depends on each horse’s breed profile and ancestry, coupled with any special abilities like training, etc.
Are They Good For Beginners?
An ideal choice for beginners and children, they display composure, are versatile and obedient. The rider gets a smooth ride, without any bumps as the horse’s gait is balanced. Riders with minor disabilities have ridden these horses with great success, and this boosts morale of differently-challenged riders. As they are so friendly, they make great pets and families often rear them to hand down from rider to rider.
Conclusion / Summary
Stepping deliberately, with the greatest care, the foxtrot that this horse breed is known for is at a point between a gallop and a walk. Without any suspension, diagonal pairs of feet move in unison, with the fore foot touching the ground before the hind foot.
Missouri Fox Trotter Horses are famous in the USA and some families of champions known for their stunning style of movement include Copper Bottoms, Red Bucks and Chiefs. Mellow attitudes and steady steps make novice riders feel welcome and confident.
Older riders get opportunities to have their first riding experiences on these horses. Able to ride for long distances, horses such as these surpass other breeds on tough terrain.