Rocky Mountain Horses

Used in open-gaited horse shows, the Rocky Mountain Horse actually got its start in Kentucky, used to plow fields, herd cattle, travel over steep and rugged trails, and drive the buggy.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: travelcat 6/Flickr

Use: Rocky Mountain Horses are used often on trail because of their surefootedness and smooth gait. They are also shown in open gaited horse shows, competing with Tennessee Walking Horses, Missouri Fox Trotters and other gaited breeds. Shows just for Rocky Mountain Horses feature classes in trail pleasure, show pleasure, western pleasure, pleasure driving, trail obstacle, pole bending, showmanship, equitation, bareback, costume, lead line and conformation.

History: The Rocky Mountain Horse got its start in the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. Breed historians maintain that in 1890, a gaited colt from the Rocky Mountains in the West was brought to live in the mountains of Kentucky. People who lived in the area called the colt “the Rocky Mountain horse.” When this chocolate-colored colt with a flaxen mane and tail matured into a magnificent stallion, he was bred to a number of Appalachian riding mares. The foals that resulted were born with many of the stallion’s characteristics, and are considered to be the first Rocky Mountain Horses. People living in the foothills of the Appalachians used the Rocky Mountain Horse to plow fields, herd cattle, travel over steep and rugged trails, and drove the buggy to church on Sunday. The breed existed in small numbers through the early 1900s well into the century. In 1986, a group of Rocky Mountain Horse breeders in Kentucky formed the Rocky Mountain Horse Association in an effort to help preserve the breed. Today, the goal of the organization is to keep the Rocky Mountain Horse breed pure and of high quality. One way they do this is through an official certification process. Today, the Rocky Mountain Horse is considered a rare breed, and is on the American Livestock Breed Conservancy watch list.

Conformation: These horses stand between 14.2 and 16 hands high, and have a natural, ambling four-beat gait. This gait is either a single-foot gait, which is about the speed of a trot; or a rack, which is faster. These gaits are natural, and Rocky Mountain Horses are born with it. Both gaits are very smooth to ride. Rocky Mountain Horses come in only solid colors. Only minimal white facial markings are desired, and they can’t have any white above the knee or hock. Many Rocky Mountain Horses come in dark chestnut with a flaxen mane and tail.

Special Considerations/Notes: The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, Spotted Mountain Saddle Horse, Mountain Pleasure Horse and Racking Horse are all closely related to the Rocky Mountain Horse.

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