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The Rocky Mountain Horse with his distinctive chocolate coat and his natural ambling gait, his kindness and willingness, has been recognized as a breed only since 1986. The breed was begun with one foundation sire, in Kentucky.
The Rocky Mountain Horse originated as a breed in eastern Kentucky early in the 1900’s. This is a medium sized horse (14 to 15 hands) with a gentle temperament and an easy, ambling four beat gait that is very comfortable to ride.
The gait made this horse the choice for the farms and rugged foothills of the Appalachians. A horse for all tasks, it could pull plows in the fields, work cattle, be ridden bareback by four children to the fishing hole, or take its owner to town comfortably on Saturday.
Fancy barns and stalls were unnecessary, as the nature of the Rocky Mountain Horse enabled it to tolerate the winters of Kentucky with a minimum of shelter. The horse was prized as a type and as a working-riding companion long before it achieved status as a recognized breed.
The haphazard and unorganized maintenance of the breed would have led to its eventual dissipation and loss, so the formation of the breed association took place in 1986. The development of the type as a breed occurred over a remarkably short time. The new breed was preserved in small groups and gradually increased in number. Even though some outcrossing did occur, the basic characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse continued.
As more people have become acquainted with the horse, many have been sold to other areas of the country and into Canada.
The breed’s foundation sire was a stallion named Old Tobe, owned by Sam Tuttle, of Stout Springs, Kentucky, who had the concession for horseback riding at the Natural Bridge State Park.
Sam used these horses for many years to haul green, inexperienced people over rough and rugged trails. Old Tobe, his most reassured stallion, who sired fine horses up until the age of 37, was surefooted and gentle. This stallion was often the one used to carry the young or old or uncertain over the mountain trails without faltering, even though he was an active breeding stallion.
Old Tobe had a prefect gait and temperament. All of the present day Rocky Mountain Horses carry his blood.
The outline of the Rocky Mountain Horse reflects its Spanish origins, although there is no evidence to indicate the chocolate coat occurred among Spanish Horses. The outline is pleasingly rounded and the proportions good.
The head is handsome and is joined to a graceful neck that is longer than might be expected. This feature contributes significantly to the good overall balance. The withers are not sharply defined but the structure of the back and its gentle ascent to the crop is commendable. The limbs are well made and the hooves hard and nicely shaped. This horse is noted for its sure-footedness and easy way of going.
The natural, traveling gait of the Rocky Mountain Horse is the amble, which covers about 7 mph (11kph) and is a lateral gait rather than the conventional trot. This gait was common among the early Spanish Horses, and it has been greatly favored in other breeds too, for easy travel since the Middle Ages.. Because of its smoothness, long distances can be covered without the rider becoming fatigued.
Often, a full, flaxen tail and mane is a distinctive feature of this breed, and is the perfect complement to the unusual, rich coat, often chocolate. This tone of brown is a very rare, equine coloring.
The Rocky Mountain Horse is known for its gentleness. It is an easy keeper and good riding horse with wonderful endurance qualities. Today, this breed is being used as a pleasure horse, for trail riding, for competitive trail and endurance riding, for horse show classes, and on cattle farms.