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A Rocky Mountain horse running across the grass.Tradition has it that around the turn of the century a young horse appeared in eastern Kentucky that gave rise to a line of horses that has been prized and treasured in this part of the country ever since. The basic characteristics are of 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 the rugged foothills of the Appalachians. It was a horse for all seasons. It could pull the plows in the small fields, work cattle, be ridden bareback by four children to the fishing hole, or to town comfortably on Saturday. They even performed well hitched to the buggy Sunday morning to go to church. Fancy barns and stalls were not necessary. Because of its cold blooded nature, it tolerated the winters in Kentucky with a minimum of shelter. For these reasons, in small groups, the breed was preserved, sustained and gradually increased in this area. Naturally, out crossing with the local horses did occur but the basic characteristics of a strong genetic line have continued.


A headshot of a Rocky Mountain horse.In Spout Springs, Kentucky, on the farm of Sam Tuttle, these horses found a nurturing ground. Sam, who had the concession for horseback riding at the Natural Bridge State Park, used these horses for many years to haul green and inexperienced people over rough and rugged trails. Old Tobe, his most treasured stallion, who fathered fine horses up until the ripe old age of 37, was as "sure” footed and as gentle a horse as could be found. He was the one that carried the young, the old, or the unsure over the mountain trails of Kentucky, without faltering, even though a breeding stallion. Everyone who rode the stallion fell in love with him. He had the perfect gait and temperament. Many of the present Rocky Mountain Horses® carry his bloodline. The breed is known for gentleness. It is an easy keeper and a wonderful riding horse with a strong heart and endurance. Today the Rocky Mountain Horse® is being used as a pleasure horse, for trail, and competitive or endurance riding. As show horses the breed is rapidly gaining in popularity because of its beauty and unique way of moving in the ring. The calm temperament of this horse makes it ideally suited for working around cattle and for 4-H projects. These horses have a lot of natural endurance, they are sure footed on rough ground and, because of their gait, they require a minimum of effort by both horse and rider so that together they can cover a greater distance with less tiring.


A Rocky Mountain horse standing square on the road.

It is obvious that a haphazard and unorganized maintenance of this breed would eventually result in its dissipation and loss. For this reason, in the summer of 1986, those who were interested in the breed got together to form the Rocky Mountain Horse Association. The purpose of this association is to maintain the bred to increase the number of horses in the breed, and expand the area which has knowledge of this fine horse. To that end, the association has established a registry which has shown steady and well regulated growth in the number of horses registered. It is critical that standards be maintained and a panel of examiners has been set up by the association to provide vigorous supervision to the growth and development of the breed. To achieve this ALL horses must be examined for breed characteristics and approved prior to breeding. The established characteristics for the breed are:

  1. The horse must be of medium height from 14.2 to 16 hands, a wide chest sloping 45 degrees on the shoulder with bold eyes and well shaped ears.
  2. 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, traveling at 7-20 miles per hour. This is a naturally occurring gait present from birth that does not require training aids or action devices.
  3. It must be of good temperament and easy to manage. 
  4. 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.


Additional information available from the Rocky Mountain Horse Association.



Kentucky Horse Park, 4089 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511

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