Last Updated on December 2, 2021
Horse fans love the Rocky Mountain horse for many reasons. These sure-footed and hardy horses have a great temperament and are renowned for their smooth gait. Let’s take a look at this great breed with our top Rocky Mountain horse facts!
What Is A Rocky Mountain Horse?
During the 1800s, the use of horses in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky was popular, and a specific type was preferred. These horses were gentle and easy to handle, and also very comfortable to ride. They were strong enough to pull plows, agile enough to herd cattle, had the endurance to pull carts for long distances and were quiet enough for children to ride.
These versatile utility horses were used for many decades, with no real records kept of their breeding history. Only the toughest horses survived the bitter winters, increasing the hardiness of this working horse.
A rancher named Sam Tuttle greatly admired these horses and took a stallion named Old Tobe, to breed from in the 1950s. Old Tobe was surefooted and gentle, making him perfect for carrying a rider over rough trails. Many local horse owners took their mares to breed with Old Tobe, and this stallion is regarded as the foundation stallion of the Rocky Mountain breed
Today the number of horses registered with the Rocky Mountain Horse Association is over 20,000. Over half of these remain in the Kentucky area.
What Makes The Rocky Mountain Horse So Special?
Rocky Mountain Horses are medium-sized riding horses, standing between 14 and 16 hands high. They are normally solid in color, with a preference for a chocolate brown coat and flaxen mane and tail.
Physically, the Rocky Mountain Horse is hardy and nimble, remaining sure-footed on the most treacherous terrain. They have a medium build and strong limbs. The muzzle is relatively long and they have an alert, intelligent appearance.
The most appealing characteristic of the Rocky Mountain Horse is that it is a gaited breed. This means that it has an extra gait in addition to the standard walk, trot, canter, and gallop of most breeds.
The extra gait of this breed is an ambling single-footed movement, which replaces the trot. This movement means that the horse always has one foot on the ground at any time, which is more comfortable for the rider. The gait also uses less energy than a trot, enabling the horse to move at an intermediate pace for longer periods of time.
The Rocky Mountain Horse can gait at two speeds. They can sustain the lower of these, at 7 miles per hour, for long periods. The faster speed can get up to 16 miles per hour and is known as a rack.
Here is a great video showing how the Rocky Mountain Horse moves during the ambling gait:
What Are Rocky Mountain Horses Used For?
Rocky Mountain Horses are notorious for their surefooted and nimble movement. This means they are popular for many equestrian disciplines, including:
- Trail riding
- Carriage driving
- Endurance riding
- Mountain trails
- Farm work
- Cattle driving
- Rodeo events
What Is The Temperament Of A Rocky Mountain Horse Like?
When it comes to temperament, the Rocky Mountain Horse is placid and gentle. It is often used for novice and inexperienced riders. Its dependable nature makes it perfect for disabled and elderly riders as well.
This kind and good-natured breed is also notoriously curious, and will always investigate whatever is going on. So, if you are working on something in the paddock or barn, expect to have your Rocky Mountain Horse peering over your shoulder!
The Rocky Mountain horse is also very good at retaining information and figuring out problems. This makes it perfect for complex sports such as equine agility competitions.
Top Rocky Mountain Horse Facts!
- The Rocky Mountain Horse isn’t from the Rocky Mountains! This breed originates from the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky.
- The remarkable coat color of the Rocky Mountain Horse is due to the influence of the rare silver dapple gene.
- When founded in 1986, there were just 26 horses registered with the Rocky Mountain Horse Association.
- Nowadays, there are Rocky Mountain Horses registered from over 27 different countries.
- Fewer than 800 new Rocky Mountain Horses are registered with the breed society each year.
- To be accepted onto the breed register, a Rocky Mountain Horse foal must be DNA tested to verify its parentage.
- The rear hooves of the Rocky Mountain Horse are angled, helping them to maintain their characteristic gaited movement.
- In the Great Depression, families could only afford to keep one horse. The Rocky Mountain horse was able to carry out all the chores expected of it, from children’s mount to plow horse.
- The foundation stallion of the breed, Old Tobe, lived to the grand old age of 37. He was still used to covering mares at the age of 34!
- The breed registry for Rocky Mountain Horses is closed to any horses other than the offspring of horses already registered. This relatively young breed is on ‘watch’ status with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy.
- Only registered horses can be called the name ‘Rocky Mountain Horse’, as the title has been trademarked. This means that horses cannot use this name if not registered, even if they share the origins and appearance of the breed.
- Rocky Mountain Horses are sometimes called ‘Mountain Pleasure Horses’.
- According to legend, a colt was brought from the Rocky Mountains to Kentucky and was the foundation of this breed. However, this fact has never been proven!
Summary – Rocky Mountain Horse Info
So, as we have learned from our Rocky Mountain Horse facts, this is a tough and agile riding horse used for trail riding, trekking, and endurance racing. They have a gentle and dependable nature, making them great as a family horse and for less able riders. This rugged breed has many fans around the world, but they are still mostly found near their homeland of Kentucky.
We’d love to hear what you think! Are you a fan of the Rocky Mountain Horse? Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to experience their unusual gaited movement for yourself? Leave us a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
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Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE