are countless ancient written works that go into great detail
about the horses of specific areas and times all down through
the annals of time. Among these written texts there are
specific similarities that hold consistently true through
more than 10 centuries. One of these reported facts is that
in all areas of the world, the small gaited stocks were
the fastest and most agile horses of all the various types
of horse from the beginning of domestication.
and time again reports explain that the gaited horses were
smaller than those who trotted or galloped only. They were
fleet of foot and quick and agile as eels. Because of this,
the gaited horses were prized above all others. That they
had the added value of a smooth ride was incidental when
compared to their athletic ability, superior speed and stamina.
the bold little gaited stocks that became the fierce hit
and run horses for military skirmishes. It was the gaited
stocks that founded some of the most prized racing stocks
of the world. It was the gaited stock that became the most
revered and highly priced horses of the world through countless
recent centuries, it was also the gaited stock that lent
it's ability to create such breeds as the English Thoroughbred,
the American Thoroughbred, the Quarter Horse and many other
well known breeds.
the speed of the gaited stock that helped develop sprinting
speed as well as medium range speed to the racing stocks
of many countries including the Thoroughbred. It was the
Turk, not the true Arabian that contributed the long range
speed. Many Turks were also gaited.
the colonization of America, it was the little gaited stock
that first populated the new country. By that time in history
the gaited stock had fallen out of favor in Europe because
they were very small and not suitable for pulling heavy
coaches which had become popular with the advent of road
new, developing country had no roads but had dire need of
hearty, strong, horses to help in the development of the
region. Gaited horses routinely traveled sixty to eighty
miles in a day to deliver messages or products from one
settlement to another. They traveled in virgin country using
deer trails or breaking trail themselves.
settlements became towns and a productive society developed,
it was the gaited horses that also became the sporting racers
used for entertainment and competition. The fleet, little
gaited horses performed feats that would be hard to duplicate
with modern day horses! In fact on their crude racing courses
they carried fully grown men of up to 165 pounds at racing
times only a few scant seconds off todays track records
for racing Thoroughbreds who run on conditioned tracks.
Todays horses are generally two full hands taller than the
ancient gaited racers and carry light weight tack and jockeys!
smallish, stout, horses were used for herding cattle, sheep,
tilling the soil, dragging logs to clear the land. They
were used to carry the mail from township to township and
they were prized as military steeds with quick agility and
speed. They pulled wagons and carriages and were used to
pack heavy loads across rugged, virgin territory as well
as along trade routes.
late seventeenth and early eighteenth century it was the
gaited Irish Hobby's shipped into Virginia that founded
the Quarter Miler racing horses. The Irish Hobby had been
bred for more than a thousand years as a sprinting racer
in Ireland. It was the Quarter Milers that eventually mingled
with Spanish stock that formed the foundation for America's
the mares of the gaited stocks of Scottish Galloway and
Irish Hobby crossed on the "oriental" stallions
of Turk, Barb and minimal additions of Arabian that formed
the English Thoroughbred. In all accounts of races for more
than a century in Britain there was never a record of a
Scottish Galloway being outrun by an Oriental horse. Such
was their speed.
grew and prospered breeds were coined from the original
stocks brought over from Europe. Some Hobby and Galloway
blood was mingled to form the Narragansett Pacer. The gaited
blood of Narragansett as well as some direct Hobby and Galloway
went into the development of the Morgan and later the American
Saddlebred which originally was largely made up of gaited
early 1800's when inland America was being settled, the
gaited stocks came with the pioneers as part of their prized
possessions. These horses again were smallish in stature
as a rule but very docile and willing workers. They were
nimble and sure footed and had remarkable bottom. It was
these horses that eventually formed the plantation horses
of the inland regions of the south and the early Foxtrotting
horses of the Ozarks.
the advent of horse registries beginning in the late 1800's,
specific families of gaited stock as well as other types
began to standardize and became isolated from outside influence.
Ozarks the Foxtrotter was formed and can be traced back
to approximately 1820. This group of horses was formed largely
from the old Saddlehorse and Morgan horses. The two types
mixed into one. The foxtrot gait was found to be exceptionally
functional for the rigors of the rugged terrain of the Ozarks.
The early Foxtrotters again were put to use as general purpose
horses. They pulled the buggies and wagons, helped til the
land, drag logs, pulled stumps, and worked cows and hogs
in the open ranges and forests of some of the roughest terrain
in the country. Because they were sure footed Foxtrottes
were used by the mail carriers, doctors and visiting preachers.
Their easy, ground eating, efficient gait enabled them to
travel farther than other horses in a day without tiring
while at the same time keeping their rider comfortable.
were used to pull hay rigs, till the soil and pull the huge
cotton wagons to the gins having to traverse extremely grueling
hills and roads that were not much more than rutted tracks.
ranches that worked with Quarter Horses or other non-gaited
stocks, it was not unusual for a ranch hand to use up two
to four horses per day because the grueling work was so
exhausting in the steep hilled areas. The same type of work
was conducted on Foxtrotting horses but the ranch hand used
the same horse all day long. Beyond that, the same horse
was still fresh enough at the end of the day to carry his
rider to town for an evening.
horses were tough, athletic, remarkably able and willing
work partners. They were not used kindly in many instances
and few if any were doted upon or fed to advantage. These
horses stayed sound, worked hard, and lived long. Their
gentle nature made them trustworthy family horses as well.
Children rode them to school and church. Women drove them
to market and to church. It was not uncommon for women and
children to use stallions without worry, so amenable were
not until the very early 1900's that people lost sight of
the fact that it was the gaited stocks of the world who
were the prime athletes of many centuries. It was those
same gaited stocks that were the root of what we think of
today as the supreme stock horse. Today most people think
gaited horses can do nothing but go along a trail. While
it is true not all gaited horses of today can perform as
athletes, that phenomenon is a case of modern selective
breeding rather than a direct result of the ability to gait.
In fact many Quarter Horses still crop out with gait.
a breed registry was formed. It was about this time that
a small amount of Tennessee Walking Horse blood began to
mix with the original type of Foxtrotting horse. The advantage
to this was the horses began to have longer strides and
to some degree more bone and bigger joints. The big disadvantage
was the horses also began to shift from being a very diagonally
based, athletic horses to one that was looser in gait. Some
actually began to shift toward lateral motion.
this time the show rings of gaited stock began to really
swing toward huge strides and much more speed than in former
eras. The more stride length a horse achieves the closer
to pace it becomes and the farther way from centered, athletic
balance it becomes.
the Tennessee Walking Horse made up approximately 30% of
the Missouri Foxtrotter Registry. By1980 that percentage
increased to become more than half. Today it is nearly impossible
to find a Missouri Foxtrotter that does not carry some Tennessee
Walking Horse blood and a good percentage of the Missouri
Foxtrotters are more than half Tennessee Walking Horse by
original foxtrot gait is distinguished by the horse capping
its front tracks with its hind feet tracks and sliding through.
The hind feet slide into their stride which acts as an additional
shock absorber making the gait extremely smooth. By capping
the track the horse leaves only one set of tracks…the same
way a fox travels. This also allows for a specific sure
footedness because footing that is safe for the front feet
is likely safe for the hind.
influx of Tennessee Walking Horse blood and the advent of
the show ring drive for that prized "big lick"
stride, began to shift the style of motion of the foxtrot
to a less precise foxtrot gait. The horses no longer capped
their tracks as the stride and overstride increased. While
the horses gained speed at gait they frequently sacrificed
the agility and balance of a working type horse to achieve
the very nature of registries closes in the gene pool, the
trend toward more lateral action and less working athleticism
among the overly long strided horses is likely to compound
as generations pass along unless considerable care is taken
to prevent this shift. The longer the stride length the
closer to pace the gait tends to become until a point is
reached where the pace crops out and overtakes the gait.
At that point the foxtrot ceases to exist and the general
purpose athletic ability of the horse deteriorates.
a group of serious minded individuals, Missouri Foxtrotter
breeders all, recognized the need to preserve a nucleus
of the original, general purpose, athletic type of Missouri
Foxtrotting horse. The Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association
formed to preserve the original style Foxtrotter. To do
this, pedigrees were analyzed and a balance of genetic contributors
was identified. A cap was put on the amount of Tennessee
Walking Horse blood allowed within the new group and horses
taken into the Foundation group had to have verifiable pedigrees
linking them to original foundation Foxtrotters of Saddlehorse
and Morgan blood.
project is ongoing and will eventually produce a standardized
group very like the original foundation stock of Missouri
Foxtrotting Horse. The Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association's
goal is to produce horses with extremely surefooted action,
smooth, natural foxtrot, and superb working athletic ability.
The desire is to produce horses that will not only foxtrot
naturally but will do so by choice rather than having to
be trained to perform the appropriate gait or require the
use of gimmicks or training aides to do so.
Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association formed to protect,
promote and produce this extremely versatile horse. The
group was not formed to replace the Missouri Foxtrotter
Horse Breed Association, but rather to augment and contribute
to that organization. It is a sub group designed for the
betterment and preservation of the original type with the
goal to produce and record naturally gaited, well conformed,
naturally athletic horses that exemplify the qualities of
the Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association does not
discriminate against any particular bloodline, the registry
disallows an over abundance of Tennessee Walking Horse blood
within it's registry. All Foundation registered Foxtrotters
will carry no more than half TWH blood which allows for
a somewhat longer stride and the benefits of the TWH blood
without allowing that blood to become the dominant factor
of the group. Foundation Foxtrotters concentrate on the
athletic and naturally agile ability of the horse coupled
with the true and natural foxtrot gait.
Foundation Foxtrotters may overstep their footprints by
a small margin but will not have the large overstride that
is desired by many show ring enthusiasts. To be a true athlete
a horse needs to have it's legs remain fairly close to the
center of balance and the core of the body mass. In this
way it can quickly round it's frame for fast changes of
direction or speed. It must be flexible and able to move
it's legs while staying in balance as would any good working
horse. This is a bit different from the typical big lick
horses in that they are frequently less collected and out
of frame for the quicker type of action.
in motion is another area of concentration for the Foundation
Foxtrotter Heritage Association horses. A horse that uses
it's body efficiently will be less likely to tire in motion.
Such efficiency translates to more endurance. This will
open the realm of service for these horses to such sports
as field trials, competitive and timed trail events as well
as endurance riding.
not the intent of the Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association
to belittle the ability of the show horses or big lick style
horses, but rather to distinguish the differences between
the abilities and types. Many show bred horses make excellent
trail horses but are less likely to be as sure footed or
agile in rough terrain. For more moderate trails they often
travel very pleasingly.
people who like to do more than trail ride or show, the
Foundation Foxtrotter offers a sort of unique balance between
athletic ability and superb gait which produces an extremely
functional horse that is very smooth to ride.