since the dawn of the “horse age”, there have been gaited
horses. Research into the ancient progenitors of modern
gaited stock show that the earliest “pacing” horses appeared
or at least were recorded around the Mediterranean about
4500 years B.C. From this stock stem most if not all gaited
horses in the world. They were distributed to the far reaches
of the globe by the Phoenicians, Goths, Visigoths, Celts
and many other tribes of people who traveled, traded and
plundered the ancient world.
the trade routes or conquering hordes went, pockets of gaited
horse sprang forth where before had been only trot based
horse types if indeed horses existed in those realms. Ever
after that for many centuries gaited horses existed as yet
today they do in many isolated pockets around the globe
from China, Russia, the Ukraine, Tibet, Africa, Morocco,
Spain and Europe.
the descendents of these early pioneers of gait migrated
to North America (as well as South America) and the Caribbean.
From those early imports spring our modern gaited breeds.
largest percentage of early stock in America were gaited
whether they were considered Thoroughbred, Standardbred,
Morgan etc. The ratio of gaited to non-gaited in the early
centuries of this nation were approximately 14 gaited to
1 non-gaited. English Thoroughbred stallions were brought
over to upgrade the stocks and from those crosses spring
all American breeds with a few other crosses coming by way
of Spanish, French and Dutch horses but those were predominantly
of the light draft type.
earlier Saddlebreds were largely Narragansett Pacers and
gaited Thoroughbreds. Later Morgan, Hackney, Standardbred
and Canadian Pacer were added to the meld until the American
Saddlehorse ( not the same as Saddlebred as we know it)
horses were utilitarian, versatile animals with placid dispositions,
good work ethic and willing natures. They were used as saddle
mounts but also to plant crops, pull wagons, work cattle
and perform other ranch work. The Saddlehorse pulled wagons
cleared the land and became stylish roadsters once road
systems allowed for carriage travel. A portion of them became
in later days, the beginning of the Show Horse in America.
This stock eventually evolved into what we know today as
the American Saddlebred.
of the old Saddlehorse stock, however, also branched off
to become part the foundation for the Tennessee Walking
Horse, the Kentucky and Rocky Moutain Horses, the Virginia
Highlander and many other small obscure gaited types around
the country. Keep in mind there was only so many horses
or horse types in the country from which to develop specific
strains so all American breeds are related to one degree
our purpose it was this fine old Saddlehorse stock that
was at the very tap roots and foundation for the original
type of Missouri Foxtrotter. These horses pioneered the
Ozarks where they were used to till crops, pull cotton wagons
to the gins, work cattle, pull the family buggy, provide
transport for the mail carriers, doctors, judges etc. But
most importantly they became the solid family, utility horse
of the Ozarks. The horse all the family members could use
and enjoy. They were sure footed, athletic, capable horses
with natural gaits. Many of these early horses preferred
to foxtrot and the foxtrot gait proved to be the most sure
footed and useable gait in the rugged Ozark hills. It was
a working gait that allowed for the utmost athletic ability,
sure footedness, and a steady, smooth ride even in the hills.
the end of the 1800’s a new concept was developed among
horse breeders whereby the recording horses in order to
track pedigrees evolved into the development of breed registries.
This allowed breeders to be more efficient at the art of
selective breeding. America entered the world of Registered
breeds with more than a dozen registries forming within
a span of a few decades. The Missouri Foxtrotter breed was
established only 65 years after the Standardbred became
the first registered breed in America!
gaited horses were concerned this phenomenon of registries
created a situation no one had considered and for the most
part do not consider to this very day. By closing ranks
and limiting outside influence to the type, there was no
way to control the amount of pace in any of the gaited breeds.
Before breed registries if a bloodline got to pacy, breeders
simply crossed out to more trot. Within breed registries
this was not always possible.
those gaited breeds that rely upon the more lateral gaits
this process was to alter the balance of the pace to trot
ratios very quickly. By the late 1900’s many of the gaited
strains were being over taken by pace. Horses that were
bred supposedly to rack were hard pacing, those bred to
running walk were pacing. More and more frequently horses
bred for one gait became disappointments when they were
same phenomenon began to appear in the Standardbred community
where they do not recognize intermediate gaits. Horses are
bred to pace or trot. Anything in between is not given attention.
late 1900’s a study was conducted whereby a number of pacing
Standardbred mares were bred to trotting stallions. As a
result the large majority of foals born paced. The same
number of trotting mares were bred to trotting stallions…
again a substantial percentage of the offspring paced. BUT,
when pacing mares were taken to pacing stallions, 100% of
the offspring paced.
this study it was deduced that pace was stronger than trot.
The study also illustrated that pace tends to quantitate
within a bloodline until it becomes the overwhelmingly stronger
the study did not recognize those horses that fell between
pace and trot…those that performed intermediate gaits, we
cannot be 100% certain what the balance needs to be for
any particular gait in order that one particular gait could
be consistently produced.
Gus Cothran, of Texas A & M, participated in a study
whereby geneticists were able to identify the difference
between pace and trot at the molecular level. This was the
first time science could substantiate a genetic difference
between the two gaits. But again intermediate gaits were
not examined. The tests were looking simply for the difference
between pace and trot. The results show there is as much
difference between pace and trot as there would be between
totally unrelated horse breeds. That is a very substantial
research among gaited horses it was found that horses that
fell within a certain ratio of pace to trot consistently
performed the same gaits…or preferred to perform the same
gaits. This was the first time pace ratios were considered
in the intermediate gaits. Hundreds of horses were examined
and then their pedigrees studied.
result of this study was the realization that in order to
consistently produce a particular gait the pace/trot ratios
in the horse needs to fall within certain ranges with a
tolerance varying between the gaits. The more refined that
ratio becomes the more limited numbers of gaits a horse
most of the gaited breeds are suffering with the run away
pace influence it became paramount to identify the cause
for pace taking over these breeds in order to prevent the
same thing from occurring among the Missouri Foxtrotting
were analyzed and traced back to their full pace progenitors
in order to get an idea as to how the pace modifies the
trot. In order to have an intermediate gait a horse must
have some pace. The key appears to lie in the balance of
the trot/pace ratio as to which dictates to what gait that
horse will naturally gravitate.
this study it became possible to give a mathematical identity
to the various balances. These numbers represent percentages
of pace however in order to make this type of factoring
practical for the average breeder to benefit, it had to
original formative years of the MFTHBA all horses entering
the breed were inspected to see if they would foxtrot under
saddle. The flaw to this is that some gifted riders could
make a Grizzly bear foxtrot while some less adept riders
may prevent a natural foxtrotting horse from functioning
properly. This also did not consistently limit or preserve
a specific balance of pace and trot.
early horses reproduced far more consistently however, than
later generations. Had breeding been consistent and cognizant
of the pace/trot ratios, the breed should have been settling
and standardizing for gait. Instead of standardizing, the
horses began to deviate more and more from the original
back on the pedigrees of these generations of horses it
became evident that the heavy influx of Tennessee Walking
Horse blood during the 1970’s and 80’s likely over balanced
the pace ratio of the group. This gave the pace opportunity
to quantitate….( get stronger) more rapidly. Even though
the horses themselves gaited, they carried more pace genes
from a closer source than was present in the old Saddlehorses.
pace is already stronger than trot, as soon as the pace
influence reached a certain point, there was not enough
trot influence in some bloodlines to consistently modify
that pace. The result was more horses began to running walk
than to foxtrot naturally. Then the next generations or
certain bloodlines began to rack, stepping pace and then
finally pace. Some bloodlines sprang directly from running
walk to hard pace.
same thing occurred in the Tennessee Walking Horse, the
Paso Fino, the Peruvian Paso, the Saddlebred, the Mountain
Horse breeds etc. Because the trot base was not well preserved
the pace took over.
process was delayed in the Missouri Foxtrotter primarily
because the foxtrot is the most diagonal of all the intermediate
gaits and therefore was initially the strongest in trot
ratio…farthest from pace. In specific groups that were closed
and standardized to the desired ratios of pace to trot,
the horses indeed began to breed true. The horses were uniformly
born foxtrotting to the exclusion of any lateral gaits.
of these horses foxtrot and running walk because the running
walk is the same gait as a flat walk. The flat walk and
running walk are both 50/50 gaits. It would be very difficult
to breed all running walk out of a line and yet preserve
a good flat foot walk. It is highly possible to breed out
the flat walk AND the running walk and yet preserve a natural
the early years of the Foxtrotter Registry the show ring
was the focus point of the breed. In the 1980’s however,
the type of foxtrot awarded first prize in that show ring
began to change.
original Foxtrotters were known for capping their tracks
or barely stepped over them when they foxtrotted. This is
how the breed and the gait got it’s very name. However that
type of gait is not as fast as a big lick stride. For show
ring purposes the cross with Tennessee Walking Horse blood
tended to lengthen the stride and thus add speed to the
gait. Those first crosses were quite impressive, however
the more crosses that were made the closer to pace the group
drifted until the style of foxtrot began to evolve away
from the true rhythm of the original type. The horses no
longer capped their tracks which also diminished the surefootedness
of the breed.
the course of several decades the strides became longer
and longer until conformation also began to change. The
athletic ability of the very long strided horses was not
nearly so handy and versatile as the more compact original
the pace reared it’s ugly head until more and more pace
became the outcome of matings between horses that could
foxtrot. Just as in the earlier Standardbred study, the
foxtrotting horses were producing pacing offspring or offspring
that preferred a more lateral intermediate gait.
of these horses could manually be squared up enough to foxtrot,
but the fact remained a foxtrot was not their natural gait
breed went from a base of 80% Saddlehorse/Morgan influence
to what today is nearly 90% TWH influence. That is to say
it is very difficult or nearly impossible to find a registered
Missouri Foxtrotter that does not have Tennessee Walking
Horse in it’s pedigreed. Indeed today many of the registered
blue papered Missouri Foxtrotters are actually 100% Tennessee
Walking Horse by blood. Many, many more are 7/8 to ¾
Walker which is the exact opposite of the original foundation
stocks that created the original breed of Missouri Foxtrotting
we know that pace is stronger than trot and we know that
the Tennessee Walking Horse represents more pace from closer
progenitor, the logical way to preserve a strong trot base
is to limit the influence of the TWH on the breeding nucleus
of the breed.
was not likely to occur breed wide because to do this would
also be to limit the big lick stride so desired in the show
ring. The desire is not to remove all TWH blood from the
breeding core, but rather to take advantage of some of it’s
attributes such as longer stride ( within reason) and larger
bone and joints, while not allowing it to totally consume
the original Saddlehorse/Morgan base or overpower the strong
trot base those two types represent
desire to preserve the original style of Missouri Foxtrotter,
however, was left to the silent majority of the breed as
so often is the case. The large majority of horses never
go to a show ring, nor need they! The show horses are not
superior in any way to the original style of horse when
it comes to function and ability. Far the reverse. Yet the
public eye focuses on the “Champions” of the show ring and
rarely get to see the quietly working, solid, more foundation
type Missouri Foxtrotting horse.
the imbalance of pace to trot and preserve the original
style horse many people were talking about splitting away
from the mother registry. They were dissatisfied at what
appeared to be a disproportionate amount of attention and
funding spent on shows and show horses than was meted out
to those who had no interest in showing. The large majority
of horses that don’t go to the show ring do not go there
because they are inferior, but rather because not many people
enjoy the politics and pressures that come along with the
competitions of the show ring.
evident that if the trot base of the breed were to be preserved,
quick action needed to be taken. It was necessary to identify
the foundation type horses and in some manner collect them
into a group whereby breeders could utilize them to more
advantage. It was also apparent that if a market share was
to be developed for this wonderful style horse, such a goal
would get no backing from the Association at large.
than tear apart the very small breeding gene pool of the
Missouri Foxtrotting breed, it seemed more logical to work
within the original Association by developing a secondary
registry for the Foundation type horses. In this manner
those horses with the proper trot/pace ratios could be better
matched and the natural foxtrot gait better preserved.
that meant the limiting of Tennessee Walking Horse blood.
The V-factor is a formula which allows each horse to carry
a known value for pace to trot ratio. A full blooded Tennessee
Walking Horse receives a factor of V-256. A full Saddlehorse
or Morgan receives a factor of V-0. Cross breds fall between
these two extremes depending upon how many crosses of TWH
are in any given pedigree.
Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association was formed. It’s
mission is to preserve the original style Missouri Foxtrotting
Horse. Any horse applying for registry in the Foundation
Foxtrotter Heritage Association must carry a V-factor of
128 or less to qualify for registry. That means it must
be no more than half Tennessee Walker by blood.
and building a data base of these V-factors, breeders can
plot matings to advantage with a goal to standardize the
group to a level conducive to foxtrot to the exclusion of
lateral gaits without doing away with a natural running
can take the V-factor of their mare and match it to the
V-factors of available stallions as part….Repeat PART…of
their considerations for breeding. Breeders always should
compare conformation and match mares well, but the V-factor
will be one more tool they can use to assure the consistent
reproduction of natural foxtrot in their offspring.
V-factor system was taken to Dr. Gus Cothran at Texas A&
M for his learned opinion. He claims the factoring method
to have merit.
the registry has sufficient numbers of horses registered,
Dr. Cothran would like blood samplings from two dozen low
factored horses and samples from high factored horses to
study and compare. The goal would be to see if at the molecular
level he can see a difference between the two types.
year the genome of the horse was complete and the sequencing
released to the equine geneticists of the world. This means
that rather than trying to fathom the complex mysteries
of equine genetics by the use of approximately 12 genetic
markers, these scientists will now have in the neighborhood
of 12,000 genetic markers with which to work. Because of
this dramatically amazing increase in available markers,
Dr. Cothran and other geneticists may soon be unlocking
many of the genetic mysteries of gait.
V-factor may well be a very helpful part of some of this
research. We can hope it is and that with this DNA study
of the samplings we can identify the specific ratios of
pace to trot needed to produce foxtrot into the distant
future without the pace diluting it into extinction.