The Rocky Mountain Horse originated in the Appalachian mountains in Kentucky (not the Rocky Mountains) in the 1800s. Out of necessity, sturdy, sure-footed, easy-gaited local horses had to be everyday saddle horses but were also hitched to plows, used to herd cattle, and driven to church on Sunday. Because their owners were extremely poor, the horses had to survive harsh winters fed with rough silage or by eating bark off trees, which made them very easy keepers. Only the hardiest survived to reproduce.
Documents were not kept at this time and only a verbal history was passed down from generation to generation, meaning the existence of these horses was virtually unknown outside of this region for decades. It appears the breed’s foundation sire Old Tobe arrived from the Rocky Mountains and was bred to the local mares in the mid-20th century to develop the modern type; today most Rocky Mountain Horses trace back to this stallion.
This chocolate-coloured gaited colt with a flaxen mane and tail was called “the Rocky Mountain Horse” by the locals in Kentucky. The resulting line of smooth-gaited horses flourished over the years and became known as Rocky Mountain Horses.
The Rocky Mountain Horse Association was formed in 1986. Today there are around 25,000 Rocky Mountain horses in the world, with a large percentage of them still residing in Kentucky.
The Rocky Mountain Horse stands between 14.2-16 hh and can be found in any solid colour with no white above the knee or hock and only modest amounts of white markings on the face. They possess a wide, deep chest, correct legs, sloping shoulders, bold eyes, well-shaped ears and a medium-sized head with a profile that is neither concave nor convex. The gracefully arched neck is set to allow natural carriage with a break at the poll.
Rocky Mountain Horses have a smooth and effortless ambling four-beat gait that is enjoyable and comfortable for riders, and also allows the horse to cover great distances without tiring. They are reliable and willing horses with gentle temperaments; a very people-friendly breed suitable for riders of varying skill levels.
Rocky Mountain Horses can be found in endurance riding, trail riding, working cattle, and also on the Western and English show circuits. As show horses, the breed is rapidly gaining in popularity not just because of their distinctive beauty, but also the unique way they move in the ring. Their natural endurance, efficient canter and sure-footedness on rough ground make them good competitive trail mounts.
The International Rocky Mountain Horse Show is held every September at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.
For more information, visit:
Rocky Mountain Horse Association