History of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse
by Chad Turner
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse was originally developed in the rugged Ozark hills during the 19th century by settlers who needed easy riding, durable mounts that could travel long distances at a sure-footed, ground consuming stride.
Missouri achieved statehood in 1821. The pioneers who began settling at this time in the Ozarks came largely from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. These pioneers brought along saddle horses popular in those areas. It soon became apparent that a horse able to perform the easy, broken stride called the “Fox Trot” was the most useful in the rocky, forest covered Ozarkian hills. Thus, selective breeding for the “Fox Trot” stride began.
Stock with an easy stride, imported to our nation's
shores during the Colonial era, left their genetic imprint on the Fox
Trotting horses of the Ozarks, the American Saddle horses of Kentucky,
and the Walking horses of Tennessee.
characteristic of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is the Fox Trot stride
in which the horse walks with the front feet and trots with the hind feet.
This extremely sure-footed stride gives the rider little jar since the
hind feet slide into place. The Fox Trot is a rhythm stride and
the horse can maintain it for long periods of time with little fatigue.
The Missouri Fox Trotter also performs a rapid flat foot walk as well
as a delightful canter.
Fox Trotters eventually became the most used horse
of the Ozarks. They were the favorite mounts of cattlemen, country doctors,
sheriffs, and tax assessors before improved roads and cars appeared on
Missouri ranks number two in the nation in cow-calf operations. Missouri Fox Trotting Horses are historically tied to the grazing cattle industry of the Ozarks. When automobiles made horses almost obsolete in the Ozarks, Missouri Fox Trotting Horses survived largely because the cattlemen of the region continued to use and breed them. Old Fox, one of the breed's most influential sires, was a chestnut stallion that spent his adult life, trailing cattle in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas early in this century. Stamina, soundness, and gentle disposition were serious considerations in the breeding of Fox Trotting Horses by pioneer families in the Ozarks.
Missouri Fox Trotters make excellent mounts for children and beginning riders because of their quiet dispositions and willingness to please. Their smooth strides eliminate the bouncing that inexperienced riders suffer when riding hard trotting breeds.
Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in 1948, at Ava, Missouri
by fifteen men concerned with preserving this unique breed. Unfortunately,
shortly after a number of horses were registered in the Douglas County
area, a fire destroyed the secretary's home along with the “stud book”
Increasing interest in Missouri Fox Trotters as
show and pleasure horses brought about a reorganization of the breed association
in 1958. Today there are more than 42,283 registered Missouri Fox Trotters
located in the United States and Canada.
Trail riders across the nation who participate in journeys through mountain ranges are rapidly discovering what U.S. Forest Rangers have known for years: Missouri Fox Trotters have no equal when it comes to delivering an easy, sure-footed, willing ride on hazardous terrain.
The breed's national headquarters and hall of
fame are located on a 67 acres showground just outside of Ava, Missouri.
The breed association annually hosts a Three Year Old Futurity Show in
June and the six-day Celebration Show in the fall. The Celebration, which
crowns the champions of the breed, has been an exciting annual event since
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