Despite its name the Rocky Mountain Horse did not come from the Rocky Mountains, but rather the Appalachian Mountains of south eastern USA.
Once described with the ability to “climb a mountain like a squirrel going up a tree”, the Rocky Mountain Horse is a well-built horse with a friendly disposition, a smooth ambling four-beat gait and renowned beauty.
The signature colour of the breed is a beautiful chocolate coat with flaxen mane and tail. The body can be light to dark chocolate, often with dapples and the mane and tail can be dark flax to pure white. This unique coat is thanks to a relatively rare colour dilution gene, the silver dapple gene, acting on a black coat.
The beginning of the Rocky Mountain Horse
The breed was developed in eastern Kentucky back in the 1940s, by Sam Tuttle and the famous stallion, Old Tobe. He was a handsome silver-dappled stallion, a cross between mountain and western horse.
The breeding standard of the Rocky Mountain Horse is based on the characteristics of this original stallion and today most Rocky Mountain Horses trace back to him.
Old Tobe was confident, sure-footed in rough terrain, friendly and strong. He exhibited a natural four-beat gait, known as the ‘single-foot’. This gait made the Rocky Mountain Horse popular on farms and the rugged foothills of the Appalachians.
In 1986, the Rocky Mountain Horse Association was formed and by 2005 over 12,000 horses had been officially registered.
Originally developed as a multi-purpose breed, for riding, driving and light draft work, today it is mainly used for recreational riding and working cattle. The breed is rapidly gaining popularity in the show ring because of its beauty and ambling single-foot gait.
The Rocky Mountain Horse is the perfect horse for beginners, older people or people with disabilities, given its calm disposition and comfortable four-beat gait.
The Rocky Mountain Horse is of medium height, measuring from 14.2 to 16.0hh. It should be well-built with a wide chest, sloping 45 degrees on the shoulder.
The most special feature of the Rocky Mountain Horse is the extra gait. In addition to walk, trot, canter and gallop they have a natural four-beat gait, called the single-foot. This gait allows the rider to sit still in the saddle even when the horse is going as fast as a trot, making a very smooth ride.
When the horse moves you can count four distinct hoofbeats which produce a cadence of equal rhythm. This is a naturally occurring gait present from birth that does not require any training aids.
Facial markings are acceptable on the Rocky Mountain Horse, if they are not excessive. However, there may not be any white above the knee or hock.
More information about the breed can be found on the Rocky Mountain Horse Association website.Photo credit: Toril’s Rocky Mountain Horses