The Rocky Mountain Horse originates from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky, and has been enchanting riders for decades with its easy temperament and soothing gait. But it’s not simply the gentle nature and smooth riding of the Rocky Mountain horse that has made it famous. The breed’s ability to withstand harsh winters and lead long, productive lives as farm hands has made it a favorite amongst both farmers and families alike.
The exact origin of the Rocky Mountain Horse is cloaked in oral history.
Around the year 1890, a horse said to be from the Rocky Mountain region of the United States appeared in eastern Kentucky. This horse is often considered to be the father of the Rocky Mountain Horse breed. The horse was known for its easy gait and ability to work long, arduous hours on little sustenance. The horse became a favorite amongst the farmers of the foothills because of its ability to perform rugged tasks with ease. But it was also popular amongst families for its tranquil personality and comfortable gait.
The Rocky Mountain Horse was a local treasure for the inhabitants of eastern Kentucky. For decades the horse continued to be a local breed and the predominantly poor farmers in the foothills saw no reason to establish a formal association. As the rest of the country began to modernize with paved highways and powerful automobiles, the horse continued to be an integral function of Appalachian life.
But one citizen of Kentucky began to establish an informal breed of Rocky Mountain Horses. Sam Tuttle of Spout Springs began to nurture these horses for a horseback riding business he started in Natural Bridge State Park. Sam Tuttle solidified the reputation of the breed by providing the public with a chance to experience the smooth gait and tranquil disposition of the breed.
In 1986, a group of owners interested in the preservation of the breed got together to form the Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA). The owners simply wanted to preserve the wonderful traits of the breed that generations of riders had come to appreciate. The RMHA also established a registry of Rocky Mountain Horses and the particular characteristics necessary to the development of the breed.
The RMHA has created a list of necessary characteristics that a horse must possess in order to be registered as a Rocky Mountain Horse. The horse must be at least 14.2 to 16 hands in height with a 45-degree chest. The horse must also have bold eyes and well-shaped ears. All Rocky Mountain Horses must also use a four beat gait, meaning the horse produces four distinct hoof beats with equal rhythm. This four beat gait must be natural and should not require training or unnatural devices. Lastly, the horse must be of solid color (minor facial markings are acceptable) and have the tranquil temperament associated with the Rocky Mountain Horse breed.
The Rocky Mountain Horse breed also has subdivisions of horses, one such breed is the Spotted Rocky Mountain Horse. The Spotted Rocky Mountain Horse must have the same characteristics as the Rocky Mountain Horse, but instead of being a solid color, the horse will be covered with white patches. The Spotted horse also comes in four designs: Tobiano, Overo, Sabino and Tovero. The Spotted Rocky Mountain Horse Association is a subdivision of the RMHA and upholds the same level of standards and breed characteristics.
The Rocky Mountain Horse is a symbol of the hard American work ethic and durability that has helped define and shape our country. But the horse also possesses a personality that has endeared it to riders for generations.
Hodge, Bonnie. “History of the Breed.” Rocky Mountain Horse Association. Jim Hargrove Creative. 1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.rmhorse.com/history.html>.
History of Association. Rocky Mountain Horse Association. Jim Hargrove Creative. 1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.rmhorse.com/association.html>.Rocky Mountain Horse Home Page. International Museum of the Horse. 2001. 1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.imh.org/imh/bw/rocky.html>.
The KMSHA Official Site. The Spotted Mountain Horse Association. 1997-2007. 1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.kmsha.com/smha/index.htm>.
The Quarter Horse has been an American icon for generations. Whether it’s on the racetrack or at the Rodeo, the breed has always amazed riders and spectators with its speed and agility The Quarter Horse was an integral function to the cowboy culture of the old west and continues to be the most utilized and prized racing horse.
The Quarter Horse is a breed of horse used primarily for sprinting short distances and rodeo competitions.
It has now become one of the most popular horse breeds in the world with an estimated 3.7 million registered Quarter Horses worldwide. The breed is most commonly utilized for its quick, intricate and delicate maneuvers. Because of the horse’s prowess for sprinting and turning, the breed is most often bred as racehorses, ranch hands, or other event competitors.
The history of the Quarter Horse begins in the Colonial era of the United States—the Quarter Horse is often considered to be the first distinctly American horse breed. When the early settlers brought purebred horses from the old world and began crossing them with native horses from the earlier Spanish conquests, a new, agile type of horse began to emerge. This new horse was quickly recognized for its ability to sprint the quarter mile and was soon the preferred breed for weekend racing.
Before long, Quarter Horse Stallions became an integral part of ranch life on the western cattle ranges. With their ability to run short distances and maneuver with such accuracy, Quarter Horse Stallions became the most popular cattle-ranch horse breed. But a formal breed was not established for hundreds of years. As the breed continued to gain in popularity, stallions became the preferred horse in rodeo competitions and it became common practice to breed them with more traditional Thoroughbred horses.
In 1940, the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) was formed by a group of southwestern ranchers as a way to preserve the Quarter Horse Pedigree. The first registered American Quarter Horse, Wimpy, was a descendent of the famous Quarter Horse, Old Sorrel. The AQHA headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas is responsible for the statistics, registration, ownership and performance results of all American Quarter Horses.
The Quarter Horse stallion has specific characteristics that have made it such a versatile and popular horse. A stallion typically stands 14-16 hands high and has one of two body types: the stock type or the racing type. The stock type is a bit shorter, brawny and well muscled; whereas the racing type is a taller, with longer legs, and tends to be much leaner. The most prominent color is sorrel, but they come in nearly all colors.
Because of the popularity of rodeo events and horse racing, the American Quarter Horse has become the most recognized and useful breed. For these reasons, the horse has now become an international breed with registries in foreign countries—Brazil and Australia having the largest populations outside of the United States. With rodeo events now becoming an international affair, it’s common for countries with no previous stock horse industries to upstart their own Quarter Horse industries.
The Quarter Horse is a symbol of American expansion and cultural symbiosis, taking attributes from the Old World and giving them an American twist. It’s no surprise that stallions have featured in many television shows and movie productions. With the foundation of the AQHA, the breed will continue to be a positive and exerting influence on American Culture.
“American Quarter Horse.” Wikipedia. 1 Mar. 2007. 1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Quarter _Horse.>
Briggs, H.M. and D.M. Briggs. “Quarter Horse.” Modern Breeds of Livestock. 23 Feb. 2000. Oklahoma State University Board of Regents.1 Mar. 2007 <http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/horses/quar ter/.>.
American Quarter Horse.1998. International Museum of the Horse. 1 Mar. 2007. <http://www.kyhorsepark.com/imh/bw/quar.html.&g; t;.
When most people think of a black and white farm animal, the cow tends to pop into their minds. However, the slightly comical look of a black and white horse does not negate its beauty.
Several different kinds of black and white coat patterns take place in the horse world.
Piebald horses are painted horses with black and white splotches.
Horses with any color other than black are called skewbald. Pintos have a mixture of white and colored areas on their bodies. Pinto is a Spanish word meaning painted.
Painted horses are divided into two categories. Tobianos, the most common, have white splotches across their backs which extend downward along the rest of the body. On overos, the opposite is true; the white extends from the belly and legs upward toward the back, but does not actually cross the back.
Overos also are known for having a “War Bonnet,” or white face.
Another popular horse known for being black and white is the Appaloosa. Appaloosa is a color breed, meaning any horse, regardless of breed, can be considered an Appaloosa as long as it fits the required color pattern.
Appaloosas are divided into three color patterns:
Leopard – a white horse with dark spots all over his body.
Snowflake – a dark horse with tiny white spots.
Blanket – the most well-known Appaloosa pattern, which usually consists of a white blanket with dark spots on the rump.
The breeding of these colored horses is meticulous since certain colors and patterns are highly desirous. Stallions, which have a 95 percent rate of passing their color pattern on to their foals, can fetch a pretty penny to sire.
While breeding horses to attain a desired pattern is no guarantee, it does enhance the chances of getting a striking black and white pattern.
Many people devote themselves to these black and white horses; they appreciate the boldness of their black and white color, which is marvelously unique.
The paint horse is an extremely popular horse in both the Western and English worlds. In fact, its popularity makes the American Paint Horse Association is the second largest registry in the United States. Because the paint horse is a type of horse rather than a specific breed, various breeds are eligible for registration as paint horses.
Ultimately this allows for a degree of variation in the height and overall size.
A colorful coat pattern is essential to the identity of the paint horse. American paint horses have strict bloodline requirements and must display a distinctive stock-horse body conformation, meaning well-muscled and athletic, which is a construction ideal for ranch work. Paint horses work the show ring and provide lessons just as often as working the ranch. Because they can be any breed and are classified only by their coat colorings, paint horses are found in every circuit.
In order to be eligible for regular registration (as opposed to stock registration), the horse must exhibit a minimum amount of white hair over unpigmented (pink) skin. Also, the sire and dam must be registered with the American Paint Horse Association, American Quarter Horse Association or the Jockey Club (association of Thoroughbreds). At least one of the parents must be a registered paint.
Paint horses cover the spectrum of colors, coming in combinations of white, black, brown, chestnut, dun, grullo, sorrel, palomino, buckskin, gray or roan. While a variety of colors exist, they are classified into three coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero.
Tobiano horses are recognized by a dark color usually covering one or both flanks. Generally all four legs are white at least below the hocks and knees.
The head markings are typically those of a solid-colored horse: solid or with a blaze, strip, snip or star. Another distinctive feature is its two-toned tail.
On Overos, the white will not cross the back of the horse between the withers and the tail. At least one, but often all four legs are dark. The white is irregular and splashy or splotchy. The head markings include a bald-face, apron-face or bonnie face. Unlike the Tobiano, the Overos’ tail is one color.
Toveros are a combination of the color specifics of Tobianos and Overos, hence the creation of the name Tovero. They are dark around the ears, possibly forehead and eyes. One or both of the Tovero’s eyes is blue. They also have dark patches around the mouth and chest, spots that might extend toward the neck. Often spots are at the tail.
In May 1965 the American Paint Horse Association was formed through the merging of the American Paint Stock Horse Association and the American Paint Quarter Horse Association. The first record of the paint horse dates back to 1519 when Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes led an expedition to the New World and Diaz del Castillo, a world historian accompanying the exploration, recorded a horse with white stockings on fore feet and the other horse was dark roan horse with white patches. Paintings of paint horses also have been found on Comanche American Indian buffalo robes, which were used as the tribe’s form of record-keeping. The Comanches were considered to be the finest horsemen on the plains and were drawn to the paint horse’s color and performance. They adopted the loud-colored, flashy horses and are often associated with one another today.
The paint horse has a long and reputable history thus making it a staple of North America. Paint horse enthusiasts are true-blue fans of the horse and will continuously speak of the versatility and work ethic of the most highly-prized horse in the world.
The Many Horse Breeds
Ask any young girl what type of horse breeds exist, a typical answer would be: unicorns, ponies, My-Little Ponies and regular horses. While two exist in stories, the imagination and toy stores, the other two are more accurate. The many breeds actually developed from man.
Curiosity and necessity for passing on certain traits lead humans to constantly cross breed horses. Strong, giant horses, such as the famous Budweiser Clydesdales, were created for long days of field work while Thoroughbreds were desired for their long legs and stamina. Ponies and horses are categorized into more than 150 different breeds and types worldwide but each country certainly has its favorite breeds.
Most of these favorites are determined by the usage of the horse. North Americans prefer the versatility of the Quarter Horse in that it exudes excellence equally in work environments and pleasure riding. As the name implies, the Quarter Horse excels at racing over a short distance – a quarter of a mile. But because of their toughness and stockiness, settlers depended on them during the movement west and ultimately became indispensable in cattle herding. Averaging heights of 14.3 – 16hh (horses are measured in hands with a hand being 4 inches), the Quarter Horse comes in any solid color and has a short and wide head with large intelligent eyes. The breed is well known for its pleasant disposition and gentleness and as a result is used in a wide variety of activities such as leisure riding, barrel racing and ranching. Other American favorites are the Morgan, Saddlebred, Mustang and Tennessee Walking Horse, all desirous for their even temperaments and smooth conformation.
Great Britain has long declared itself an expert in the horse world. Children grow up taking equestrian lessons like American children join Little League. The prized English Hackney horse is world renown as a carriage horse with its small convex head and muzzle, short legs and well-shaped feet. The English also love their draught horses, especially the Shire, Suffolk and Clyesdale. All over 16hh high, they offer a powerful display with strong intelligent heads, broad chests and beautiful wisps of fine feather at their feet – simply beautiful creatures.
Horses are prominent all over Europe. Germany adores the Oldenburg, Westphalian Hanoverian and Trakehner among others. France lays claim to the French Trotter, Camargue, Norman Cob and Percheron while Italy loves the Murgese and Maremmano.
Ireland has the Irish Draught; Sweden has the Swedish Warmblood and Denmark has the Danish Warmblood. Popular sporting events in Europe are Hunting and Cross-Country which require a horse with jumping ability, stamina and willingness to trust its rider completely. The last is not a trait taken lightly by horse people. Knowing that inside every domestic horse still beats the heart of a wild animal, to completely trust its rider is highly prized.
Not to forget the oldest and purest of all breeds – the Arab originates from the Middle East and with its beautiful physique, has contributed to the creation of many of today’s breeds. Arabs have small heads with unique floating action. It is perhaps most well known for its high spirits and silky high tail. It is the originator of the term Hot Blooded!
South America appreciates horses with a smaller build that allows for much agility. The Criollo of Argentina and the Peruvian Paso of Peru are extremely popular breeds.
Australia looks for qualities in a horse that many of the old American west horses exuded. The Australian Stock Horse has the pretty head of the Thoroughbred with the build of an Arab-Quarter horse.
Ponies are differentiated from horses in their stature. Broadly speaking a pony is a small horse meaning no higher at the withers than 14.2hh. Not all small horses are classified as ponies. Ponies should have distinctive pony characteristics such as short legs to a proportional body.
Popular for children to start learning to ride, mostly because of the short distance to the ground for the inevitable first fall for all equestrians, but also because many ponies are bred for their sweet dispositions. Perhaps one of the most beautiful ponies is the Haflinger of Austria. Haflingers are chestnut in color with an extremely long, flowing flaxen mane and tail. The Exmoor is popular in England as a child’s pony for its natural balance and fun physique as well as a wild mane! Great Britain also enjoys the likes of the Shetland, Highland, Dartmoor and Welsh Cob.
Because horses offer many distinctly different qualities, a horse exists for every need. The hard part is determining from which of the wonderful breeds suits the rider the most. However hard the decision is, it is also one of the most fun to make! What ever horse one chooses it will be a loyal companion and a true friend that will have the decency to step on your foot only occasionally and when spooked, at least dump you in a clean area.
I remember begging my parents to rent The Black Stallion for me each and every time they went to the video store. It did not matter how many times I had already seen it; watching Alec gallop bareback down the beach on the black horse with his arms mimicking flying motions made me desperately wish to be stranded on a deserted island.
Ever since then, I have been enthralled with the beauty of black horses.
The true coloring of a black horse is tricky. To be considered a black horse, the animal can have no other color anywhere on it, with the exception of white markings and all black points.
Arguments have been made that two types of black horses exist: fading and non-fading. Many say the blue-black colored horse whose coat does not fade to a lighter shade in the summer sun is the only true black horse, while others claim fading horses have just as much right to classification of black as non-faders.
Because horses are often outside all day, their coats tend to receive a bit of sun bleaching, so winter is the ideally-suited season for determining coat color. Fading black foals usually are born an ashen color. Sometimes they are even dark brown or bay. A non-fading black foal is born a smoky or blue-black shade.
Black occurs in most breeds. It is considered the only color in some breeds, such as the Friesian. Black, however, has been bred out of some breeds, such as the Haflinger.
The rest of the world seems to share my enthusiasm for the gorgeous black horse. Black Beauty is a timeless literary classic which features, of course, a black horse. I do not think it a stretch to say the black horse is perhaps the most magnificent-looking of all horses.
Regardless of breed, any all-black horse looks strikingly dignified and has an undeniable air of elegance about it.