MISSOURI FOX TROTTER
Missouri Fox Trotter
Breed Organization Information
About the Breed
The Missouri Fox Trotter was developed in the rugged Ozark Mountains during the nineteenth century by setters who needed smooth-riding, durable mounts that could travel at a comfortable, surefooted gait for long distances.
Missouri achieved statehood in 1821 and the pioneers who streamed across the Mississippi River to settle in the Ozarks came mostly from the hills and plantations of Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia. They brought with them their finest possessions, including their best saddle stock. The breeding of this stock was largely Arabian, Morgan and plantation horses from the deep south. Later more American Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking and Standardbred breeding was added. It soon became apparent that horses able to perform the easy, broken gait called the “fox trot” were the most useful in the rocky, forest-covered hills of the Ozarks, and selective breeding of the fox trot gait began.
Easy-gaited stock imported to America’s shores during the colonial era left its genetic imprint on the fox-trotting horse in the Ozarks, the American Saddle Horses of Kentucky and the walking horses of Tennessee. Some nineteenth century greats, such as the Canadian stallion, Tom Hal, made sizable contributions to the easy-gaited horses of all three regions.
The distinguishing characteristic of the Missouri Fox Trotter is the fox trot gait. The Fox Trot is basically a diagonal gait like the trot, but the horse appears to walk with its front legs and trot with his hind legs. Because of the back feet’s sliding action, rather than the hard step of other breeds, the rider experiences little jarring action and is quite comfortable to sit for long periods of time without posting or “standing” in the saddle.
The ability to travel long distances at a comfortable speed of five to eight miles an hour made the Fox Trotting Horse a favorite of the country doctor, sheriff, assessor and stockman. Today the breed is in demand as a pleasure horse, show horse and for cross-country trail riding. It is often described as the common man’s pleasure horse because of its gentle disposition.
Missouri ranks number two in the nation in cow-calf operations and Missouri Fox Trotting Horses are historically tied to the grazing cattle industry of the Ozarks. When automobiles made horses almost obsolete in the everyday lives of most people living 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.
Many famous families of the Fox Trotting Horse have been known throughout the Ozarks and even to this day, the names of Copper Bottoms, Diamonds, Brimmers, Red Bucks, Chiefs, Steel Dusts, Cold Decks and many others are recognized by horse breeders everywhere.
Because of their stamina and smooth ground-covering gaits, the Missouri Fox Trotter has become very popular with field trail competitors and those involved in the sport of long distance trail riding. Today there are approximately 52,000 registered throughout the United States, Canada, Austria and Germany.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse should stand 14 to 16 hands in height, be of good confirmation and able to carry weight. The animal should stand well on its feet, be erect and alert. The neck should be graceful, in proportion to length of body and well-joined to the body. The Fox Trotting Horse should have a neat, clean, intelligently-shaped head; pointed ears that are well-shaped; good, large, bright eyes; and a tapered muzzle. The back should be reasonably short and strong; the body deep and well-ribbed. The flank should be full and the chest deep and full. The shoulders should be properly sloped and well-muscled. The legs should be muscular and well-tapered. The foot should be well made, strong and in proper proportion to the size of the horse. The hair should be soft and silky. The Missouri Fox Trotter may appear in the following colors bay, black, roan, brown, buckskin, chestnut, gray, palomino, sorrel, tobiano, overo, white, cremello, perlino, and champagne.
The Missouri Fox Trot gait is basically a diagonal gait. The horse will perform this gait by walking in front and trotting behind with reach in each stride. It may disfigure or overstep its track, provided it travels straight on all four legs and does a true Fox Trot. The ideal characteristic of the Fox Trot shall be that the animal travel with animation, Fox Trot rhythm and style. The horse will travel in a collected manner. The Fox Trot should carry with it rhythm. The head should nod, the ears should indicate the step and the tail should be part of the rhythm. The step should be springy, consistent and smooth. The up and down motion should not be noticeable, but rather a smooth gliding gait without swinging. The Missouri Fox Trotter also performs a rapid flat-foot walk and a delightful canter.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in 1948 by fifteen men concerned with preserving this unique breed. After a number of horses were registered in the Douglas County area, a fire destroyed the secretary’s home along with the stud book and records.
Increasing interest in Missouri Fox Trotters as show and pleasure horses brought about a reorganization of the breed association in 1958. Today there are approximately 52,000 registered Missouri Fox Trotters located in the United States, Canada, Austria and Germany.
The breed’s national headquarters and Hall of Fame are located on a beautiful 71-acre show ground nestled in the hills 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 1959.