The Easy Riding Versatile Breed Developed in the Ozarks
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse was 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 gait.
Missouri achieved statehood in 1821 and the pioneers who poured across the Mississippi River and settled in the Ozarks came largely from Tennessee, Kentucky, and Virginia. Naturally they brought along saddle horses popular in those areas. It soon became apparent that horse 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 for the Fox Trot gait began.
Easy gaited stock 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. Some 19th century standouts such as the Canadian born stallion, Tom Hal, made sizable contributions to the easy gaited horses of all three regions.
The distinguished characteristic of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is the Fox Trot gait; the horse walks with the front feet and trots with the hind feet. This extremely sure footed gait gives the rider little jar since the hind feet slide into place. The Fox Trot is a rhythm gait 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 and a delightful canter.
Fox Trotters became the using horse of the Ozarks. They were the favorite mounts of cattlemen, country doctors, sheriffs, and tax assessors before improved roads and cars appeared on the scene.
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 Ozarkians, 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 gaits eliminate the "bouncing" that inexperienced riders suffer when riding hard trotting breeds.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in 1948 at Ava, Missouri 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 more an 42,283 registered Missouri Fox Trotters located in the United States and Canada.
Trail riders across the nation who participated in treks 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 beautiful 67 acres showground 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.
The information contained on this page are provided courtesy of Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association, P.O. Box 1027, Ava, Missouri 65608. Phone: (417) 683-2468.
Photographs provided by Missouri Fox Trotting Promoters Inc., C.E. Moeller, Republic, MO