The Missouri Fox Trotter is among the many American breeds developed for speed combined with a smooth and comfortable gait. These horses have a running walk that can cover great distances in little time, and it is extremely comfortable. This type of gait was absolutely necessary for the early settlers of the United States, as the country was remote and rugged, and horses were the only means of transportation. In addition to their gaits these horses are very versatile, and have many loyal owners and supporters.
History of the Breed
The Missouri Fox Trotter is one of America’s oldest breeds of horse. It was developed during the 1820’s when early settlers needed a horse that was smooth, strong, fast, and full of stamina. The horse needed to be able to cover large areas of rough terrain in a short period of time and be able to hold up to the use. The settlers experimented with many breeds and combinations, and one of these mixtures became the Missouri Fox Trotter. It is speculated that the breed is a combination of Thoroughbred, Arab, Barb, Spanish and Morgan bloodlines. One thing that is known for sure is that an early breeding policy required the horses had been able to reach fast speeds at the run.
There were many settlers in the Ozark Region that were instrumental in the development of the Missouri Fox Trotter. One of the families was named Alsup. The Alsup family was quite famous for their horses, which were all related to one very fast Thoroughbred racing stallion named Brimmer. Any of the horses that came from this family and their stud were known as “Brimmers”.
Another famous stallion who was instrumental in the development of the breed was named Old Skip. Old Skip was a Thoroughbred and Morgan cross, while two other famous studs named Cheif and Cotham Dare were Saddle bred crosses. These all contributed to the speed and comfortable gaits of today’s Fox Trotter. It is speculated that Fox Trotters may have initially been bred primarily as race horses, until racing fell out of favor with the religious community, and was no longer allowed. Then the focus shifted to producing a horse full of stamina that could cover long distances comfortably.
The most important characteristic of the Missouri Fox Trotter is, of course, its gait. It has an extremely smooth gait called the Fox Trot, where it is essentially walking in front and trotting behind. The gait has four beats, where the front foot strikes the ground just before the diagonal hind foot hits. This footfall pattern minimizes movement in the back, which is the source of the smooth ride. Their head bobs in cadence with their footfalls. They can travel up to 7 miles per hour over long distances, and this can increase up to 10 miles per hour over shorter distances.
Fox Trotters stand between 14.2 hands and 16 hands tall. They come in every color found in the equine species except for appaloosa. The most common color is chestnut with white markings.
The head of the Missouri Fox Trotter should be short and tapered, with a straight profile and wide set eyes. The tip of the nose should be level with the top of the withers, and the neck should tie in nicely with the shoulder. The top line should be level, with the top of the withers being the same height as the top of the hip. The hips should be full and there should be good muscling down both the front and hind legs. The barrel should be full and taper up to the flank area. The horse should be shorter on top and longer underneath, and should have a long croup. Most trainers and riders like a bit of a crook in the hock, as a hock that is too straight produces more trot than gait. The horses legs should be set straight under the point of the shoulder, and the knees should not be bucked or bowed. The chest should exhibit adequate muscling, as this important for the horses ability to pull his front legs while travelling in gait. There should be good slope to the shoulder, and also free movement, which is crucial to the performance of the gaits.
Missouri Fox Trotter Today
The Fox Trotter is an extremely popular horse today with breed members found all over the world. While the United States is the main country breeding and exporting the horses, they are gaining numbers in other parts of the world as well. The most common use for the breed is on the trail, and there are many associations that offer competitive trail rides and awards programs for this sport. Missouri Fox Trotters are very versatile, so other areas they compete in include show jumping, eventing, endurance, and western events. The Fox Trotter breed associations often sanction shows where owners can get together and put their horses through their paces and receive awards etc, for their efforts.
They have not yet made their way to Australia with no breeding program, breed association or show classes available for them to compete in were they here. This is understandable with the far greater popularity in Australia of the European focused horse sports of Jumping and Eventing or the local rodeo style classes preferred by cattlemen.