Paso Fino Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Paso Fino horse is a light horse breed with a natural gait that comes from the imported horses that were brought to the Caribbean from Spain during the Colonial era. There are two types of horses that are recognized in the United States with this breed. The first, the PPR, originates from Puerto Rico is considered a “pure” version of the breed.

The second type, the CCC, was developed in Colombia and is referred to as the Colombian Criollo Horse.

Although both types have a shared ancestry, the two horse groups developed independently of one another. That has created two distinct sets of characteristics, though blending of the two types has occurred frequently now that transportation has become much easier. Just recently, a trend in Europe and the US has encouraged a restoration of breeding undiluted bloodlines to preserve the unique characteristics from both regions. 

Origin of the Paso Fino Horse

Paso Fino literally means “fine step.” The original ancestry of the horse may be Spanish in origin, but there are Barb, Jennet, and Andalusian bloodlines incorporated with the breed as well with both types. Plantation owners in Colombia and Puerto Rico needed horses that could provide a comfortable ride, but also have a strong stamina, and those bloodlines helped to refine the breed in that way.

All Paso Finos have a shared ancestry with the Peruvian Paso horse, along with Mustangs and other breeds that are known descendants of the Colonial Spanish horse. Some of the first ancestral horses for the breed were brought to the Caribbean in 1493 by Christopher Columbus.

Over the next 500 years, the PPR was developed to adapt to the harsh conditions in Puerto Rico. The result is a horse that is comfortable in most conditions and has a superior sure-footedness. Instead of pacing or trotting, their gait was developed for pure speed. A note written in the late 18th century states that the legs of a Paso Fino couldn’t even be followed by the human eye.

Beginning in the mid-19th century, racing competitions for Paso Finos were held in Puerto Rico. They were used widely in agricultural work and provided transportation for many families on the island. One Paso Fino named Manchado was even said to gait on his own in the town square if asked.

Beginning in 1927, the PPR-type began to see additional refinements thanks to an escalation of breeding efforts. A registry was established in 1943. 

For the CCC Paso Fino, little is known about the breed until a Colombian rancher visited the United States to purchase horses to work with his cattle. While visiting the country, the rancher allowed horses to be purchased or bred. Military personnel had already imported PPR-type horses from Puerto Rico after their service on the island. This led to rapid growth of the breed in the US and eventually Europe.

The Paso Fino Horse Association was founded in 1972 and regulates registered horses in the US. Both types are allowed to register. CCC-type horses can have a specific gait, called the trocha, which is a diagonal ambling gait that is promoted by a gait-specific organization in the United States as well.

There are still many debates wages about whether the “pure” Paso Fino comes from Puerto Rico or Columbia. In reality, the modern Paso Fino is a true horse of the Americas. It is a melting pot of a breed that has brought the best out of both types to create a fantastic horse that is even-tempered, enthusiastic, and highly intelligent. It is one of the few breeds that consistently strives to please in all that it does. 

Characteristics of the Paso Fino Horse

Paso Fino horses will generally be under 15.2 hands high, with some mares only being 13 hands. Despite their size, sometimes in the pony classification, these horses are remarkably strong. Paso Finos that don’t meet the minimum height requirement for classification as a horse are still referred to as horses because of their qualities and strength. The typical size is usually somewhere between 13.3-14.2 hands.

Most horses in this breed will weigh below 1,000 pounds. Some smaller mares may weigh less than 700 pounds. It can take up to 5 years for an individual horse to fully mature into their adult size. 

A Paso Fino of either type should have a convex head, a below-average back in length, but withers that are very prominent. The face should be full, with an intelligent face, and a defined jaw leads toward eyes that are expressive and large. This leads to a neck that offers a graceful arch, average in length, but allowing for a high carriage. 

The legs should be clean, with short cannon bones and hooves that are harder than average. Tendons should be well-defined. Forearms should be long and broad with good definition in the muscle, but not exaggerated. The pasterns should be sloping and average in length as well. 

Many Paso Finos have a thick mane and tail, but this isn’t a requirement for the breed. There are no color restrictions for the breed and horses of all colors have been noted. White markings are allowed, as are solid coat colors.

The Paso Fino should be a horse that is extremely willing. It tends to enjoy social contact, especially with humans, and can become quite spirited if left to its own devices. The horse should be responsible when under tack, yet still sensible in its approach to fulfilling a command. 

What sets the two types apart is their gait. The PPR-type tends to offer a delicate step, thoughtful and considered, to avoid trouble. The CCC-type tends to be lively, straight-forward, and willing to tackle virtually any task.

Both types are generally amiable with their disposition. Both types can have a four-beat gait and a nose for the finish line.

The most desired gait of the Paso Fino is the classic fino gait. It is a collected gait that offers fast footfalls that do not cover much ground. It is a gait that is generally used in competition only and requires high degrees of collection. The gait is extremely rare within the breed, though every Paso Fino can perform the breed’s other gaits with relative ease.

The trocha gait is not the same as the classic fino. The gait is closer to a fox trot or walking gait and is usually faulted in the CCC-type. It is still quite popular in Columbia, however, which is one of the reasons why a return to separate lineage breeding is being encouraged by some.

These characteristics make it possible for the Paso Fino to compete in a number of disciplines. Western riding, barrel racing, rodeo events, and endurance competitions will regularly have this breed competing at high levels. 

Orlov Trotter Horse Origin and Characteristics

There isn’t a more famous breed of horse that has come out of Russia than the Orlov Trotter. It is known for an exceptionally fast trot, with a stamina that is equally exceptional. Developed by Count Alexi Orlov at his stud farm near Bobrov, they have been used for riding, harness racing, and for other royal purposes.

For more than a century, the Orlov Trotter was thought to be the fastest harness racer in the world. As Standardbreds grew in popularity, their speed could beat the Orlov Trotter, which caused local breeders to focus on speed in their breed programs. Although the Orlov Trotter is more refined as a breed, the Standardbred was simply faster.

That led to the creation of the Russian Trotter, which comes from crossbreeding Standardbreds with the Orlov Trotter. The Russian Trotter could compete on a global stage for harness racing, which led to the almost extinction of the Orlov Trotter.

Beginning in the 20th century, preservation efforts to save the breed were started. Although population numbers are still quite limited, there are at least 15 stud farms in Ukraine and Russian that are working with this breed.

The Origin of the Orlov Trotter

The Orlov Trotter was developed on the Khrenovsky stud farm. The farm came about because of a reward that was given to Count Orlov for his efforts that would bring Catherine the Great to the throne in Russia. Orlov was heavily involved in the wars with Turkey as well, so a tract of land in central Russia was given to him.

Massive stone structures were built to support the newly established stud farm, many of which are still present today. Beginning around 1770, Orlov decided to use his new stud farm to create a new breed of horse that could handle Russia’s unique climate, have great stamina for travel, but still be a willing workhorse for the tough fields that would need to be plowed.

Orlov felt his work was quite urgent since horses struggled to survive in Russia. To create this new breed, he set out to acquire the best possible horses throughout Europe. His best find was an Arabian stallion named Smetanka. The Arabian had a longer back than normal thanks to an extra rib, a fantastic trot, and outstanding physical characteristics.

Instead of taking 7 generations to establish a full breed, Orlov was able to create a horse that could handle the demands of Russia in just 3 generations. He was able to accomplish this by working on a larger scale than most stud farms. At its peak, under Orlov’s guidance, more than 3,000 horses called Khrenovsky their home. 

To hasten their development, the new horses were consistently exposed to the harsh climate of the region. Training programs involved long-distance rides and short-distance sprints. Specific traits were recognized and then immediately bred or immediately discarded. 

Orlov gave the farm to his daughter Anna after his death in 1809, while at the same time, Vasily Shishkin, who worked with Orlov, worked to continue the breed on the farm. Orlov’s daughter didn’t have the same passion in breeding horses as he did, so the quality of the program began to decline. In 1831, Shishkin left Khrenovsky to start his own horse farm. 

That departure caused the Orlov stud farm to decline until it was finally surrendered back to the Crown in 1845.

In the 50 years after Shishkin left, Orlov Trotters were crossbred with numerous other breeds to produce horses that were treated as being questionable in quality and temperament at best. In 1881, Khrenovsky returned to raising Orlovs only, but the best bloodlines for the breed now come from stud farms that worked with Shishkin over those decades.

In 1834, the popularity of the Orlov Trotter caused a trotting society to be formed in Moscow. The society held regular races and this helped Orlovs begin to grow in global prominence. They proved to be the best racers of their type in all of Europe. At one point, in 1867, an Orlov Trotter was able to go 3,500 feet in 92 seconds. That was even faster than a Standardbred at the time.

This created a “horse race” of sorts between the Americans and their Standardbreds and the Russians with the Orlov Trotter. The Americans had a clear advantage though. The Russians needed the Orlov Trotters to perform general work duties in addition to being a good racer. The Standardbreds had the luxury of being a general racing horse only. 

To compete with the Standardbreds, desperation took over in Russia. Eventually the Orlovs were bred with Standardbreds to create a comparative horse in speed, but not in capability. Russian Trotters just couldn’t work like the Orlovs.

Once that was realized, the Orlov came back to prominence. By 1904, the Orlov Trotter had been improved in speed enough to be competitive on the global stage once again.

The 20th Century and the Orlov Trotter

Once the Civil War broke out in Russia, the equine world was devastated beyond belief. Numerous horses were killed in the battles that would take place. Desperate families were forced to slaughter their horses for food. Breeding horses was a luxury that few could afford, and those that could afford it were generally in hiding.

It wouldn’t be until 1920 that breeding programs would resume after the Russian civil war. When breeding was restarted, crossbreeding of Orlovs was expressly forbidden by the new government. Over that first decade, the breed was brought back to race breeding from agricultural breeding and by the 1930s, they were once again competitive on the world stage.

In the 1940s, during the Soviet-German War (World War II), Orlov Trotters were once again used frequently in battle. Their population numbers suffered greatly once again. Once the war was concluded, the need for agricultural work put racing horses out into farm fields to improve production.

Then, in 1953, the Soviet Union declared that the cost of raising horses did not make sense with improvements to mechanization. That resulted in a dramatic reduction in stud farms and those that did remain lost most, if not all, of their government support.

Between 1953-1996, the Orlov Trotter all but disappeared from the equine world. Families that were still involved in harness racing preferred the Russian Trotter or American breeds, which left the Orlov out of favor and ignored. In 1997, an international committee was formed to protect the Orlov Trotter and stud farms were established, which still exist.

The breed is still severely endangered, with an estimated 800 mares thought to be on the 15 total stud farms. 

Characteristics of the Orlov Trotter

Orlov Trotters have a shape and presence that is similar to the Standardbred, but they are a bit taller and have a certain stoutness to their physical appearance. The average height of the modern Orlov is 15.8 hands, with an average body length, above average chest circumference, and a large head that has expressive eyes.

Some individuals may reach a height of 17 hands. Mares typically need to be at least 15.2 hands to be considered for breeding programs. 

Orlovs should have a neck that is naturally arched and set high. Withers should be prominent and the croup should be broad. The horse should give off the impression that it is muscular, but not bulky. The legs are strong, joints are prominent, and the tendons are clearly defined.

Because the Orlov Trotter has Arabian origins, most of the horses will have a gray coat color. It is common for a foal to have a darker coat and then a lighter coat grows in as the horse ages. Gray horses will eventually become completely white. Black and bay coats are fairly common in the breed as well. Chestnut coats are possible, but are fairly rare.

These horses are designed to be strong, but fast, in any form of work. Their substantial bone structure gives them a certain sturdiness that is uncommon in the equine world today. They can be spirited, but are typically easy keepers, and they love a good adventure.

The natural curiosity of the Orlov Trotter is known to get an unsupervised horse into some trouble if there isn’t regular social contact. An Orlov that is left alone can also develop unwanted behaviors, but this is usually done as a way to attract attention back to the horse so social connections can be formed.

Orlovs love to exercise and make for an excellent riding horse, but they can sometimes be a struggle when working with someone new to horses. They perform well when they have confidence in their handler and the handler has confidence in the horse. Orlovs attempt to be supportive of new riders, but their spirit tends to limit their patience and eventually they’ll give up if they feel like someone isn’t “getting it.”

Although the breed is endangered, preservation efforts are working and the breed is recovering well. Given enough time, the Orlov Trotter may once again rise to dominate the world stage yet again. 

Oldenburg Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Oldenburg horse comes from the Lower Saxony region of France. The area is in the northwestern corner of the region, in the area that was once the Grand Duchy of Oldenburg. Built on a breed history of all-purpose horses, there are two types of horses in the breed: the “old” type and the “modern” type.

Strict breeding stock regulations are in place for the Oldenburg breed to maintain the desired characteristics of each horse. The goal is to make sure that each generation within this breed is better than the last. For the old-type horse, the goal is to maintain the ancient characteristics that have been consistently popular.

For the modern-type horse, the goal is to create a tall sport horse that jumps well and has superb gaits.

There are very liberal pedigree requirements within this breed. It is also one of the few breeds from the area that only use privately-owned stallions. No state-owned restrictions from government-owned stud farms are in place. 

The History of the Oldenburg Horse

The Frisian coast had difficult, heavy soil that needed to be tilled for crops to grow. The horses in the Oldenburg region, up until the 17th century, were relatively small, but they were strong. The taller horses with calm temperament were often trained as war horses, which meant the smaller warmblood horses were all that were left for the agricultural work.

Organized breeding for the Oldenburg horse began in the 16th century thanks to the efforts of Count Johann XVI. He imported horses from Denmark, refined Turkish horses in his possession, and brought in Andalusians and Neapolitans to create his own breeding stock. Johann’s successor, Count Anton Gunther, brought in horses with excellent characteristics from his travels to work on the breeding program as well.

Beginning in the early 18th century, stallion inspections for horses in the region began. These inspections were finally incorporated into the Oldenburg area in 1755 and became mandatory in 1820. This allowed the Oldenburg breed to begin forming with consistent characteristics.

As the need for war horses declined, a preference to refine the Oldenburg breed into a sport horse began. Horses with sporting characteristics became the preference for stallion inspections, with a personality that was competitive, but still willing and even. Not everyone wanted to follow the sporting track, however, and wanted to keep the breed closer to its sporting roots.

That created two distinct stud books for the breed: the Ostfriesen, or Alt-Oldenburger, and then the official Oldenburg breed. 

Yet with all this development happening, there were still challenges that faced this breed. It didn’t have the support of a state-owned stud farm, so the original Oldenburgs were at the mercy of breeder preferences. It wouldn’t be until 1923 when the Oldenburg stud book merged with the Ostfriesen stud book to create the modern breeders’ association. 

As mechanization took over in the 1940s, the role of the Alt-Oldenburger shifted. There was no longer a need for even sporting-type horses. This led the breed to produce riding horses through the combined stud book. Foreign stallions were imported to the region to improve the physical characteristics of the breed, including Thoroughbred and Anglo-Norman bloodlines.

Today, several different warmblood breeds are still accepted by the Oldenburg association to help modernize the breed. Since the 1970s, bloodlines from Wesphalian, Holsteiner, Hanoverian, and Dutch Warmbloods, among many others, have helped to refine the modern Oldenburg. 

There are currently 200+ approved sires and 7,000+ mares that are approved as modern Oldenburg horses. Many of the mare lines can be traced to the older Alt-Oldenburger stud book, which makes them a sought-after commodity in the equine world. 

Characteristics of the Oldenburg Horse

The modern Oldenburg is still branded, with an O and a crown band that is placed on the left hip. If the horse comes through the international Oldenburg program, then the brand is an S with an incomplete O that has been crowned. All Oldenburg names include the last two numbers of the horse’s life number and branding must take place before the age of 2.

An alternative form of branding includes microchipping, though this practice is only used relatively little.

Because of the liberal breeding practices that are incorporated with this breed, the characteristics of an Oldenburg can vary greatly. Most Oldenburgs are described through their lineage and parentage bloodlines more than their physical characteristics as a general breed. The main common points that Oldenburgs share are long legs, especially on the modern-type, and an expressive head.

The ideal Oldenburg will usually stand a minimum of 16 hands high, but there have been several stallions and a few mares that have exceeded 17.2 hands.

Coat coloring has also been quite liberal within this breed, especially when compared to other warmblood breeds. There are 8 tobiano pinto stallions that have been approved for breeding. Most Oldenburg horses will be brown, black, or chestnut, but bay and gray is fairly common as well.

What is most notable about the characteristics of the Oldenburg breed is its elastic gait. The actual gaits are quite variable and thought to be an expression of the individual horse, but each Oldenburg should have a gait that is suitable for sport. Most Oldenburgs will have three straight gaits when viewed from the back or the front. The canter is adjustable, while the trot is active and the walk is noticeably diligent.

Oldenburgs are scored on their temperament as well, which is unique in an era when the trend is to create independent, hotblood horses from warmblood breeds. All temperaments are accepted within the breed, however, so the goal of inspection and scoring is to provide information to potential owners or breeders only. 

How Oldenburg Horses Are Used Today

Most Oldenburg horses are too slow for eventing, though an exception is possible if the horse was directly sired by a Thoroughbred. As a breed, they are most successful at show jumping. They learn patterns quickly and tend to be cautious, which, when combined with their power, makes them a consistent performer on virtually any course.

Oldenburgs are also quite successful in dressage. In recent years, they have been a Top 3 breed in the dressage ring in world rankings.

The Oldenburg horse has come a long way since its time being a farm horse in Lower Saxony. The modern breed today would be difficult to recognize when compared to the horses in this breed’s ancestry. Although there aren’t many consistent characteristics with the Oldenburg, that is actually a formula for future success.

There won’t be any genetic roadblocks with this breed in the future. Specific characteristics are being bred into each new generation, improving the breed every time. In the next few decades, the Oldenburg may very well become one of the best-performing horse breeds in the world. 

Norwegian Fjord Horse Origin and Characteristics

Although the Norwegian Fjord Horse might be small, it is one of the strongest equine breeds on the planet. Coming out of the mountains of western Norway, this light draft horse is thought to be one of the oldest breeds in the world. For centuries, it has been used as a Norwegian farm horse.

Today, this breed is highly celebrated because it has a gentle, calm temperament in general. In addition to agricultural work, it is often used under saddle and as a harness horse. 

What Is the Origin of the Norwegian Fjord Horse?

The Norwegian Fjord Horse may have been developed as a breed as early as the 20th century BC. Archeological evidence from ancient civilizations in the region have produced skeletal equine remains that are similar to the modern Fjord horse. From evidence obtained at Viking burial sites, we do know that Fjords have been selective bred since the 1st century AD. 

How the breed originated is not known. There is some thought that the Fjord may be a descendent of the wild Przewalski horses, especially since Fjords are one of the few breeds that have retained their primitive colors and character.

It is believed that the horses were originally used to be a war mount, but would also be used for agricultural and transportation in times of peace. Because of this versatility, there are some who believe that Fjords could be part of the ancestry for the moorland and mountain ponies that developed over the centuries throughout the British Isles.

The first stud book for the Norwegian Fjord Horse was published in 1910, but the overall census for the breed is somewhat low. About 7,000 horses are believed to be living around the world, with breeding programs existing in the United States and Europe.

Although the breed is strong, it provides the rider with a smooth action that feels light in the saddle or harness. It can be a general-purpose horse that can farm rolling hills or be a great family horse that loves social interactions and a good trail ride. 

The Characteristics of the Norwegian Fjord Horse

The Norwegian Fjord Horse is distinct in appearance. Every Fjord horse has a dun coat, but there are 5 variations of shading that are recognized by the breed standard and have been since 1922. White markings are highly discouraged, though a forehead star is permitted. The hooves of the horse are usually darker than the coat, but for some lighter dun shades, the hooves can be a lighter color. 

Virtually all of the Norwegian Fjord horses have a brown dun coat, which is the same color that other breeds would call bay dun. 9 out of every 10 registered Fjords has this coat color. It is a pale yellow shade of brown, ranging from a light chestnut color to an almost cream color. The primitive markings on the coat are dark, going to a black.

The other coat options are red dun, grey dun (which is grulla), yellow dun, and white dun.

Red dun Fjords are golden in color, with their primitive markings being a reddish tone. The mane and tail are usually a cream color, ranging to white.

Gray dun Fjords can appear silver or range to a dark gray that almost appears to be black. Their tail, forelocks, and mane are lighter than the body color.

White dun Fjords usually have black primitive markings and have a cream gene allele which gives them a look that is similar to the Buckskin color breed.

The rarest coat color is the yellow dun. It is the red dun color, but with the cream allele to it, which makes the mane, tail, and forelock be completely white. On these horses, the primitive markings tend to be of the same color as the coat, which makes them appear visually from a distance as having a solid coat appearance.

The primitive markings can appear in any combination. The most common are small m arks over the eyes, cheeks, and thighs. Horizontal stripes on the forelegs are also common. A rare marking is dark striping over the withers. Some individuals may have dark ear tips or outlines, a darker forelock, mane or tail, or a dark hoof color.

There may also be light feathering along the legs. 

Because a heavier winter coat grows in each year for Fjords, there can be a little shading variation between the two. The winter coat can be very thick, especially when the horse is living in a cold winter region, and this can also be seen in the natural length of the mane and tail. The mane is traditionally clipped into a crescent shape so that the shape of the neck is emphasized, which also makes it easier to groom the horse.

Every Fjord horse will follow the same physical conformation standards, no matter what the coat color may be. The neck should be arched, strong, and lead the eye toward legs that are sturdy and supported by good feet. The body of the horse should appear compact, with stallions having a certain visual stoutness about them.

The head of the Norwegian Fjord Horse should be of average size and proportion, but with added definition compared to other horse breeds. The ears are smaller than average, but the eyes are larger than average, and the personality of the horse should be on full display. The shape of the hindquarters is allowed to vary, but there should be conformity to the overall appearance of the horse. Variations in the loins, quarters, croup, or back are not usually permitted under the breed standard. 

There is no minimum or maximum height when considering the characteristics of the Norwegian Fjord Horse. Most Fjords will stand below 14.3 hands high, though the breed isn’t classified as a pony because adults display more horse characteristics than pony characteristics. Most will be at least 13 hands.

Most Fjords will weigh in a range of 900-1,200 pounds, though lighter or heavier individuals have been observed.

The breed has a reputation for having a temperament that is generally good, calm, and willing. They are generally eager to please and can be quite charming – at least when they want to be.

What About Movement Standards for the Norwegian Fjord Horse?

Fjords should have a forward movement that is straight and true. The gait should be balanced, with a regular cadence, and the stride length should have the hind hoof overstepping the front hoof during walking or trotting.

The walk of the Fjord is a 4-beat cadence. It is evaluated based on the efficiency and eagerness that is offered. Trotting is a 2-beat diagonal gait, offered with power, but with comfort matching the speed that can be obtained. The horse should appear athletic, but still possess a natural rhythm to it.

The canter should be balanced, offer solid forward momentum, and be unrestricted.

How Are Norwegian Fjord Horses Evaluated?

The Norwegian Fjord Horse Registry has created an independent evaluation program that it applies to registered horses. Every horse is evaluated in-hand to determine if it meets the conformation standards of the breed. Performance evaluations are included as part of the process. Three different disciplines are currently evaluated: draft, driving, and riding. Introductory and advance levels of evaluation are offered.

Each country may have their own evaluation program and guides that are used to help those involved with Fjords maintain the best qualities of the breed. Some registries require stallions to obtain a license for breeding and that can only be obtained by an official registration.

A Fjord must be at least 3 before it can be scored for conformation. Judging takes place over a 9-part test and a score of 0-100 are awarded. Attention is placed on the body, head, beck, legs, gait movement, and overall impression. Double points are awarded for the breed type. Evaluators are expected to comment during the evaluation about the scores they award each horse.

To qualify for registration in the stud book, a Fjord must reach a total score of 70. To qualify for a Medallion award, a test score of 4 or less cannot be given on a single test. Once a score of 70 is achieved, the horse can then complete advanced performance tests for additional Medallion awards. Bronze, Silver, and Gold are awarded based on the performance achieved during the evaluation. 

Horses are permitted to repeat any of the performance tests or the conformation test. Every test is recorded by the registry and is only considered official when it is approved by the Board of Directors.

Although population numbers are somewhat low compared to other popular horse breeds, the Norwegian Fjord Horse has seen more than 2,000 years come and go. With established breeding protocols in place and a global presence for the breed, future generations will have the same chance as their forefathers to discover what makes this breed special and why it has lasting power in the equine world.
 

Norman Cob Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Norman Cob Horse, sometimes called the “Cob Normand,” is a light-draft breed of horse that originates from the Normandy region of France. By size and weight accounts, the breed is what one would consider to be an average horse. It’s conformation standards, however, are anything but standard. On first glimpse, it would be easy to mistake a Norman Cob for a Thoroughbred.

There are three subsets that can be found within this breed.

  • Horses that are used under the saddle.
  • Horses that are used with the harness.
  • Horses that are bred specifically for meat production.

Many Norman Cobs are used for recreational riding purposes. They also excel in competitive driving competitions and can compete in several different riding disciplines.

That versatility meant that whenever there was a need, a Norman Cob could be called upon to get the job done. Numerous agricultural jobs were completed by this breed over the years. The French postal service used these horses to pull their mail carriages. Until competitive rules for driving were changed in 1997, this breed dominated the discipline. 

As with all light-draft breeds throughout the world, the 1940s brought cheap mechanization to rural areas and that threatened equine populations. The Norman Cob didn’t see the same population threats, however, because it was a foundation breed for the Selle Francias, which is the national saddle horse of France. 

An examination of the breed in the 1980s showed genetic drift and inbreeding could threaten the population, so steps were taken to increase diversity. Most Norman Cob Horses are found in Orne, Calvados, and Manche today.

What Is the Origin of the Norman Cob Horse?

The Normandy region of France has been known for its ability to breed horses over several centuries. Two other strong breeds have come from this region: the French Trotter and the Percheron.

The Norman Cob gets its name because of its resemblance to other Cob horses in Europe. Even though it is a light draft horse breed, it is almost exclusively used to produce sporting horses. At the same time, the breed has been mostly kept out of the meat production aspect of French society, which has also helped to maintain the breed’s standards over the years.

Instead of being bred to a heavier weight for more food, the Norman Cob has kept its conformation standards from the very beginning.

The story of the Norman Cob Horse begins around the around the 5th century BC. Horses called “bidets” were brought to Normandy by the Celts. As the Romans ventured north and entered the region around the 1st century AD, they began to crossbreed the bidets with their larger mares. This practice continued after the fall of the Roman Empire, helping to refine the breed over several centuries.

By the 10th century, Europe was craving the horses that came out of Normandy. They had a reputation for being strong, heavy, and able to drive over long distances. They could pull artillery by day and provide a leisurely ride at night.

When Louis XIV came to power, he had the Norman Cob crossed with Arabian and Barb horses and that is the foundation for this breed. Additional bloodlines from Danish, Mecklenburger, and Gelderland horses were added as well. By 1840, the Norman Cob had become a refined breed with trotting capabilities thanks to another addition, this time from Norfolk Trotters.

Napoleon founded the national stud for the breed in 1806 and it would work to produce cavalry horses and animals that would be used specifically for draft work. Up until 1950, the Norman Cob was thought to be one of the best carriage horses one could own. Although population numbers have slowly declined, a new stud book has been in place since 1992 to refine the breed and about 500 new foals are born every year.  

The Characteristics of a Norman Cob Horse

A Norman Cob will usually stand about 15.2 hands high, with some stallions reaching a height of 16.3 hands or greater. The larger horses of the breed can reach 2,000 pounds, though some mares may only weigh about 1,200 pounds. There is such a wide variety of sizing within the breed because of the subtypes that were created in the early 19th century.

The smaller, lighter horses tend to come from the bloodlines of the cavalry horses that were bred, while the heavier horses are descendants of the drafting horses.

Many of the conformation requirements of the Norman Cob Horse are similar to what is expected with a Thoroughbred. The head must be well-proportioned, with nostrils that are wide. The ears are smaller than average, with a profile that can be slightly convex, though straight tends to be preferred. 

The neck of the Norman Cob should be arched, muscular, and noticeably thick. Shoulders should be broad and angled, supported by a chest that is deep and pronounced withers. The body is sturdy and compact, lending to an appearance that is a little stocky. Legs are shorter than average as well, but quite muscular, and supported by a thick bone structure.

Several coat colors can be found with the Norman Cob Horse, though bay, chestnut, and black pangare are the most common that are registered. The latter color is more of a brown, not a black color. White markings are permitted, but there is a desire to minimize the trait.

As a whole, the breed is usually calm in temperament and willing. Most Norman Cobs have a large personality, however, and that can lead to miscommunication between the owner and the horse. They are energetic and athletic, so they mature quickly, but they are also very adaptable to changing conditions.

Until 1996, it was a tradition of the breed to have the tail docked. The practice has become illegal in France, but older members of the breed may still show this amputation. During the days of harness riding, tail docking was thought to be necessary to prevent the tail from catching the vehicle or the harness. Now braiding or wrapping the tail is considered acceptable. 

The Norman Cob Horse is a breed that works well for mounted hunts. Their calm temperament is a good option for beginners learning to ride or those with health conditions that could make a fall from a horse a serious event. Although they are not used for driving events as often today, they excel in vaulting events.

Because of its influence and history, the Norman Cob is here to stay. It is an elegant, supportive breed that remains popular in France and throughout Europe.
 

Nokota Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Nokota Horse can be found in the Badlands region of North Dakota. It is a fairly recent breed, first established in the 19th century, but it was almost wiped out in the early 20th century. Bred on ranches from horses that were originally bred from local tribes, many were turned out and formed feral and semi-feral herds.

Because the horses competed in the Badlands region for valuable pasture space, local ranchers and the US Government worked together to eliminate them. By the 1940s, the Nokota Horse was thought to be extinct. Through good fortune, when Theodore Roosevelt National Park was created, a few herds were found to be living within the borders of the park. That act helped to preserve the breed.

For about 40 years, the US Government maintained the herds within the national park until the cost of maintaining them became too great. At that point, several of the herd’s stallions and outside stallions that had migrated to the park were sold off. To preserve the breed, the Kuntz brothers began purchasing the horses.

In 1999, Frank and Leo Kuntz formed the Nokota Horse Conservancy. Through this organization, they began a breed registry. Then, in 2009, the North Dakota Badlands Horse Registry was created to register other horses that had been removed from that specific national park.

To maintain herd numbers within the park, an average of 85 horses are sold each year.

It should also be noted that Nokota is a registered trademark. 

What Is the Origin of the Nokota Horse?

When the Spanish first started to explore North America, they brought their horses across the Atlantic Ocean to help with their transportation needs. Although horses were originally found in North America, their populations had died off. The Colonial Era brought the horses back.

Although the Spanish never went up to North Dakota as part of their early efforts, at least according to how history has documented that period, the native tribes in North America were quick to embrace the comeback of the horse. From the 16th century to the 18th century, as equine populations grew, many tribes began focusing informal breeding efforts toward specific characteristics.

For the tribes in North Dakota, the Badlands offered a very inhospitable region for life. They required horses that were versatile, flexible, and adaptable. Life was centered along the banks of the Little Missouri River, which actually flows northward through the local grasslands of the area.

At the same time, many ranchers, military units, and some native tribes were abandoning their horses because they were too costly to maintain. Some horses would escape their confines and head out into the wilderness as well. Living in this feral state, the horses formed into herds and would find their own territory. Eventually, some of those herds would make their way into North Dakota. 

By the 19th century, when ranchers in the United States were making their way westward, they encountered the feral herds living in the Badlands region. As the ranchers settled down, some of their own domestic horses began to crossbreed with the feral horses. Additional bloodlines from horses owned by the native tribes were included with this process.

The end result was a horse that was quite hardy thanks to a massive combination of genetics. Within the Nokota horse, one can find Spanish, Thoroughbred, Arabian, Shire, and Quarter Horse bloodlines, along with numerous similar types.

Nokota Horses are similar to Mustangs, but because there has been a separate breeding interest within the region, they are treated as a different breed.

During this period on the 19th century, the US Government was essentially domesticating the native tribes, forcing them through war or by treaty to settle onto reservations. Once peace occurred, the horses of the tribe were either slaughtered or sold to limit their movement. Many of the breeding efforts from this era were lost because the horses were deemed to be invaluable because they were so common.

One French aristocrat disagreed with that sentiment. He was attracted to the stamina and hardiness of horses that came from the tribes of North Dakota and invested heavily into purchasing them when offered by the government. The town he founded, Medora, would become the center of the national park. 

Theodore Roosevelt once ranched in the region, which is why the national park there is named after him. He described the horses as being as “wild as the antelope.” Thankfully, the Nakota herds were not as nimble as an antelope, unable to jump the fences that the National Park Service began putting up to protect the parklands. 

The Kuntz brothers loved the Nokota Horse, so when the US Government began selling horses from the park, they made an initial purchase of 54 horses at a 1986 auction. By 1993, the brothers had a herd of 150 horses and North Dakota had passed a motion that made the breed the honorary horse for the state.

Today, the Nokota Horse Conservancy is tracking about 1,000 total individuals, both living and deceased, to maintain bloodline information about the breed.

Since 2006, there was a total living census of about 1,000 Nokota horses globally. Of that population, the Kuntz family owns about 50% of the total number that are known.

There are two stories that are suggested about how the breed got its name. One is that the breed is named after the tribes which lived in the Dakotas before ranchers and homesteaders made their way to the region. The other is that the Kuntz brothers combined North Dakota into one word.

What Are the Characteristics of the Nokota Horse?

The Nokota Horse is relatively small as a breed, with many having a height that would classify them as a pony instead. Because the breed exhibits “horse” qualities, however, the breed is still referred to as a horse. Part of the reason for this is because there are two different foundation types that can be found within the breed.

The traditional Nakota, which are descendants from the herds that were present in the national park when it was created, tend to have more refinement and are closer in appearance to Colonial Spanish horses. They are smaller as well, coming to a height of 14-14.3 hands high.

The Ranch horses, which come from the additional breeds the national park added to its herds from 1940-1980, tend to be a bit larger and resembled Quarter Horses. Some stallions in this subtype may reach 17 hands high, with 15 hands or higher very common.

Nokotas should have prominent withers, a low-set tail, and an angular frame that shows off a sloped croup. One of the most common coat colors for this breed is blue roan, which is very rare in many other breeds. Gray and black tend to be the other common coat colors. Horses have been seen with bay, chestnut, grullo, dun, red roan, and palomino coats.

Although somewhat rare, overo and sabino Pinto patterns have also been observed with this breed.

Both subtypes of the Nokota Horse display an ambling gait that was once called the “Indian Shuffle.” That is in addition to the other standard gaits that are found with most equine breeds.

Nokotas are intelligent and quite versatile, with a unique willingness to learn if their independence is respected. Western riding and endurance racing are the two most common activities for this breed, but some have excelled in dressage, eventing, show jumping, and various types of hunting. 

What Is the Future of the Nokota Horse?

With so many of the Nokota horses being owned by the Kuntz family or the Nokota Horse Conservancy, the focus for the breed is now expansion. A breeding herd is being managed and a growing number of supporters, owners, and conservancy members have come together to support future generations for the breed.

The national park still sells horses from its grounds every year, but the Nakota Horse Conservancy doesn’t accept these new horses for registration as they are no longer thought to be of the original line of horses that were in the park. Most of the horses in the park seek out human contact and have Quarter Horse traits.

Nokota horses are one of the most affordable ways to expand a herd or start one of your own. Some sales are limited to preservation breeders only, but there are several horses available for $1,500-$3,000. Those who don’t wish to purchase a horse can still get involved by sponsoring foals, mares, stallions or young horses as part of a donation.

Newfoundland Pony Origin and Characteristics

The Newfoundland Pony is one of the rarest equine breeds currently in the world today. From 2008 population numbers, there were a total of just 361 of these ponies in the world. Of that number, about 200-250 of them are of breeding age. This census involves registered ponies through the breed society, however, so the count could be higher.

Not only is the breed rare, but it is also quite unique. The Newfoundland Pony is one of the few breeds where a true white coat, without albino characteristics or lethal white syndrome, is possible. Although many ponies tend to be gray and have their coats fade to white, even in this breed, gray ponies have darker skin, while white ponies have pink skin.

The breed registry for the Newfoundland Pony was created in 1980 and it was declared a heritage breed of the province in 1997, but these ponies are not recognized under the Animal Pedigree Act in Canada. They live in a widely dispersed population base and are a breed that is thought to be at a great risk of future extinction unless further preservation actions are taken. 

What Is the History of the Newfoundland Pony?

The Newfoundland Pony developed from a mix of Scottish, Irish, and British ponies that came from Europe during the Colonial Era in the 15th and 16th centuries. These first ponies were often used for drafting and agricultural work, but turned out on their own when they were not needed. The ponies would then gather into different herds and the crossbreeding that occurred helped to form the modern breed that is seen today.

The first ponies that were brought to Canada from Europe were believed to have arrived around the year 1611. The first import shipment was authorized by the Governor of Newfoundland at the time, John Guy, and they were Dartmoor ponies.

Lord Falkland is also credited with bringing European ponies to Canada, including the Galloway pony. Additional bloodlines that helped to form the Newfoundland Pony include the Fell, Highland, Exmoor, New Forest, and Connemara.

Imports of ponies from Europe continued until the mid-1900s, which allowed the Newfoundland pony to begin forming into its own breed. By 1935, there were an estimated 9,000 ponies living on the island of Newfoundland.

After the second world war, a combination of food shortages, upkeep cost, and mechanization virtually wiped out the population of Newfoundland ponies. Exports of horse meat, especially to France, encouraged the slaughter of these ponies because of the price that could be fetched for it. 

When the breed society formed in 1980, the remaining herds were brought in from the wild, counted, and domesticated. In that year, more than 700 ponies were slaughtered and exported to Europe, shipping the horsemeat out of Quebec. In the years after the breed society formed, the total population dropped to fewer than 100 ponies. 

About 300 ponies made the initial transition from a semi-feral existence. After dropping to critical levels, the population level has been restored to the levels seen in the early 1980s. Newfoundland ponies can be found in 8 total Canadian provinces and in scattered locations throughout the United States.

What Are the Characteristics of the Newfoundland Pony?

Most Newfoundland ponies will stand at least 11 hands high, with a maximum height of 14.2 hands allowed for the breed. Some may weigh as little as 400 pounds, while the larger stallions may weigh up to 800 pounds.

Virtually all coat colors can be found within the breed. Bay, black, and brown are the most common colors that are seen, but dun, gray, roan, and chestnut are not uncommon. The white coat color that is seen in the breed persists throughout the life of the horse, with the foal being born with the coat color and it persists throughout adulthood.

Because this breed grows in a new coat for the colder months and sheds it in the warmer months, there can be dramatic coat color changes experienced for some horses.

Newfoundland ponies that are born with a pinto pattern to their coat are not allowed to register. Most have dark limb points, but white or a lighter coloring on the limbs is listed as acceptable by the breed registry if the remainder of the coat doesn’t have the pinto patterning to it.

The head of the Newfoundland Pony is smaller than average, topped with ears that have a thick amount of fur on them. The ears are also smaller than average and have a noticeable point at the tip of their shape. Moving down through the body of the pony, there should be a visual aesthetic that speaks of being muscular and stocky. 

Fine-boned types can be found within this breed as well and they are listed as being acceptable.

The chest of the pony should be deep, while staying narrow, with a short back, a croup that slopes, and a tail that is set low. Both the coat and the mane are noticeably thick, especially during the cold season. It is a sure-footed breed, thanks to its history of roaming the rugged coastal landscapes in Canada and should have feathered fetlocks that extend below the points.

The hooves of the Newfoundland Pony are noticeably hard, with a slightly narrow profile, adapted over the generations to handle the local landscapes. 

As part of the conformation evaluation, there is a requirement for each pony in the breed to have a gentle, quiet temperament. Ponies which are highly spirited may be excluded from the registry to avoid having the temperament passed to future generations. The pony should also be free of defects that could endanger the animal from living a normal and healthy life. 

This makes the Newfoundland Pony an excellent family pony. They are used quite often for driving or recreational riding, with a few seen on occasion at various horse shows.

How to Help the Newfoundland Pony

The Newfoundland Pony Society is a registered charity and encourages anyone who is interested in the preservation efforts of this breed to submit a donation. There are corporate sponsorship levels available to interested brands that offers logo placement and newsletter inclusion with the breed society.

Volunteering at upcoming events or planning an event can help the breed as well. You can also join the breed society as a member, even if you do not currently own any Newfoundland ponies.

In the coming years, there will be many challenges that this heritage breed will continue to face. Although it is offered numerous provincial protections, the census remains critical and it would not take much to have this beautiful breed disappear forever. By taking the time to act now, we can together make a big difference and have this ponies continuing living with us for generations to come.

New Forest Pony Origin and Characteristics

The New Forest Pony is a recognized moorland pony breed that is native to the British Isles. They are highly valued because of their general strength and hardiness. Because of their rugged homeland, they are also considered a top sure-footed breed.

 

Horses and ponies have been in the New Forest region for millennia. Some equine remains within 50 miles of where the New Forest Pony typically lives have been dated as far back as the 500th century BC. Even today, one can find these ponies grazing in the open meadows of the region, though they are owned by “commoners.”

Annual marking fees are paid to turn the ponies out to graze. This provides the owner with a right of common pasture, which also helps the breed maintain its somewhat wild characteristics and conformation. Although they are turned out to a common pasture, there are 5 designated individuals who monitor and maintain the herds throughout the season.

They may live in a feral state, but the herds are rounded up at least once each year for veterinary care. Stallions that are approved by the breed society run with the mares in the region for a short period to promote foaling, which maintains the breed’s population.

In 1945, there were an estimated 600 New Forest ponies remaining in the region. With the care structure that is in place today, there is a census of several thousand. 

The History of the New Forest Pony

The earliest written record of the New Forest Pony comes from the 11th century. William the Conqueror imported more than 2,000 horses to the region because he had claimed the area as a royal hunting ground. At the same time, rights to common pasture were first granted to residents of the area.

A second story of the breed’s origin is more of a myth than fact. Some in New Forest like to tell the story of how shipwrecks from the Spanish Armada in the 16th century caused horses to swim to the shore. Once safe, they like the region so much that they decided to stay there. There were, however, New Forest ponies that were exported to Spain and crossbred with local horses as part of the Renaissance Wars.

Although horses have been in the region for centuries, there is a notable line of Thoroughbred genetics that has helped to provide the foundation for the modern New Forest Pony. Marske, who is the son of Eclipse and part of the family tree of Darley Arabian, was bred with rural mares in the region around 1760. Those genetics helped to solidify many of the characteristics that are seen in the breed today.

In the 19th century, a decline in the population was seen because of poor breeding standards. To save the breed, it was decided to bring in Arabian stallions. Population numbers were critical, with more than 1,500 horses dying in just 25 years. As a result of the new breeding efforts, the size of the New Forest Pony grew and they could no longer be used as pit ponies. That led the breed to be introduced to more agricultural work opportunities.

Since 1930, the practice of selling off the best ponies from the region has been ended to help preserve the breed. At the same time, moorland and mountain ponies were introduced to the New Forest bloodlines to reinforce the foundations that were first set centuries ago. Only purebred New Forest stallions are turned out to the common pastures today and those must be approved by the breed society, which was first formed in 1891.

A stud book has been published for the breed since 1960. Many countries have their own stud books as well since the New Forest Pony has been exported to North America, Australia, and throughout Europe. 

Characteristics of the New Forest Pony

The characteristics expected of the New Forest Pony are set by the breeding society. There is no minimum height standard, but the maximum height for the breed is 14.2 hands. Most New Forest ponies will be at least 12 hands high. For showing purposes, the ponies are placed into two competition heights: those above 54 inches (138 centimeters) and those below.

The modern pony should be of a riding type. It should have a workmanlike personality and be strong in the physical conformations expected. The body should be deep, with a slightly stocky profile, but still small enough that the average child would be able to safely ride the pony. The legs should be strong, supported by rounded and hard hooves, with flat bones and a sloping shoulder.

Smaller ponies are coveted because they have better show qualities, especially from their physical characteristics, but that also means they cannot support heavier riders.

The three common coat colors for the New Forest Pony are gray, chestnut, and bay. Skewbald and piebald coats are excluded from registering, as is the blue-eyed cream combination. Palomino horses are accepted, but must either be a mare or a gelding. White markings are allowed on the lower legs and the head, but not allowed when they appear behind the head or above the bend of the knee.

A winter coat does come in for this breed and that can change the appearance of the horse slightly.

Horses with blue eyes, even if not with the cream-colored coat, are not accepted as a purebred individual. 

Ponies that are disqualified from registering are allowed to be included as part of the stud book appendix. For this breed, that book is called the “X-Register.” Any offspring from these appendix horses are not allowed to register as a purebred New Forest Pony.

The temperament of this breed is gentle. They are intelligent, versatile, and very strong. In general terms, the New Forest Pony is hardy, sturdy, and can handle most environments.

Testing is now required within the breed for congenital myotonia. This is a muscular conditional that affects skeletal muscles and causes muscles to delay in their relaxation. Ponies with this condition may appear stiff all the time, suffer from muscle weakness, and experience pain from cramping. It is a recent condition for the breed, discovered in 2009, and believed to be traced to one stallion, named Kantje’s Ronaldo.

Offspring from the stallion are being tested and, if found to be a carrier for the condition, will be removed from the breed’s stud book.

Life in New Forest for a Pony

The herds in New Forest are labeled as being semi-feral. They are owned through annual fees that are paid, looked after, and given proper veterinary care. About 80% of the ponies that are brought in from common pasture are owned by just 10% of those who own horses through common grazing rights.

Almost all of the ponies in the New Forest pastures are mares. Most live in small herds, usually based on family units. There will be the older mare, her daughters, and whatever foals have been born in the last year. Mares and geldings, by New Forest law, can actually be of any breed. It is not uncommon to see some Shetland ponies out in the pastures with the New Forest ponies.

Stallions must be registered and are only allowed to run free during the mating season in the spring or summer. About 4 dozen stallions are turned out each year to prevent changes to herd formation. This structure also prevents foals from being born when it is too hot or too cold in most years.

At the age of 2, stallions are evaluated for suitability. If they fail their assessment, then they must be gelded.

This structure has created a genetic bottleneck within the breed, which led to a program called the Bloodline Diversity Project. Mares that are 11 years of age or older are bred to stallions that have not been turned out to the pastures before. Then the judging and assessment of those foals remains consistent with what occurs for the ponies who live in a semi-feral state. 

Certain challenges still exist for this breed. Visitors to the New Forest region like to come and feed the horses, which creates dietary problems for certain individuals. It can also make some ponies become food-aggressive, creating negative social interactions within the family group because of their preference for human food.

Some ponies tend to wander out into the roads of the region as well. To protect them, local laws allow the ponies to have the right of way over a vehicle. Reflective collars are sometimes placed on the ponies so they can be seen at night, but because the pastures are open, traffic accidents do cause fatalities within the breed every year.

Although there are challenges to face, the New Forest Pony has a bright future ahead of it. With its unique care structure, ability to adapt, and overall willingness, there is nothing to hold this breed back.
 

Mustang Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Wild West. The American Frontier.

The folklore that surrounds this brief period of time in westward expansion from the East Coast to the West has a certain romanticism about it. Even if the idea of a Manifest Destiny fueled the fire to move away from the initial colonies, there was only one way to travel to the west: by horse.

Those horses needed to come to the United States in the first place since there were no horses here when Europe’s first explorers stopped by for a visit.

By combining both events together, we find the story of the Mustang beginning to develop. We have cowboys on horseback managing their livestock herds in vast prairies. There are stories of daring robberies, brave lawmen, and homesteaders working hard to create a better life for their children.

The period of time for the Old West falls between 1783-1920, but the Wild West, the stories of the American Frontier, all fit into a 25-year period at the end of the 19th century.

It was a time of optimism. It was a time of hardship. There were gold rushes where fortunes were made and gold busts where people lost everything. Those who lost everything would keep their horse as their last final straw of hope. If they could not even support that horse, they would turn it loose.

And that is where we begin to tell the story of how the Mustang horse became a legendary part of the American Froniter. 

What Is the History of the Mustang Horse?

Horses were once native to North America, but are believed to have died out in the aftermath of the last Ice Age. Fossil evidence, along with DNA evidence, suggest that there were two closely related horse species throughout what would become Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

When Christopher Columbus came to North America during his exploration efforts, he brought horses along for the ride during his second journey in 1493. These horses were settled in the West Indies from Spain.

When Cortes arrived on the mainland in 1519, his domesticated horses came along with him. In just 6 years, there were enough horses to begin breeding programs in the New World.

That means the first horses that would be classified as Mustangs were actually Colonial Spanish Horses. As settlers moved west and explorers continued to look for new frontiers, horses were often the casualty of such ventures. It was costly to maintain a horse and many just didn’t have the resources to do so. Rather than slaughter them, many just turned them loose into the wilds of the US West.

Over time, more horses joined the herds that roamed the mountains and valleys of the west. Some ranch horses would escape their confines and join these herds as well. A few are even descendants from cavalry horses that were turned loose after the wars in the west. These horses mixed their lineage as the herds continued to grow and this resulted in a modern Mustang that can be quite varied.

As the herds continued to move West, many cultures began to integrate them back into their cultures. Native and First Nations tribes quickly incorporated the use of horses into their culture, using them for transportation purposes. Horses made hunting easier, gave warriors an advantage in battle, and allowed far-away tribes to interact with one another on a regular basis. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Mustang Horse?

Although it no longer exists, the American Mustang Association once created a set of breed standards as an attempt to formalize the breed instead of maintaining the classification of a semi-feral horse. Height variations do occur with Mustangs, but most are generally between 14-15 hands high. Because of some draft horses being let loose into the herds over the decades, however, there are some Mustang stallions that can exceed 18 hands, though the breed standard excludes any horse above 16 hands.

Each herd is isolated from one another throughout the US West, which means each is genetically different from the other. Distinct traits can be traced to specific herds.

The herds also tend to develop their own characteristics to deal with conditions where they reside. In Nevada, for example, there are two herds that are known to produce Curly horses. In Wyoming, there are some herds that produce consistent qualities that are similar to today’s gaited horses. Then there are certain Mustang lines that are quite consistent with modern Spanish horses.

For most herds, the light riding-type body style is what predominates. Mustangs can have any coat color and may have primitive markings, though horses with a clear Spanish ancestry tend to have a dun coat. Draft horse characteristics and coloration exist as well. Some herds have racehorse-type characteristics.

In general terms, the withers should be average in height and the shoulder should be long and sloping. A short back is common with the modern Mustang, while the facial profile is typically slightly convex, but can be straight. The croup of a Mustang is rounded, neither goose-rumped or flat, with a tail that is low-set.

The hooves of a Mustang are dense and round to support the horse in the changing environments of the wild.

What About Today’s Mustang?

In the United States, Mustang herds are managed by the Bureau of Land Management. There are Herd Designated Areas that are established, determining the number of horses that can be sustained as a free-roaming, but still feral, population. There are herds of horses that have moved into Alberta and British Columbia as well. 

The US Government has established the number of horses that can be managed at 26,000.

Managing the Mustang herds has always been a costly and somewhat controversial venture. At the end of the 19th century, there were an estimated 1 million horses in the Mustang herds roaming the empty lands of the western states. By 1970, there were just 17,000 horses remaining. Since then, the number has doubled, and that has brought new calls to bring the population numbers back under control.

An amendment to a 2018 Interior Department spending bill would potentially authorize the US Government to slaughter thousands of Mustangs as an effort to save money.

It is possible to adopt Mustangs that are corralled as the BLM manages the population. It is a minimal fee to purchase the rights to adopt the horse, but the government is required to verify that the new owners have the means, capabilities, and skills to work with their horse so it can be properly domesticated. The adoption fee can be as low as $125.

More than 225,000 Mustangs have been adopted through this program since 1971.

Are Mustangs Inbred and of an Inferior Quality?

Breeders who work with domestic horses sometimes dismiss the Mustang as being an inferior breed. Because these horses are classified as being feral instead of wild, due to their history of being released or escaping, there is a belief that many of the herds suffer from inbreeding. This would create herds with genetic bottlenecks that would create foals that were of an inferior quality.

Critics of the Mustang would point at their generally smaller size and traits that would add weakness to individual horses as evidence of this inbreeding.

It could also be argued that Mustangs are smaller because of the difficult living conditions where they exist in the deserts and mountains of the western United States. Natural selection would then take care of any weaknesses that could be found within the breed.

One question typically remains about the Mustang: should they still be considered feral or should they be classified as a wild horse?

Proponents of having the Mustang be “wild” point to the fact that horses used to live in North America and were once wild, so Mustangs are simply reclaiming that heritage. The government and critics would argue that a domesticated horse that escapes or is turned loose is hardly a wild animal. 

What we do know is this: population management will continue to be a subject of some controversy for people on both sides of the aisle. There is a desire to protect these horses and allow them to explore their natural state. There is also a desire to reduce the amount of money spent on maintaining these herds and to increase the amount of public lands that can be leased for development purposes.

There is no easy answer that will solve the problems that the free-ranging Mustangs face today. The best solution at the moment is to pursue adoption when it is made available. By knowing the history and characteristics of the modern Mustang, it may just be possible to find a solution that works for all parties.
 

Mountain Pleasure Horse Origin and Characteristics

In the mountains of the United States, gaited horses have been extremely popular since the regions were settled by homesteaders. With a smooth gait, the horse could offer a better ride over difficult terrain and allow workers to reach their livestock with relative ease.

The Mountain Pleasure Horse is one off the gaited breeds that reflects the tradition of breeding for specific characteristics in the mountains. Some horses within this breed, through written and oral histories, have bloodlines that can be traced back over two centuries.

What is unique about the Mountain Pleasure Horse is the sureness of this breed. When the association for the breed was formed, it became the first mountain-type horse breed association to require blood-typing. In order for a horse to be registered, absolute identification of the parentage is mandatory. Although DNA testing has replaced blood-typing today, the efforts to retain genetic strength have led to a well-developed breed that retains the characteristics so many wanted, so long ago. 

Because of the exclusions that occurred during the establishment of the breed association, the Mountain Pleasure Horse is deemed to be a critically endangered breed. 

Origins of the Mountain Pleasure Horse

The dates of the first Mountain Pleasure Horse breeding programs are unknown. The Mountain Pleasure Horse Association reports on comments offered by the Stamper family.

“We’ve been breeding and using the Mountain Pleasure Horse in my family clear back to Grandpa J.C. Stamper. I’m guessing now, but I believe he was born about 1815. We just called him the Mountain Horse back then. That ‘Pleasure’ part is new. Horses up here had to work for a living. They still do, for that matter. No one could afford a horse that only rode good, but wouldn’t work. People up here had families to feed.”

When the first settlers began to push westward in the United States, they brought with them several different breeds of horses with smooth gaits. Many of the horses were descendants of Hobbies, Pacers, and Trotters. The Narragansett Pacer, developed in New England, was especially popular and helped to establish new homesteads in Eastern Kentucky.

As the smooth-gaited horses began to lose their purebred status due to crossbreeding, the next generation of horses were simply referred to as mountain horses or saddle horses. Living in the rugged mountains of Appalachia, anyone with transportation needs found that a horse that was sure-footed, with a smooth gait, was an essential part of life. These traits began to be bred from the various horses that had been moved into the region, which allowed the Mountain Pleasure Horse to slowly develop.

Careful attention was paid to the qualities that were believed to make a good saddle horse in the breeding programs in Kentucky. Mares would be bred to stallions within the same branch of qualities that were desired, often within the same family or homestead as well. Although formal breeding records weren’t kept in the mountains during the 19th century, the family names and origins of horses were an oral tradition that was passed down, keeping the Mountain Pleasure Horse pushing forward.

Between 1900-1940, the Tennessee Walking Horse came into Appalachia and began to improve the mountain horses. The mountain horses helped to improve the Walkers. During this period, palominos were sought after with abundance and this introduced certain coat colorations into the mountain horses as well.

Additional bloodlines from American Saddlebreds and Rocky Mountain Horses were also added.

The informal nature of the Mountain Pleasure Horse continued until 1989, when a group of breeder in Kentucky decided an association would help to protect their best interests. To create the initial registry, the group held certification days on Saturdays where everyone could bring their mountain horses to be inspected.

From these inspections, a group of foundation stock was selected and every known pedigree was recorded. Proof parentage was then established through DNA testing and the Mountain Pleasure Horse was finally established as a breed. The registry books were closed in 1991 with 100 stallions and 400 mares.

In 2009, the books were opened again to create an appendix, but the registry was separated into two separate categories in 2014 because the appendix was having a detrimental effect on the breed. 

Characteristics of the Mountain Pleasure Horse

The Mountain Pleasure Horse is a medium-sized horse, with most standing 15.2 hands high or less. There should be a balance to the proportions of the horse, creating a physical appearance that speaks of longevity, soundness, and sturdiness. 

The horse should have a shoulder that is laid-back, preferably with an angle of 45 degrees. This will allow the horse to reach with their stride, providing a better overall movement profile. Accompanied by hind legs that are correctly angled to create a smoother gait, a sure-footedness is created so that steep or rugged terrain can be easily navigated by the horse.

Mountain Pleasure Horses should have a neck that is arched and an “attractive” head, with kind eyes that speak of a quiet intelligence. The horse should have a calm temperament, be good around children, and have common sense present in every situation the horse finds itself. 

The gait of a Mountain Pleasure Horse is at the intermediate speed and is a 4-beat lateral gait with moderate speed. Unlike other gaited horses, there isn’t an exaggerated hock or knee action to the gait. This creates a smoothness in the ride that most other breeds cannot achieve due to the selective breeding that took place over the last two centuries on this specific characteristic.

Many foals are able to demonstrate their ability with this innate gait within hours of being born. 

The Future of the Mountain Pleasure Horse

The Mountain Pleasure Horse is recognized as being the oldest gaited breed in North America by its breed association. The goal of the association is to preserve the bloodlines of the breed while developing and promoting it the general public. Then the emphasis is to grow the population levels of this rare horse.

There are still mountain horses with ambling and smooth gaits that can be found in the mountains of the United States. Some rural farms and ranches still rely on the oral breeding histories of their horses to create specific characteristics. Although the breed has been formalized and genetics verified, the traditions which started the Mountain Pleasure Horse remain and will likely do so for as long as time exists. 

Morgan Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Morgan horse is a true American success story. With a lineage that can be traced to a single stallion in the 18th century, this breed has grown to become an integral part of US culture – even if some may not realize its influence.

 

During the US Civil War, for example, both sides used Morgans as part of their cavalry regiments.

Morgan horses have also been integral in the establishment of several new horse breeds. One Morgan stallion in a foundation stallion in 3 different breeds that exist today. Exported Morgans helped to influence the breeding of the Hackney horse as well.

In total, there are an estimated 200,000 Morgans living around the world today. It is a versatile breed, willing to learn new skills quickly, and serves as the state horse of both Massachusetts and Vermont.

Morgans have also been part of US children’s literature over the years. Notable authors, such as Ellen Feld and Marguerite Henry, have portrayed the breed as a primary character in their books. Disney has even picked up stories about Morgans and turned them into movies.

It is rare to find a horse that is social and loving at home, but calm and courageous while serving in battle. Because the Morgan horse has proven itself in both arenas, time after time, it is understandable to see why it has become such a popular breed for so many. 

What Is the History of the Morgan Horse?

The Morgan horse is named after Justin Morgan. He was living in Randolph, Vermont, but decided to move to Springfield Massachusetts. He was a composer, a teacher, an early entrepreneur, and an avid horseman. As part of a debt, he was giving a bay colt to have it settled. Morgan would name this colt Figure.

Figure would then move on to other owners after Morgan passed away. He spent a life that involved farm work, hauling freight, and serving as a parade mount. Figure’s name would be changed to Justin Morgan, as was the practice of the day, to honor the owner. Although Figure died in 1821, his legacy continues on with the establishment of the Morgan horse breed.

This makes the Morgan horse one of the earliest horse breeds that was exclusively developed in the United States. Morgans are also the only breed of horse that were managed by the US Government.

The exact pedigree of Figure is not known, even with extensive efforts to determine what his parentage may have been. What we do know is that he was the sire of 6 sons that have formal records and they each became part of the integral foundation of the Morgan breed. One of his sons, named Black Hawk, would also serve as a foundation stallion for the Standardbred, the American Saddlebred, and the Tennessee Walking Horse.

In the first days of the breed, Morgans were almost exclusively used for harness racing and pulling coaches. As westward movement continued to occur in the US, especially with the gold rush of 1849, the temperament and strength of the breed was discovered to be a positive influence in battle and other difficult situations. Morgans would be one of the most-sought after breeds of horse during the US Civil War. 

There Are 4 Morgan Bloodlines in Existence Right Now

Within the Morgan Breed, there are 4 distinct bloodlines with unique characteristics. Two are based on family breeding programs, the third is based on the government programs, and the final bloodline is a generalized category that focuses on how the horses were used rather than their physical traits.

Here are the 4 bloodlines and what they add to the Morgan breed.

  • Brunk. This family had a breeding program in Illinois for Morgans and their focus was to create horses that were athletic with superior soundness.
  • Government. This group of Morgans comes from the government breeding programs that were directly maintained from 1905-1951. This breeding group is still active through the University of Vermont on the same farm that the US government once owned.
  • Lippitt. This group of Morgans is often treated as the best example of a pure horse, directly descended from Figure with zero outcrosses to other breeds since the beginning of the 20th century.
  • 2WF. The western working family of Morgans does not have a common ancestor, but is instead the group of horses that were shipped west to work on ranches. Some of the horses in this group came from the government’s breeding program.

The American Morgan Horse Association accepts horses from all 4 bloodlines as long as the parentage of the horse can be proven. Associations for each family group, however, may exclude purebred Morgans because they do not meet the specific expectations of that lineage. A Lippitt Morgan, for example, could potentially be a 2WF Morgan, but couldn’t be a Brunk Morgan.

Founded in 1909 as the Morgan Horse Club, the American Morgan Horse Association sees more than 3,000 new foals begin registered every year. Since 1996, a National Morgan Pony Registry has also been active, creating a specializing for purebred Morgans that are under 14.2 hands high. There is also the Rainbow Morgan Horse Association, which began operations in 1990, to serve Morgans with unusual coat colors, such as those with the cream dilution or silver dapple genes.

Several different associations help to serve the breed as well. The Foundation Morgan Horse Association registers stocker-type horses that were seen in the late 19th century before the American Saddlebred was introduced to the breed. Then there is the Lippitt Club exclusively serves horses with lineage from that line and maintains a DNA database. 

What Are the Expected Characteristics of the Morgan Horse?

Despite there being 4 lineage branches within the Morgan breed, there is just one breed standard which applies to all horses. A Morgan should be refined, visually compact, and have an expressive profile and personality. The head should be straight, but a slightly convex profile is still acceptable. This will be complemented by a broad forehead, prominent eyes that are large, and withers that have excellent definitions.

Morgans should provide a visual appearance of being strong and muscular. The back is short, but the neck is upright and arched. Laid-back shoulders help the horse to drive forward with power, supported by hindquarters that should be strongly muscled.

Although Morgans have warm and hot-blooded tendencies, their temperament is somewhere between a warm-blood and a cold-blood. They are definitely easy keepers and enjoy making social connections with humans. There will always be the individual horse who is stubborn, defiant, and refuse to work with anyone, but for the most part, Morgans are a good family horse and well-suited for beginners.

Most Morgans will be at least 14.1 hands high, with stallions often achieving 15.2 hands. Some individuals can be smaller or taller, but height is generally not a restriction for registration.

There is a wide variety of coat colors that can be found with the Morgan breed. Chestnut, black, and bay coats are the most common, while roan, dun, gray, and silver dapple coats are still seen on a regular basis. Cream dilution coats, such as buckskins or palominos, are also a possibility. Perlino and cremello Morgans are rare, but possible. Pinto color patterns are also recognized within the breed.

Morgans with the silver dapple gene are more likely to experience health problems, especially with their eyesight. The possibility of lethal white syndrome also exists within the breed. Because of this, the American Morgan Horse Association promotes genetic testing to identify horses that are carriers and to have them excluded from the breeding pool. 

The Morgan horse is extremely versatile and can participate in numerous competitive and show events. They excel in show jumping and dressage, but endurance, cutting, and pleasure riding are all possible from the same horse. Morgans were also the first breed to compete in the World Pairs Driving Competition for the United States.

Their gentle disposition also makes them a fantastic therapeutic horse for those who would benefit from experiential therapies.

What Is the Future of the Morgan Horse?

The Morgan horse may be one of America’s first breeds, but it isn’t going away any time soon. With such consistency and versatility, it has become a global phenomenon. You’ll find large populations of Morgans in Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and throughout North America. Many countries have their own breeders’ association, with some affiliated with the American Morgan Horse Association.

As long as DNA testing continues to remove carriers of potential genetic and health disorders from the breeding pool, Morgans will continue to be healthy, long-lived horses with an almost infinite upside. 

Morgans choose to be with you. You can make the coice to be with a Morgan today too.

Morab Horse Origin and Characteristics

Until 1973, the Morab horse was an undocumented breed. Most Morabs that were bred in the first century of the breed’s existence were registered with the American Morgan Horse Association, if they were even registered at all. Because the stud book was open at the time, all Morabs that were accepted for registration are officially part of the Morgan breed and are considered disassociated from the Morab breed.

The modern Morab horse has the breeding program of Martha Fuller to thank for its existence. Started in 1955 after several attempts to breed a horse that could compete on the open show circuit in California and throughout the United States, the initial registry is often referred to as the “Clovis Registry” because of the location of Fuller’s program.

In the early 1980s, after Fuller died, the American Morab Horse Association closed its operations. This allowed the North American Morab Horse Association to form, offering registration and promotion of the breed so it could continue. All Clovis-based horses were allowed to register, even though many were registered based on type instead of lineage.

An international association was established for the Morab horse in 1987 and continues to operate today. The goal is to emphasize a true Morab-type horse based on established Morgan and Arabian lineage.  A purebred association was started in 1998 and a third registry for Morabs was started in 1999 in the State of Illinois. 

The History of the Morab Horse

The Morab horse is a breed that was developed through the cross-breeding of Morgans and Arabians. The first efforts at creating this breed occurred in the late 19th century when there was a desire to create a carriage horse that could also perform moderate farm work. It resulted in a horse that was competitive, attractive, while retaining the power and stamina needed for everyday tasks.

Beginning in 1857, the recommendation to breed Morgans to Arabian mares, if no purebred Morgan mare could be obtained, was published in an essay by D.C. Lindsley. The essay, titled The Morgan Horse, caused many breeders to follow the recommendation. By combining “Morgan” and “Arabian” together, the breed obtained its name and has kept it ever since.

William Randolph Hearst is credited with coining the term that would eventually become the name of the breed. 

From these initial efforts, a horse named Golddust was produced. Golddust was an excellent trotting horse, a great walker, and had almost unparalleled success in the show ring at the time. He would sire over 300 foals and more than 100 Morab horses have their lineage traced to him at this time.

Between the 1880s and the 1920s, there is a large gap in the history of the Morab horse. It wouldn’t be until Hearst, who had an extensive Arabian breeding program, started a Morgan breeding program as well and mixed the two operations together. The Hearst ranch would register over 100 horses with the American Morgan Horse Association, with 18 of them being Morabs.

Several notable Morab horses to continue the establishment of the breed came from the stud farm in Stamford, Texas owned by the Swenson brothers. They had 7 Morgan mares and 3 Arabian stallions, along with two Morgan stud colts, at the beginning of their operation and helped to drive the Morab toward official recognition.

Expected Characteristics of the Morab Horse

The Morab horse retains many of the notable characteristics of the Morgan and Arabian breeds. Most individuals should have a compact appearance, but still have a substantial structure to their appearance that speaks of power and performance. Their muscle structure is sleek instead of bulky, which helps to provide a visual aesthetic that speaks of refinement and elegance.

The neck of the Morab should be set deep, arched, and notably strong. This provides the horse with better fluid mobility and allows for easier breathing. The back length is a bit shorter than average, a common trait in breeds that come from Arabian ancestry, but the undercarriage is exceptionally developed and there is great power generated from the movement of the horse.

Morabs should have a head that has excellent definition, offering a concave profile, wide forehead, and a jaw that is noticeably muscled. The muzzle is quite substantial, which is a trademark of the Morgan lineage within the breed. They should have bright, expressive eyes and ears that are small, but alert, and sometimes tipped or fluted.

Mature Morab horses should have a broad chest that is quite noticeable. There should be extra space around the back ribs and the heart, with added width around the hip. The legs should be sound, straight, and long with large joints and flat bones. This creates a broad, long forearm and a short cannon bone.

All solid coat colors exist within the Morab breed, with a mane and tail that is noticeably thick, flowing, and wavy. Bay, gray, and chestnut are the most common coat colors. Because of the Morgan influences on the breed, there are frequent palomino and buckskin coat colors compared to other breeds. Patterned coats are not considered acceptable, but roaning and the dun pattern are occasionally seen.

White markings found on the legs or the face are common and considered acceptable. 

Most individuals will stand between 14.2-15.2 hand high, but some stallions have been known to exceed 16 hands high. Most Morabs are not gaited, but because of the Morgan bloodlines and the ambling gait that a few have had in the past, there is the possibility of a Morab being gaited. The intermediate gait is often the singlefoot, but a true rack and a fox trot have also been seen within the breed.

Some Morab horses will also possess a natural high knee and hock action, but will also retain the free-flowing gait that is the hallmark of the breed. This creates a horse that is eager, personable, but still easy to handle.

The Future of the Morab Breed

After some initial stumbles and confusion, the Morab horse has finally developed an association that has led to the advancement of the breed in the equine world. The breed associations have come together under the purebred banner to promote programs and opportunities to breeders that are active with these horses.

In the past, horses in previous Morab registries were accepted without question. Now those horses are excluded without question because of doubts that exist regarding their lineage. Morabs with documented 50/50 bloodlines are only accepted for registry today and no crossing back to create 75/25 mixes are allowed.

Now that Arabian and Morgan parentage must be documented, the Mora horse is set to grow. With its friendly disposition and willingness to work, it is easy to see why so many people are seeing the Morab as the breed for them. 

Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Origin and Characteristics

If you’re taking a trip through the Ozark Mountains on horseback, then there’s a good chance that you’ll find yourself riding a Missouri Fox Trotter. This breed isn’t native to the region, but has developed in the rugged mountains for nearly two centuries, and that has led to unique characteristics within the trotters today that benefit from the origins of this breed.

Much of what is loved about this horse is their ability to carry weight while maintaining a smooth gait. For that reason, they are used in several recreational capacities today. Individuals with disabilities can even take advantage of the gait offered by the Missouri Fox Trotter so they can enjoy a ride as well.

Missouri Fox Trotters are quite fast, despite the trot being an intermediate gait. While using the fox trot, a horse can complete short-distance tasks at a speed of up to 10 miles per hour. Over long distances with a rider, most horses can maintain a speed of up to 8 miles per hour. 

What Is the History of the Missouri Fox Trotter?

The Missouri Fox Trotter has its origins in the Ozark Mountains, developed by 19th century settlers looking for a new start on life. Because of the terrain and needs of homesteading, the breed quickly developed its unique trotting gait.

The breed came about through the breeding of equine stock that included gaited horses that were brought into Missouri during the period of settlement. Homesteaders came from Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee and brought with them a variety of horse breeds. Contributing to the establishment of the Missouri Fox Trotter are Standardbreds, Arabians, Morgans, Tennessee Walking Horses, and the American Saddlebred.

By 1821, when Missouri achieved statehood in the United States, the Missouri Fox Trotter was already well-known throughout the region for its gait. Homesteaders found it an extremely impressive horse for handling the rocky trails found in the Ozarks. Cattlemen could use these horses to work with livestock in difficult areas and quickly chase down stragglers or escapees in the rugged environment.

Despite their overall popularity, a breed association for the Missouri Fox Trotter was not established until 1948. The Queen of England would import the first trotters to Europe in the 1950s when several palomino horses of the breed were exported from the US.

From 1948-1982, the stud book was open for the breed. Since then, only horses from registered parents are allowed to be entered. In 2002, the Missouri Fox Trotter became the official state horse of its namesake state. Today, they can be found throughout North America and Europe, though most of the population resides in the United States. There are fewer than 1,000 trotters living in Europe, with about half of them residing in Germany.

The first Missouri Fox Trotter association in Europe was formed in 1992 and became an official affiliate of the American association. In 1996, the first championship show for the breed took place in Europe, but it wouldn’t be until 2010 when the first efforts to create a European stud book for the breed would begin. The Free University of Berlin is highly involved in the establishment of European Missouri Fox Trotters as a breed.

Beginning in 2006, an effort was formed to preserve the original heritage-type of Missouri Fox Trotter that was originally seen on the first registrations of the breed. Part of the goal in establishing this preservation effort is to reduce the amount of Tennessee Walking Horse bloodlines that are found in the trotters.

Today, you will still find trotters working on ranches in the US West, helping to drive livestock and handle the long distances that need to be covered. They are also extensively used for recreational riding and some compete in athletic or show events. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Missouri Fox Trotter?

A Missouri Fox Trotter will stand 14-16 hands high and typically weighs 1,200 pounds or less. For ponies that are kept in a separate registry, but are still part of the breed, the average height will be 11-14 hands high with a weight typically less than 900 pounds. The pony registry is maintained by the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association, but cross-registry parentage is discouraged.

The Missouri Fox Trotter can be of any solid coat color. Pinto coloration is also possible within the breed. It is very common for the horse to have white markings on their legs and their face.

The facial profile of the horse should be straight. The neck is of average length in proportion to the body and the withers should be quite pronounced. When looking at this breed, there should be a noticeable sturdiness to the horse, supported by a shorter back, very sturdy legs, and shoulders that are sloped just a bit.

Each individual should exhibit a temperament that is sound, calm, and good-natured. The horses should be relaxed, quiet, but not entirely placid. They are a wonderfully social horse, seeking out human companionship, but can handle time on their own when it is needed. Trotters are highly intelligent, ready to learn something new, and easy keepers. 

Instead of the standard trot, the Missouri Fox Trotter performs the gait of its name. The fox trot gait is a 4-beat, broken diagonal gait which has the front foot of the diagonal pair land before the hind foot. This eliminates any suspension in the ride, limiting the bounce a rider will experience. It is a gait that also contributes to the sure-footedness of the breed.

This format tends to make the gait of the modern trotter be a little smoother than what riders can find in other horses, which adds to its popularity. They work well with children and are patient enough to help beginners of any age begin to learn how to ride a horse with confidence. 

Interesting Facts About the Missouri Fox Trotter

  • There are an estimated 50,000 registered Missouri Fox Trotters around the world right now.
  • In the United States, the Forest Service uses the Missouri Fox Trotter for backcountry work that rangers are required to do in the national parks because of the sure-footedness of the breed.
  • Most Missouri Fox Trotters who are in good health have an average life expectancy of 20-30 years. 

As the popularity of the Missouri Fox Trotter continues to grow, the survivability of the breed could come into question. Donkeys are already being crossed with trotter mares to create pack animals that retain the gait and that is just one example of several practices. With conservation efforts in place and a closed stud book supporting the purity of the breed, however, there is great potential for future trotters to experience even more success.

Miniature Horse Origin and Characteristics

Miniature horses can be found almost everywhere in the world, though they are the most popular in Europe, North America, and South America. To qualify as a miniature horse, the breed standard of a specific association cannot be more than 34 inches when measured from the last hair of the mane.

Some associations may allow a horse to measure up to 38 inches at the last hairs of the mane, found at the withers, to qualify as a miniature horse.

Any horse that meets these standards can register with their local miniature horse association. In the United States, the American Miniature Horse Association is the primary registering body governing these horses.

They are called miniature horses because they retain the characteristics of an adult horse, but are the size of a small pony. Several different breeds qualify as a miniature horse, including American Miniatures, Appy Ponies, Dutch Miniatures, Caspians, and Falabellas.

Minis can happen in some breeds naturally, but the genetic changes that are required to maintain a horse at this size come from specific breeding programs. That is why the history of the Miniature Horse and its growing population and number of distinct breeds is such a fascinating component of equine history. 

What Is the History of the Miniature Horse?

It is believed that the first miniature horses were developed in Europe during the 17th century. Around the middle of the 18th century, just before the American Revolution, miniature horses were often seen as the pets of nobles and royalty. Miners would also use these horses to help pull carts and wagons after 1842 when young children were prohibited from working in the mines.

Shetland ponies were often the first miniature horses that were seen, but any small horse that could fit into a mine shaft would be used as a pit pony. Until the era of mechanization, the demand for small horses that could work in difficult conditions was quite high, and that led to the development of many miniature horses.

In the United States, miniature horses were first introduced in 1861 when John Rarey imported 4 Shetland ponies. One of the ponies was just 24 inches tall. Mining horses from England and the Dutch were regularly imported around this time as well, retaining popularity until the turn of the century. Miniature horses were also used in US mines until the 1950s.

A separate line of miniature horses was developed in the middle of the 19th century in Argentina by a man named Patrick Newell. He and his son-in-law, Juan Falabella, included different bloodlines to strengthen the physical characteristics of their miniature horses. Small Thoroughbreds and Welsh ponies were included to establish what would eventually become the Falabella horse.

In South Africa, an entirely different approach was taken. Wynand de Wet is given credit for being the first to breed miniature horses there in 1945. He used smaller versions of draft horses to establish a miniature horse breed, interspersed with smaller Arabian horses in his programs. This led to a wide range of conformations, but also allowed the South African Miniature Horse to be officially recognized as an independent breed in 1989.

Are Dwarf Horses Classified as Miniature Horses?

Dwarfism is a genetic disorder that can affect numerous horse breeds. Although the horses affected by this condition often set world records because of their size, the traits are not genetically desirable. There are issues with physical conformation and dwarfism can cause significant health issues that affect the soundness of the individual.

Because of these issues, most horse registries that focus on miniature horses exclude individuals that are affected by dwarfism. This includes horses that are part of officially recognized miniature horse breeds.

What Are the Characteristics of a Miniature Horse?

Miniature horses must be 8.5 hands high or below. Anything above this height technically classifies the horse as a pony. Even if the horse is part of a miniature breed, a height of 8.6+ hands eliminates the horse from being classified as an official miniature. Since the general objective of most breeds is to create the smallest possible horse that is still perfect in conformation, horses that meet expectations and have a smaller size typically receive a judging preference. 

The height standards for minis apply to mature horses.

On average, a miniature horse is long-lived compared to its larger counterparts. The average miniature horse will live about one-third longer than other horses. One of the oldest horses every documented, living to an age beyond 50, was a miniature horse.

Despite the numerous variations that exist, the first miniature horses had a foundation breed in the Shetland pony. Because of this, you’ll find the physical characteristics of minis, with the exception of size, are generally equal. Distinct breeds from South America and South Africa that did not use the Shetland pony have different physical characteristics. 

Most minis tend to be extraordinarily strong for their size. Miniatures have smaller heads, sometimes with a dished face, with eyes that tend to be set wide apart. Their ears are alert, average in proportion to their size, and there is an overall stoutness to their appearance.

The legs of a miniature horse are noticeable shorter in proportion to the rest of their body. Miniature horses that are used for service work will typically wear shoes to protect their hooves from the weight and impact of their movements. They should be set straight, with an appearance of being parallel when viewed from any angle. It is a true, square set, with pasterns that typically slope about 45 degrees. 

Hooves for minis should be compact and round, providing for a motion that is fluid with a natural gait. Shoeing is often done to provide miniature horses with an extra level of support for their movements.

Most individuals are gentle horses, intelligent, and naturally good-tempered. Although they cannot be ridden, not even by children, they do have a certain courage to their personality that allows them to go exploring. Many who work with minis describe the horses as being opinionated, impatient, and uncooperative if they don’t feel like they want to complete a task.

They can be spoiled easily and become very headstrong.

Miniature horses can come in any coat color. This includes patterned coats, such as the pinto and Appaloosa spotting. A popular coat option for minis is called “Pintaloosa,” which is a combination of the pinto and Appaloosa coat. 

Caring for Miniature Horses

Miniature horses tend to need more care and attention than their larger counterparts, which can make it a challenge to balance the attention required while providing the horse some independence. Owners must have a good selection of grooming equipment available to make sure the horse can stay happy and healthy. A hoof pick, electric clippers, and other grooming basics are a must.

Minis might not be able to support the weight of a person on their back, but they can pull the weight of a person when in harness. Choosing the tack for a mini depends on what the owner’s plan for the horse happens to be. Specialized carts for driving are available for the miniature breeds, including roadster carts. Show halters should be fitted to the exact measurements of the horse since there can be a high level of variety within the physical characteristics of the various breeds.

Minis are especially prone to over-eating because of the physical structure of their digestive tract. To stay healthy, they must have continual food movement throughout their system. Interruptions in this pattern of movement can lead to colic or binge eating. Providing a ration of food to the horse on a regular schedule throughout the day, along with clean water that stays fresh, can easily supplement the time spent in a pasture.

Unlike other horses, minis are affected by the air which flows through their stable or shelter. There must be continual air movement to support the health of the horse. Traditional stalls usually need new partitions that allow the miniature horse to look over it for socialization as well.

The hooves of a miniature horse need to be picked out every day unless the horse is wearing shoes or boots while performing service work. Trimming should occur on a regular schedule as well. Because the legs are short in proportion to the body, any issues with the feet can quickly lead to serious health issues.

Miniature horses are often the perfect pony that children dream about. They are excellent competitive horses, with more than 35 different youth classes available for competition, ranging from costume to halter to hunter/jumper. In the US, the American Miniature Horse Youth Association offers scholarship opportunities to members up until the age of 20 to help the next generation get to know this fun, intelligent, and beautiful horses a little bit better. 

Although there are limitations to what these breeds can do, you’ll find that a mini is more than just a pet or a service animal. It can   

Marwari Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Marwari Horse, sometimes referred to as the Malani, comes from the Jodhpur or Marwar region of India. The first to breed this horse were the Rathores, who were the traditional rulers in that region of the country. Beginning as early as the 12th century, breeding standards were put into place to ensure the Marwari would be a horse that was hardy and pure.

Throughout much of its early history, the Marwari Horse was used in the cavalry. The calmness and loyalty it shows made it a useful horse for agricultural and transportation purposes as well, though only the ruling and wealthy classes were able to afford these horses.

For about 700 years, the trajectory of the Marwari Horse seemed bright. Then, in the 1930s, poor breeding and management practices began to be used so that the traits of the Marwari could be more accessible to the general population. It resulted in a great reduction of purebred horses until the breed became endangered.

In 1995, a breed society was formed in India as an effort to protect this beautiful and unique breed. Population numbers are continuing to grow and some export and limited travel visas have helped to let others outside of India begin to get to know this wonderful horse.

What is the Origin of the Marwari Horse?

The story of the Marwari Horse begins when Arabian horses were introduced to the region and bred with the local ponies. Although the ponies of the Marwar region were known to be hardy, they were quite small and didn’t have an established conformation. When the Arabian bloodlines were introduced, the appearance of the horses was improved while the natural hardiness of the breed was maintained.

How the Arabian horses came to Marwar is up for debate. Local legends tell the tale of a cargo ship wrecking off the coast that carried 7 Arabian horses that were fit for breeding. Once those horses were rescued, they were taken to Marwari to be used as foundation stock to establish the Marwari Horse.

Other stories tell of Mongolian invaders trying to establish themselves in the Marwar region through battle. After being driven away, some of the horses of the invaders remained and the locals claimed them to begin improving the bloodlines of their local horses.

These actions occurred before the 12th century.

The Rathores claimed power in Marwar in 1194 and ruled until the Princely States with the Dominion of India in 1948. They had been forced from the Kingdom of Kanauj the year before and withdrew to Marwari for their survival. The local horses helped them be able to handle the difficult environment, so they bred the horses to keep specific hardy traits that would help them grow in this new area.

In the 16th century, the Moguls came into India and captured much of the northern portions of it. Turkoman horses are believed to have been introduced into the bloodlines at this point, supplementing the traditional breeding practices to produce horses that were capable of war. To expel the invaders, a cavalry force of more than 50,000 men, all on horseback, began the counter-attack that would eventually repel the invasion.

Marwari horses were used in times of war up until World War I. Their responsiveness on the battlefield is legendary. Part of this is due to the expectations of the Rathores for these horses. A horse was not allowed to leave the battle unless one of three conditions were met: victory, death, or removing a wounded soldier to safety.

After World War II, much of the nobility in the region began to lose their lands. This meant a lack of ability to take care of their horses. Without the need to even own the horse, many were killed or sold as pack horses. In these dark years, Maharaja Umaid Singhji is singularly credited with saving the breed. 

Since 2009, a registration process has been in place to register Marwari horses for a stud book. It is a venture that is being run collaboratively between the Marwari Horse Society of India and the Indian government.

Today, the Marwari Horse is primarily used for recreational, ceremonial, and religious purposes. Some horses participate in sporting events and there are a few that are used for safari adventures. Local cavalry units still maintain a few horses, though there are more playing polo than there are those who are being trained for military needs. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Marwari Horse?

The primary characteristic of the Marwari Horse are the ears. They stand tall and upright, but also turn inward instead of outward. The horses can rotate their ears a full 180 degrees. 

Most of the individuals of this breed stand between 14.2-15.2 hands high. The few Marwari that live outside of India tend to be a little taller or smaller, with a range between 14-16 hands high.

Most coat colors are available within this breed, although the most common coats are chestnut, bay, or gray. Piebald, skewbald, and palomino are uncommon, but seen with some regularity. Gray horses tend to be the most valuable in India, while skewbald and piebald coats tend to be favored the most.

Black coat colors are also possible, but because this color is representative of death in the home region of the horse, it is not favored.

Hair whorls occur frequently within the breed and are an important point of breeding. Horses with specific whorls down the neck are thought to be lucky and will fetch a better price on the market. Whorls on the fetlocks are also highly prized. Any whorls around the eyes are unpopular and can make it difficult to sell the horse. 

The Marwari Horse looks slightly Roman in its appearance, it should have pronounced withers, a chest that is deep, muscular, and broad, with angled shoulders to support clean lines. The back is noticeably long and the croup should slope slightly. The breed is supported by hooves that are below average for its size, on slender legs, but with a certain sure-footedness.

The Marwari is a loyal horse, but its temperament can be somewhat unpredictable. Some individuals within this breed can be unpredictable. They are known for being quite tenacious. 

Within the breed are the characteristics of an extinct bloodline that was known as the Natchni. These horses could perform complex leaping and dancing movements with unique gaits. Marwari that can be trained in these skills and have the traditional gaits are extremely popular in the rural areas of Marwar. 

The Marwari Horse has a unique appearance, an established history, and is one of the most loyal breeds one can find in today’s world. Although it was once at the brink of extinction, today the Marwari is growing and thriving once again. 

Marsh Tacky Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Marsh Tacky Horse is native to South Carolina in the United States. It is thought to be a rare breed of horse and is an established member of the Colonial Spanish horse groups that are found along the eastern coast of the US, from Maine to Florida.

Around 300 horses from this breed are believed to be living today, making it critically endangered. A breed association was started in 2007 to being preserving the Marsh Tacky and a closed stud book was created in 2010.

Although “tacky” is often a reference to “sticky,” that is not the case with this specific breed. The Marsh Tacky gets its name for the fact that it was a common horse that the average person could afford. In the region of South Carolina during the 16th-18th centuries, this breed was the most common horse that was seen.

What Is the History of the Marsh Tacky Horse?

When Spanish explorers came to the coastal areas of South Carolina around the 16th century, they brought their horses along for the adventure. It is from these horses that the Marsh Tacky would eventually develop. As explorers turned to colonists and then eventually into larger settlements, more horses were added to the local population. Spain would even sell horses through their settlement of St. Augustine to other colonists in the region.

It wasn’t just the European settlers that found the attributes of the Spanish horses to be beneficial in the somewhat inhospitable environments of the early United States. Native tribes would also contract with the Spanish to purchase horses. The first Marsh Tackies would be used as pack horses between Florida and South Carolina, helping to establish the breed in the region.

Many of the horses in these early days were managed in a feral herd. Whenever horses would be needed, they would simply round them up, select the best, and the set the rest of them loose once again. With these feral herds living in the wetlands and swamps of the eastern coast, a certain hardiness and stamina developed within the breed. This helped it to gain strength in maneuverability and would give cavalry forces an advantage because they could perform complex maneuvers.

By the time the US Civil War came around, the Gullah community along the barrier islands of South Carolina were using these horses for agricultural work, tending their gardens and fields with the help.

Even the US military would find the characteristics of the Marsh Tacky horse to be useful during the height of World War II. Soldiers mounted on this breed would patrol the beaches of the eastern United States, serving as a lookout to prevent U-Boat attacks from the Germans.

After the war, Marsh Tackies would be used for races along the beach for about a decade. From the 1960s on, however, their popularity would begin to diminish until the entire breed was threatened.

The Carolina Marsh Tacky Association was formed in 2007 to help ensure the survival of these horses. A breed registry was started in 2010 and is currently maintained by the American Livestock Breeds. It is a closed registry, but outside horses can qualify with DNA confirmation of parentage, proof of origin, and being able to pass a visual inspection.

What Are the Characteristics of the Marsh Tacky Horse?

The typical Marsh Tacky Horse will stand at 14.2 hands high or below. The acceptable range for height is between 13-15 hands high. Most individuals within this breed will stand at 14 hands high, with a tenth in either direction here and there. 

In the past, pinto patterns and other multi-colored coats were found within this breed, but the solid coat colors were preferred and so the patterns were bred out of the Marsh Tacky. Several different coat varieties still exist within the breed, however, including black, chestnut, bay, dun, roan, and grullo.

The profile of the breed is consistent with other Colonial Spanish horses, with a slightly convex profile along the muzzle and a head that can be a little concave. The horse should have pronounced withers, a croup that is angled steeply, and a chest that is narrower than average. The shoulders are long on this breed, angled, and lead to legs that are tapered, long, and strong.

The Marsh Tacky Horse has a forehead that is wider than average and eyes that are expressive and set apart. When looking at the profile of the horse, the neck is set much lower with this breed when compared to most others.

It features a 4-beat ambling gait, brought from the Spanish heritage, but without the tripedal support that is often found in other gaited breeds. This makes It an excellent recreational riding horse because the “bounce” is virtually eliminated during the ride. From the beach to a forested trail, these horses always seem to be up for a good adventure. 

Marshy Tacky horses have an incredible stamina. Their ability to work in fields, swamps, and wetlands without panic makes them well-suited to the coastal environments of South Carolina. Even though they are smaller in size, they are still quite strong, and do well as a working animal. Although historically used for riding with children or women, they are strong enough to carry most men as well.

Although one can still find the Marsh Tacky serving in the wetlands, their strength and stamina has made them well-suited to endurance racing events. They are easy keepers and survive well in challenging environments. Coastal owners find them useful in hunting game, herding cattle, and other miscellaneous ranch work.

The Future of the Marsh Tacky Horse

In 2010, the government of South Carolina signed a bill into law that designated the Marsh Tacky as a state heritage horse. Although there isn’t a guarantee of permanent survival, the breed is about 30% of the way to reaching the population numbers that are expected to be required for such a status as of 2017.

Some efforts have been made to determine if the Marsh Tacky could work on repopulation by working with horses with similar ancestral bloodlines, such as the Banker horses of North Carolina or the Florida Cracker Horse. DNA testing showed that although the Spanish Colonial horses are all related, the Marsh Tacky is separate.

Because it lived in relative isolation for so long, unique characteristics developed within the breed and this has given it an independent status.

With continued breeding efforts underway and efforts in place to help more people recognize and understand the breed, there is a strong hope that the Marsh Tacky Horse will continue to survive. It is, after all, what this breed was built to do. 

Mangalarga Marchador Horse Origin and Characteristics

Native to Brazil, the Mangalarga Marchador Horse is a breed that is a direct descendent of the Iberian horses in Spain and Portugal. Created from Lustiano stallions and Barb mares, these horses are known for their beautiful coats, gentle disposition, and high levels of intelligence. In addition to the two standard gaits, the Mangalarga Marchador has two ambling gaits, one lateral and the other diagonal. 

It is the national horse of Brazil and has been used to work on the rural ranches of the country since the middle of the 18th century. Strict inspection procedures are in place in Brazil to maintain the breed. Only horses that pass this rigorous testing are allowed to breed for official purposes.

The first Mangalarga Marchador horses were exported to the United States in the 1990s and since then, small groups have been exported globally. The population numbers outside of Brazil, however, are still quite low. At this time, there are fewer than 100 officially registered Mangalarga Marchador horses in the United States. 

When Napoleon threated Portugal in the early 19th century, the royal family fled to safety by traveling to Brazil. They remained there beyond the French occupation and created a separate kingdom there. Since both thrones were held by the same family, it allowed for a unique commercial opportunity and cultural exchange. Part of that exchange included bringing horses from Europe to South America. 

Today, the Mangalarga Marchador can be found throughout the world, though most of the population remains in Brazil. Programs can be found in Spain, Portugal, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy. 

What Is the Origin of the Mangalarga Marchador?

The story of the Mangalarga Marchador begins with Francisco Gabriel Junqueira, who was the Baron of Alfenas. He began importing Lusitano stallions and then bred them to the mares that were on his farm. Most of the mares were Barbs. The foals created from these unions had a smooth gait and an attractive appearance, so the Baron began to call the next generation of horses “Sublime.”

Additional bloodlines from Criollos, Jennets, and Andalusians were added into the lineage of the breed to provide it with additional stability without sacrificing the gaits that were wanted. 

Some of these foals were sold to a friend of the Baron in 1812, who happened to have a farm near Rio de Janeiro. The name of the farm happened to be Mangalarga. Once the foals grew to adulthood, the friend began riding the horses from his farm into Rio on a regular basis. The people who saw the smooth gait and attractive coat began referring to the “Sublime” horses as Mangalargas.

Additional breeders took note of the positive characteristics that were displayed with this horse and wanted to get involved. Up until the early 20th century, the Baron recommended specific fixes to maintain the health, temperament, endurance, and marching gait of these horses. For more than 180 years, breeders were selective with the Mangalarga Marchador and no other breeds were said to have crossed into it.

In 1934, the first breeders’ association for the Mangalarga was formed. Those involved wanted to have a clear direction to take the breed and have an established set of characteristics, with a preference on the intended gait.

There were localized objectives in place for the Mangalarga at the time as well. Some breeders wanted to go in a new direction to continue the breed’s development as they felt the original objectives had been met. Others felt like the reason why the Mangalarga Marchador was popular was because there was such an emphasis on tradition within the breeding programs.

In 1943, the breeders’ association closed the stud book, just 9 years after its foundation. In 1948, those who disagreed with this decision started a new association.

This created two distinct lines: the Mangalarga and the Mangalarga Marchador. Since the 1940s, although both breeds have similar roots, they have grown to have different bloodlines and conformation expectations. 

Efforts have been taken to try uniting these two breeds once again, but with more than 350,000 horses registered in Brazil alone, the Mangalarga Marchador is likely here to stay for quite some time. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Mangalarga Marchador?

The Mangalarga Marchador is a horse that is of average size. It features a coat that is silky, showing of withers that are prominent and a chest that is deep, but not really broad. The hindquarters are noticeably muscular, supported by a sloping croup. Hard hooves allow the horse to be agile in most conditions while being able to support the various gaits.

All coat colors are accepted by the breed associations for the Mangalarga Marchador. Some of the most popular coats are reminiscent of Appaloosa coloration and spotting. Any coat color is possible with breed, including color breed options, such as buckskin and palomino.

For a stallion, the ideal height of the Mangalarga Marchador is 15 hands high. The registration range for stallions, however is 14.2-15.2 hands high. Mares are smaller, with a preferred height of 14.1 hands high. Registrations are accepted for mares as long as they stand at least 13.3 hands high.

Although some horses are below the threshold for sizing and are technically ponies, all Mangalarga Marchadors are referred to as “horses.” Most individuals will weigh 1,100 pounds or less. 

The Mangalarga Marchador should have a head that is distinctly triangular in its shape. The profile of the horse should be straight, with nostrils that are above average in size. The ears are upright and alert, with a slight inward curve, while the eyes are quite large and expressive. Stallions should also have a slight crest on their neck.

For this breed, it is the two additional gaits that are most desired by owners and breeders. The diagonal ambling gait is similar to a fox troll, while the lateral gait is similar to a single foot or stepping pace. The latter is usually the smoothest gait for the horse since its movement creates little vertical momentum. Some overstepping is expected, but the ride is still comfortable.

The Mangalarga Marchador does not pace or trot. It moves from the ambling gaits to a canter. This gives it a unique level of endurance that is difficult to match in other breeds. In 1994, a Mangalarga Marchador was awarded with a world record for an endurance ride that lasted nearly 8,700 miles. 

The hooves and pasterns are slightly lower than what one might expect from a horse with Spanish and Portuguese heritage.  The forearms tend to be longer than average, but with shorter cannons and noticeable musculature. This gives the horse an ability to be precise with its foot placement without placing excessive levels of stress on the joints. 

Preserving the Mangalarga Marchador Horse

After the split in the breeders’ association, the ABCCMM, which formed in the split, holds regular events, tests, and competitions to maintain the functional performance of the breed. A national points ranking system is in place to highlight the breeders and horses which perform the best throughout the year. Several events have large cash prizes that can be won as well.

The critical tests for the breed are the gait classes. They are quite rigorous and can last for an hour or more for each horse. Judges examine the horse, looking for elegance, timing, and endurance of a range of several different speeds. Functional performance testing can be equally grueling, with some horses being tested over a distance of 60+ miles.

Several events are held throughout the year in the same communities. In one extreme example, Belo Horizonte held 27 different events in one year, featuring more than 4,000 horses and 1,500 exhibitors.

Despite the intensity of the testing, the tack used for the Mangalarga Marchador is usually very simple. A basic Australian stock saddle is typically used with a headset that is clean-cut, complemented with a snaffle bit. For showing purposes, attire is traditionally a reflection of the region where the breeder resides. 

How Does the Mangalarga Marchador Perform?

The Mangalarga Marchador horse is extremely versatile. The ranches of Brazil could be incredibly demanding, requiring the horses to be adaptable to a wide variety of conditions. This helped the breed establish a high level of intelligence early on with a great deal of patience and understanding. They are easy keepers who love to put in a good day of work. 

What is unique about this breed is the size of the thorax. It is remarkably deep, which allows the horse to have a greater lung capacity than normal. With the improved air flow and efficient circulation, the stamina for this horse is legendary. Even on the longest of rides, these horses still maintain a regel bearing and a fluid ride with a high carriage.

Because of all these advantages, it is easy to see why the Mangalarga Marchador is such a popular breed. As more get to know just what this horse is able to do, it is easy to picture a bright future for this much beloved breed.

Lusitano Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Lusitano horse, sometimes referred to as the Puro Sangue Lusitano, or PSE, comes from Portugal, but is closely related to the Andalusian horses of Spain. Sometimes both breeds are combined into a singular breed that is referred to as an Iberian. Until the 1960s, they were officially classified as such. Today, however, both are considered to be independent from each other.

Before the 1960s, the Lusitano Horse was officially part of the Andalusian breed. As the colonies of Portugal all sought independence, the nation found itself in a state of political and socioeconomic turmoil. Many of the stud farms were sold or broken up, with the horses often going to Spain. This put the breed at risk, especially since half-blood Lusitanos are quite popular.

A few lines were saved by local breeders and together they worked to preserve the breed. Today, most Lusitanos are found in Portugal or Brazil, but the breed has a grown presence globally. Official programs have begun in the United States, the UK, South Africa, and in several other European countries. 

The History of the Lusitano Horse

Horses have been present on the Iberian Peninsula of Europe for as long as humans have been documenting their civilizations. There is evidence to suggest that horses even predate human settlements in the region. Their history may date as far back as the 200th century BC.

Humans and horses along the Iberian Peninsula have always worked together. In the 9th century BC, the Celts and Iberians worked together to breed war horses for each other, helping to create a calm, hardy horse that would pass down its temperament traits to future generations. When the Romans came to the area around the 4th century BC, the first thing they noticed was the elegance of the Iberian cavalry thanks to the agility of their horses.

The bonds that were created over these early centuries between the Iberians and their horses is even believed to be one of the inspirations for the creation of the mythical centaur, part man and part horse.

As the Romans settled in the region, they began to establish stud farms that would breed horses from Iberian stock to become their own war horses.

This is where the story of the Lusitano horse begins. With the invasion of the Umayyad Muslims during the early 8th century, the fall of the Roman Empire left government gaps that led to conquest. During each effort to expand territory, the Umayyad brought with them Barb horses. The Barbs were then crossbred with the local horses, producing a breed that was useful for the war, for local bull fighting traditions, and even for dressage.

It was a practice that would continue up until the 16th century. At that point, horses were moving between Portugal and Spain at a rapid pace. The Iberian horse, the predecessor of the Andalusian, were used to improve the cavalry forces of the Portuguese. It would be the foundation of the victory that Portugal would eventually achieve during the Restoration War of the 17th century. 

As an outcome of the war, Spain passed laws to stop the movement of horses across the border, but these didn’t stop Black Market entrepreneurs. Secret stud farms were established to continue the practice and it is from these farms where the Lusitano Horse was established.

In 1966, the Iberian horse was split between Portuguese and Spanish stud books. The new Portuguese lines were named after the Roman name for Portugal, while the Spanish horses remained Andalusians. 

Characteristics of the Lusitano Horse

There are three main breed lineages that can be found with the Lusitano. The characteristics of each lineage vary slightly, but are still considered a breed standard. A fourth, but unofficial, lineage is in place with horses that are only bred at the Alter Real State Stud. In total, the Portuguese recognize six horses that are referred to as a “Head of Lineage.” 

These horses, which serve as foundation horses for the Lusitano only, were all foaled in the 20th century. There are 5 stallions and a single mare, with the oldest being Regedor, foaled in 1923 at Alter Real.

Alter Real is included as its own lineage because of its extensive history with this breed of horse. The stud was initially formed by the royal family in Portugal to provide horses for their riding academy and other royal purposes. It was started with 300 mares that were imported from Spain and then re-established in the 19th century to recover the breed from the fallout of the Napoleonic wars. 

Most Lusitano horses will either be chestnut, bay, or gray, but they can be of any solid color. For those bred at Alter Real, the coat color is always bay. They stand at an average of 15.3 hands high, but some individuals can be above 16 hands high.

The horses have a Baroque appearance to them due to their Barb ancestry. There should be heavy muscling throughout the horse, a convex facial profile, and agile movements with an emphasis on elevation. They are horses that are highly intelligent, but with a nature that is very willing. 

They should have a neck that is arched and quite thick, which leads to powerful shoulders and a chest that is broad and deep. It has a croup that is more sloped than its Andalusian counterparts, a tail that is set lower, and a head profile that is more convex.

Issues with Maintaining the Lusitano Horse as a Breed

Outside of Spain and Portugal, the showing, breeding, and registration of Lusitano horses is still closely linked with the Andalusian. This is despite several decades of the two breeds being separated. Although many associations maintain two stud books, one for each breed, the rules are often lax about the breeding process. Some associations even maintain a crossbred registry.

The Portuguese breed association does require any affiliate organizations to follow their rules or regulations, but local associations are not required to become affiliates. Non-official associations may not have their members bring horses to official shows or events, but that does not stop local shows or events from being held.

This process has created some confusion within the breed as to who bears responsibility for the continued global development of the Lusitano. For that reason, unless the lineage of the horse can be proven, it may be excluded from the official stud book that is maintained by the Portuguese association.

With change comes complication and the Lusitano Horse has certainly experienced its fair share. As time moves on and rules, processes, and standards are continually reinforced, this breed should experience future success in recreational, sporting, and working environments.

Lippitt Morgan Horse Origin and Characteristics

Morgan horses are one of the earliest breeds that were exclusively developed in the United States. The history of this breed traces back to a horse named Justin Morgan, named after one of his owners, but given the original name of Figure. This stallion was born in 1789 and given to Justin Morgan as a debt payment 3 years later.

Justin Morgan (the person) was a composer whose work is still heard today in some churches. Many of his compositions were fuguing tunes and he would also write several hymns. More than 100 of his hymns are still published in common collections, especially when voice-leading melodies are preferred.

In his spare time, he would also work with horses and run his own breeding program. 

The exact pedigree of Justin Morgan (the horse) is not known and records exist for just six of his sons. Three of his sons would become the foundation for the Morgan breed.

Many Morgans were used for harness racing, pulling coaches, and other transportation needs since they had good endurance and speed. When the Gold Rush occurred in 1849, Morgans were part of the experience. They were the preferred horse breed during the US Civil War and the trotting ability of the Morgan became so popular that the breed was exported to Europe to influence several other breeds.

As part of the development process within the breed, Morgans have formed into 4 specific bloodline groups. One of those groups happens to be the Lippitt Morgan Horse. 

The History of the Lippitt Morgan Horse

The Lippitt Morgan Horse traces its bloodlines to the breeding program for Morgans that was established by Robert Lippitt Knight. He was the grandson of Robert Knight and the great-great grandson of Christopher Lippitt, who served in the Revolutionary War and founded a mill.

The goal of the Lippitt family breeding program was to preserve the purity of the Morgan bloodlines. They brought in horses that were descendants of Ethan Allen II and many of the Lippitt Morgans can still trace their lineage all the way back to Figure. There have been no crossbreeding or outcrosses with this specific bloodline in the last century.

Three other bloodlines exist as well: Government, Western Working, and Brunk.

Lippitt Morgans are thought to be the purest of the bloodlines that exist for the breed, but the Government bloodlines are the most extensive. It is one of the few breeds where the US government was officially involved in the program, producing war horses and other service horses on the US Morgan Horse Farm. It was managed by the USDA, but would eventually be sold to the University of Vermont.

The university continues to manage the program to this day, including management of the Morgan breeding stock.

The Working Western Family (2WF) are bred to be stock horses that work cattle. There is no common ancestry for this line. There isn’t a common breeder from them either. Their primary connection to the Morgan breed is that they are descendants of some of the Government horses that were shipped west after the US Civil War.

The Brunk family bred Morgans for athletic traits, looking for soundness and movement more than genetic clarity. Their breeding program was based in Illinois.

There are additional sub-families that are smaller and less prominent available in the breed as well.

The first breed association for Morgans was established in 1909. Founded initially as the Morgan Horse Club, it would become the American Morgan Horse Association and the registry has been closed since 1948.

About the Lippett Club and Its Support for Morgans

In 1962, the final sale of the Lippitt herd of Morgans occurred. A few other breeders, such as Marshall Winkler, began to advertise in local papers and in the Morgan Horse publications over the coming years to generate interest in preserving the old bloodlines.

Eventually, several families would come together and begin to meet on a regular basis in 1970. They began to draw up the requirements for eligible horses and would then show those horses at local events, most notably the Tunbridge Fairgrounds. Demos, trotting races, and parades with the eligible horses helped to attract additional interest in the club.

The Lippett club was founded in 1973. The goal of the club continues to be to preserve the older Vermont Morgans which had a history in the region from the 18th century. The club wishes to preserve the genetic purity of the breed, in its original type, while still promoting the overall Morgan horse.

When they first formed, they called themselves the “Old Type Morgan Fanciers.” They would seek out permission from Knight’s son to use the Lippitt name for their club and it has stuck ever since.

In July of 1973, the Morgan Horse Magazine featured several horses from the Lippitt farm. Several horses were given the Lippett prefix in the article, along with articles about pure line breeding and Lippitt characteristics. This would provide the beginning of the efforts to establish the Lippitt Morgan as a specific family within the Morgan breed with specific conformation requirements that are above and beyond what the breed characteristics and expectations happen to be. 

Characteristics to Expect with the Lippitt Morgan Horse

Although Lippitt Morgans are considered the “pure” version of this breed, all families and sub-groups must meet one official breed standard. These standards apply regardless of the bloodlines or discipline of the individual horse.

Morgans should have strong legs, a refined build that is noticeably compact, and have an expressive head that is straight. A slightly convex profile is still accepted. The forehead must be broad and the eyes prominent and large. The withers of a Morgan must be well-defined, with the shoulders laid-back, but the neck arched prominently in an upright fashion.

The back of a Morgan is noticeably shorter than other breeds, but the hindquarters are above average in strength. When combined with a croup that has prominent musculature and a tall, graceful carriage, the end result is a horse that appears to be powerful and strong.

Lippitt Morgans are easy keepers and consistently meet the breed standards for physical appearance and temperament. The occasional individual will be gaited, performing an intermediate trot like the pace or the rack.

Morgans will usually be between 14.1-15.2 hands high, but some individuals can be a little smaller or taller and still qualify for registration. Lippitt Morgans tend to be on the upper end of the height scale.

Several coat colors are available within the breed as well. Most registered Lippitt Morgans tend to be chestnut, black, or bay. Additional coat options, such as roan, dun, gray, and cream dilutions are also possible. Three pinto patterns are also recognized as being part of the Morgan conformation, though not the tobiano pattern.
The Lippitt Club officially recognizes bay, brown, black, and chestnut coat colors only if the horse is to qualify as a Lippitt Morgan. 

Two coat color genes and one genetic issue that lead to diseases and disorders have been linked to the Morgan Horse. These include Type 1 polysaccharide storage myopathy, MCOA, and the silver dapple allele, which can cause cysts. There is also the possibility of lethal white syndrome within the breed.

What Makes the Horse Become a Lippitt Morgan?

Lippitt Morgans are often referred to as “old type” Morgan horses. Coming out of Vermont, there were 25 horses that came out of the Lippitt family breeding program that would be identified as foundation stock for this family of Morgans.

For the horses to be chosen as foundation stock, they had to meet three core characteristics without exception.

  1. There had to be a registered Morgan with the AMHA or Canadian Morgan Horse registries.
  2. Each individual had to be a close cross to Ethan Allen II, who had been chosen as the foundation stallion for this family.
  3. They must have produced a minimum of one descent line that was present in the current population. 

Unlike other breeds, it is the pedigree of the horse instead of the breeder that determines if it is part of the family. The Knight family ran an extensive breeding program and outside bloodlines were sometimes used to meet their needs. There were other breeders who bred Morgans at the time that did not meet the established definition of what a Lippitt Morgan would be.

This means a horse that has been given the prefix of Lippitt within its pedigree may not be a full Lippitt Morgan. For a horse to be considered a full Lippit, the entire pedigree must be fill Lippitt. All lines must be able to go back to the foundation Lippitts that are listed by The Lippitt Club. 

Lippitt Morgans are the “old style” Morgan horse. Some may argue that they are the “true” Morgan, based on lineage and bloodlines. Keeping them pure comes at a higher cost than a traditional Morgan, but for many, it is an expense that is worth the sacrifice.
 

 

Lipizzan Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Lipizzan horse, or the Lipizzaner, is a breed that is associated with a Spanish riding school in Vienna, Austria. This breed is known for its movement and ability to perform classical dressage haute ecole, with a particular movement that creates “airs above ground.” For several centuries, this breed has been taught dressage with traditional methods at the same school.

Airs Above Ground is a movement where the horse raises both front legs to stand at a 30-degree angle with control. Some can perform the pesade, which is a 45-degree angle. Then the horse transitions to the courbette, which requires jumping on the hind legs while elevated. A transition to the capriole follows, which is a leap into the air as the forelegs are tucked underneath, followed by kicking out the hind legs while at the peak of the jump.

Lipizzans have been an endangered breed throughout much of their existence. Every time war sweeps through Europe, this breed tends to take the brunt of the punishment. By the end of the second global war, the Lipizzans were almost completely extinct. A rescue of a small herd by Allied troops during the war helped to preserve the breed.

Even so, there are just 8 stallions that are recognized as being foundation horses for the modern breed. All current Lipizzans can trace their lineage to one of these eight stallions and their names are reflective of that lineage.

With a population of more than 10,000 in nearly 20 countries, the Lipizzan no longer faces the same threats it once did. By knowing what this breed faced in the past, however, we can hopefully prevent history from repeating itself once again.

What Is the History of the Lipizzan Horse?

The Lipizzan as a breed began in the 16th century. The Habsburg nobility were looking to create a specific breed with unique traits, so they financially supported early stud farms around the Italian village of Lipica. That is how the breed got its name. 

The ancestry of the breed, however, can be traced to the 7th century. The Moors brought Barb horses into Spain as they settled into the Iberian Peninsula in the generations after the fall of the Roman Empire. These Barb horses were mixed with the local Spanish stock, creating several new horse breeds, including the Andalusian.

When the Habsburgs ruled Austria and Spain, they desired to have a horse that was powerful, fashionable, and agile. They needed the horse to have a temperament that allowed it to serve during times of war, yet be reflective of royalty for everyday purposes. Beginning in 1562, studs were established to cross Arabian, Barb, and Spanish horses. The offspring from these horses were then crossed with the Neapolitan and other Baroque horse breeds.

One stud farm was located in Kladrub, while the other was in Lipica. After the second crossing in the breeding program, the stock was exchanged between the two stud farms. This provided the Lipizzan horse with a solid genetic profile that has helped it to remain a relevant and healthy breed, despite its flirtation with extinction over the past century.

There are 6 classical dynasties that are recognized within the Lipizzan breed.

  • Conversano. He was a black Neapolitan stallion that was foaled in 1767.
  • Favory. He was a dun stallion, coming from the Kladrub farm, and was foaled in 1779.
  • Maestoso. He was a gray stallion, also from Kladrub, who was foaled in 1773. This lineage is also traced to Maestoso X, who was foaled in 1819.
  • Neapolitano. He was a bay Neapolitan stallion, who was foaled in 1790.
  • Pluto. He was a gray Spanish stallion foaled in 1765.
  • Siglavy. He was a gray Arabian stallion, foaled in Syria in 1810.

The breed associations for the Lipizzan Horse recognize two additional stallion lines. They are found in the US, Croatia, Hungary, and Eastern Europe.

Incitato is the first, who was a stallion with a Spanish ancestry. Foaled in 1802, he was sold to a Hungarian stud farm after being raised in Transylvania.

Tulipan is the second. He was a black stallion with a Spanish pedigree who was foaled around the turn of the 19th century in Croata.

Breed registries require a specific naming pattern for all Lipizzan horses. Stallions are given two names: one for the sire line and one for the dam line. There are up to 35 recognized mare lines in addition to the 8 stallion lines that are currently recognized. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Lipizzan Horse?

The average Lipizzan will stand between 14.2-15.2 hands high. Some can be taller than 16 hands, especially if the breeder is focusing on carriage-type characteristics for the horse.

This breed has a head that is noticeably long when compared to other breeds, supported by a neck that is arched and sturdy. The profile is typically straight, but some have one that is just a bit convex. The jaw should be deep, while the ears are smaller than average. A Lipizzan should have expressive eyes, flared nostrils, and a carriage that is proud, tall, and well-set. 

Withers for the Lipizzan are broad, muscular, and low.

The remainder of the profile is similar to what one would find on any other Baroque-style horse. It should have a chest that is deep and wide, with a muscular shoulder and a broader croup than other breeds. The feet tend to be smaller than average, but still quite tough. Legs are well-muscled, strong, and supported by strong joints. 

The Habsburg family had a preference for gray horses, so that color was emphasized in breeding programs. It is still the dominant gene in the modern breed as well. Many foals are born a darker color, often black or bay, and their coat transitions to a light color as they age.

Until the 18th century, however, other coat colors were quite common, including black, chestnut, dun, and bay. Skewbald and piebald coats were possible as well. These other coat colors are still possible, though rare. The Spanish riding school has a tradition of keeping at least one bay Lipizzan stallion and that tradition continues today.

Lipizzans are also known for maturing slower than other breeds, but this makes them a long-lived breed. The complete process to reach maturity can be up to 10 years for some of the horses. 

In Conclusion About the Lipizzan Horse

Lipizzan horses have starred in numerous films and television shows because of their distinctive appearance. They have competed at the highest levels in dressage and other show events. Numerous books and poems have been written about this breed, giving it an air of romanticism.

The Lipizzan may have been ordered by royalty and bred to meet specific preferences, but its agility, temperament, and willingness to learn make it an attractive horse for everyone today.