Rocky Mountain Horse Temperament and Personality

The Rocky Mountain horse might be known for its smooth gait and unique appearance, but there are also attractive qualities to the temperament of this breed. Rocky Mountain horses are very amiable and intelligent and loyal to their families. They tend to pay attention to everything that is going on around them, including conversations that people may be having. It is a breed of horse that is often compared to the personality of the average dog: friendly, energetic, and with a desire to sit in your lap if the opportunity presents itself.

Some may discount the sweet temperament of the Rocky Mountain horse as a lack of willingness to work, but that is far from the case. This breed is one of the best all-around horses from a physical standpoint that you can find in the equine world. They are sure-footed with their smooth gait, have an impressive stamina, and are generally quiet and reserved while working with humans.

Rocky Mountain Horses Are People Horses

You may not find a more sociable horse than the Rocky Mountain. They will come to the fence when they sense you are near. Even as foals, there is an instinct within this breed to be close to people. This creates a temperament that is protective and loyal, but at the same time, sensitive and sometimes demanding.

Rocky Mountain horses have a certain need to be treated with respect. If they feel like the people closest to them are not offering that respect, then a deep-seated hurt can radically affect the personality and temperament of that horse. It is a temperament change which is born out of an experience for the horse that can only be described as betrayal.

Personality changes may also occur for Rocky Mountain horses who do not receive a lot of work or time outside of their stall. These horses love to conquer a challenging environment. Even youngsters love being taken out on the trail so that they have hills to climb, streams to cross, and fields that can be explored. Exposing this breed to trail life and recreational riding early-on helps the horse to develop a strong sense of loyalty to its family.

Learning the Buttons to Push with a Rocky Mountain Horse

Rocky Mountain horses may be curious and intelligent, but they also have buttons that can be pushed which can create a layer of stubbornness that can be difficult to break. These horses are willing, but there must be a certain level of competence with the handler for them to respect the handler. They’ll still be calm and gentle, but you may not get the gait that you want while riding down a trail.

It is a good idea to spend some time with the horse, getting to know what the likes and dislikes happen to be. This will help each handler be able to get the most from their horse. In return, you’ll have a mount that is willing to carry you safely almost anywhere. Just ask the horse to go and you will go.

What has helped to create such willingness within the breed? According to the story of the breed foundation, a traveler from the Rocky Mountains found himself in the Appalachians with few supplies. He traded a young colt for the goods that were needed. The colt would then go on to provide the foundation sires of this trademark horse breed.

Sam Tuttle owned a riding concession at a local state park. He owned a stallion named Tobe that was quite impressive on the trail. He was sure-footed and calm, supportive of a competent handler, but respectful of a beginner. Local breeders were quite impressed with his temperament. Tobe would have five sons and they would become the foundation sires of the Rocky Mountain breed.

Living in the mountains is in the blood of this horse breed. Working with humans along sometimes difficult trails and in wide-open spaces goes back to the legendary stories of Tobe’s ancestors. This has created physical traits within the breed that make it perfectly suited to the various mountain ranges in the United States.

Rocky Mountain Horses Are Extremely Versatile

Many Rocky Mountain horses are used for riding concessions or lessons even today. You’ll also find these horses plowing fields, working with cattle, driving, and even babysitting children with some families. That’s because the temperament of this breed exists within a strong heart, a good nature, and great courage.

The Rocky Mountain breed was so popular regionally, in fact, that these horses were kept relatively secret from the rest of the equine world. It wouldn’t be until 1986, when the first breed association was formed for promotional purposes, that everyone would get to know the many strengths that this breed is able to offer.

Today, there are more than 12,000 horses that have been DNA tested and are registered with the association.

There are several established breed characteristics which are required to be demonstrated for registration, with temperament often featured. Rocky Mountain horses are supposed to have a nature that is trustworthy and kind. They should be easy to manage and be able to independently maintain an ambling four-beat gait without pacing evidence. 

This makes it possible to trust the horse completely. Since they are so sure-footed and intelligent, they have a great awareness of their surroundings at all times. Even if you’re in the saddle during a tense situation, you can give horses from this breed their head and they’ll be able to pull you through. They really are quite unshakeable.

As an example, here’s a story from Trail Rider Magazine: 

“On a trail near her home in Indiana, Ruth Purchase was aboard her homebred mare, Sundown Lady, with a group of 9. Halfway up a steep hill, the leaders got into a ground nest of angry hornets. The first riders go through, but that left Purcell mid-group to deal with the swarm… She didn’t run or panic. She backed down almost the entire hill without bucking or running away with me. Lady was covered with bees, but she waited until we were safely down the hill to stomp them off. Even then, she did not fuss.”

Rocky Mountain horses have a highly0-desired temperament because they really do want to become your best friend. With these horses around, the only really problem you might be forced to deal with is jealousy. Not from the horse, mind you, but from your dog – who might also be wanting some lap time.