Rocky Mountain Horse Origin and Characteristics

Although this breed is named after the mountains that dominate the US and Canadian West, the Rocky Mountain Horse originated in the Appalachian Mountains. The initial breeding program for this unique horse was in Kentucky.

This breed was initially developed to be used as a driving and light draft horse, offering ranchers and farmers a multi-purpose animal that could save them some cash. A breed association was formed in 1986 and more than 10,000 horses are currently registered.

What makes the Rocky Mountain Horse so unique is its stunning coat, ambling gait, and willing personality. Families needed a horse that could pull their plows in the field and then pull their buggies when it was time to go into town. Working cattle was required along the Appalachian foothills and families needed horses to ride so their children could learn how to work with horses.

The Rocky Mountain Horse could do it all. The gentle disposition of this breed makes it suitable for riders who may have a disability. Most individuals demonstrate enough care to support elderly riders.

These horses still work in the Appalachian foothills. They also perform well in endurance riding events. The International Rocky Mountain Horse Show is held every September at Kentucky Horse Park, which is a great way to get to know this beautiful horse breed.

The History of the Rocky Mountain Horse

Around 1890, a stallion was brought from the Rocky Mountains to the Appalachians. The stallion came there as a colt and was referred to as “that Rocky Mountain Horse.” No written records exist for what happened next, but oral records from the region talk about how this stallion, which his chocolate coat and flaxen mane, were highly desired by ranchers in the area.

It was said that a traveler from the Rocky Mountains was trying to return home to Virginia. After running out of money, he traded his unique horse for the supplies he would need to make the remainder of the journey. The name of this traveler has been lost to history, but the story of the Rocky Mountain Horse was just beginning.

The stallion was bred to local saddle mares. Because the breeding area was quite small and contained, this allowed a local equine strain to begin to develop. This process would continue for the next few decades.

Around the beginning of World War II, another stallion named Old Tobe would begin to influence the Rocky Mountain Breed. Old Tobe was a direct descendant of “that Rocky Mountain Horse” and helped to reinforce the preferred look of this breed.

Despite the financial loss that his owner encountered, Old Tobe worked as a breeding horse until the age of 34. Sam Tuttle lived in Spout Springs and owned a horseback riding concession in Natural Bridge State Park. That was where he kept Old Tobe and the rest of his herd.

It wouldn’t be until 1986 that a formal effort to standardize the breed would take place. In the first set of registrations, just 26 horses were discovered. Since then, Rocky Mountain Horses have spread to almost a dozen different countries and 47 states. To be accepted as a registered member of the breed, all Rocky Mountain Horses must go through DNA testing.

At the age of 23 months, all Rocky Mountain horses are visually inspected to ensure that they meet the physical and gait characteristics that are required of the breed.

Characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse

The coat of the Rocky Mountain Horse is what catches the eye. Almost all horses have a black coat that is supplemented by the rare silver dapple gene. This creates a dark horse with light spotting throughout the coat, highlighted by a flaxen tail and mane. The dark “chocolate” color is the most desired, but any solid color is accepted by the registry. Some white markings are accepted, but no white may be present above the need.

The physical characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse are still quite variable because of the differences in the foundation horses that began the breed. Most individuals will stand at least 14.2 hands high, but horses as tall as 16 hands are still thought of as being common. They usually have a chin that is described as being “tea-cupped” and ears that are “foxed.”

These horses have a single-foot ambling gait that replaces the trot. It is performed at an intermediate speed, less than a gallop, but faster than a walk. This gait is similar to that of a walking horse, which eliminates the bounce a rider might experience while riding another breed. Rocky Mountain Horses have been observed moving at 7 miles per hour for extended periods using the single-foot gait.

On short stretches of smooth ground, some horses can achieve a speed in this gait of up to 16 miles per hour. Horses that can move at these speeds are referred to as being able to perform a “rack.” 

Rocky Mountain Horses are extremely social and have a good nature. They are highly intelligent, love to work, and crave attention from humans. Although they are not a heavy draft horse, they are still classified by many as being a cold-blooded horse. 

These horses have the highest risk of any breed for a condition called multiple congenital ocular anomalies, or MCOA. This condition can affect the vision of the horse. It isn’t a progressive condition and is believed to be tied to the silver dapple gene that is rare in other breeds, but not in the Rocky Mountain Horse.

Many who have owned or worked with Rocky Mountain Horses say that it is impossible to have just one of them around. They are calm, collected, and curious, always wondering what their humans are thinking or doing. It is no wonder why some have called this horse breed the “Labrador Retriever” of the equine world. 

They really are a horse that is well-suited to almost any task or ride. It is a horse for all seasons.
 

Ranger Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Ranger horse is a breed that was exclusive to areas of Nebraska and Colorado in the early 20th century. Today, more than 6,000 horses have been identified as being part of this breed, but registration rules are very stringent.

Mike Ruby founded the Colorado Ranger Horse Association in 1935. The original registry placed limits on the number of horses that could be registered. That meant many owners who had Rangers would end up having their horses identified as being Appaloosas because of those limits.

Ongoing pedigree research is working to discover horses that may have been excluded by the original registration limits. Because of the history of this breed with the Appaloosa, Rangers can be dually registered. About 90% of Colorado Rangers are also registered as being an Appaloosa horse.

Colorado Rangers are often thought of as a color registry, but they are not. It is a bloodline registry. 

What Is the Origin of the Ranger Horse?

Two stallions were given to President Ulysses S. Grant in 1878 by Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey. The first stallion was foaled in 1874 and was named Linden Tree. The second was foaled in 1873 and was named Leopard. Both of these stallions were gray, but Linden Tree was a Barb and Leopard was an Arabian that had been bred in the desert.

These two stallions arrived in Virginia in 1879. They were then kept with the breeding herds of Randolph Huntington, who was known to produce excellent roadster horses. In 1896, Randolph would lease the horses to General Colby, who was a friend of President Grant.

Colby would use the stallions to breed horses on his Nebraska ranch. The offspring were excellent ranch horses with good cow-sense. Several ranchers in Colorado put their money together to purchase a group of the offspring from Colby, including a stallion. Every mare that was purchased came from the two imported sires from Turkey.

Linden Tree and Leopard were so influential on the breeding program that their offspring were used to improve traits in other breeds. These two stallions are listed in Thoroughbred and Arabian breed associations in the United States in addition to the Colorado Ranger Horse Association.

The horses that were purchased from Colby would be used to improve the existing ranch stock in Colorado. It is the offspring from these horses that created the Ranger horse. Breeders emphasized physical traits and spotting patterns on their ranches, with leopard-spot stallions holding the most value.

A Barb stallion named Patches was imported from North Africa in 1918 to improve the breed as well.

Mike Ruby loved these horses and acquired the two stallions to create his own breeding program. He kept impeccable records of his activities, creating the initial pedigree for the Ranger horse association. By 1934, Ruby had been invited to bring two of his stallions to that year’s Denver Stock Show.

Because the spotting pattern is similar to the Appaloosa, it is believed that up to 1 in 8 registered Appaloosas could actually be Ranger horses. About 100 new horses are registered every year and can be found throughout the United States and Canada. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Ranger Horse?

Rangers can be of any color, but pinto horses are not allowed within the breed. Horses that would be classified as Paints are not allowed within 5 generations of a horse’s pedigree if the individual is registering as a Ranger. Pony and draft horse parentage within 5 generations are ineligible for registration as well.

Because the Ranger horse is a bloodline registry, color and markings are not part of the registration eligibility. Ancestry is the primary requirement.

Horses that do not qualify under the first guidelines, but do have a direct ancestry to the two stallions that established this breed, can still apply for registration. It requires a unanimous vote of the board of directors to include the horse. 

Ranger horses can be up to 16 hands high, with adults often reaching a minimum height of 14.2 hands. The horse should have a facial profile that is straight, supported by a neck that is muscular and long. The chest should be deeper than average, with a croup and shoulders that slope to complement a shorter back.

Most Colorado Rangers are still used as ranch horses in the US West or Midwest. Some Rangers are being shown in various riding disciplines, but they are more popular as a recreational horse. Their excellent disposition and overall athleticism makes this breed an excellent trail horse.

Every Ranger is a descendant of either Max #2 or Patches #1 in their pedigree. The association is quite liberal in how registered Rangers may be bred, allowing Appaloosa, Arabian, American Quarter Horse, and Thoroughbred bloodlines. Horses that are 50/50 Arabian and Appaloosa can also be bred to a registered Ranger.

Although all Rangers can be registered as an Appaloosa, an Appaloosa cannot register as a Colorado Ranger unless they have the proper lineage. 

The Limits Placed on Ranger Horses

Mike Ruby served as the President of the Colorado Ranger Horse Association until his death in 1942. A corporate charter was granted to the association in 1938. As part of the initial founding of the association, a member limit of 50 was set. Since there were many more breeders that were working with Rangers at the time, the number of horses that could be registered was extremely limited.

The member limit would remain in place until 1964.

Although the breeding standards are liberal compared to other breeds, it has been becoming more conservative over the past few decades. Lusitano bloodlines used to be permitted, for example, but now they are not.

The association offers Appaloosa owners access to a free pedigree check to determine if their horse qualifies to be a Ranger. Several Appaloosa bloodlines automatically qualify the horse to be a ranger.

Any Appaloosa that is a descendant of Recurring Dream, Pleasant Dreams, Zip Me Impressive, State of Dee Heart, Captain Zip Ahoy, Mr. Big Bucks, Ima Touch DZ, and Shy’s Blue Boy can all be immediately registered with the Colorado Ranger Horse Association.

If research must be done, the Appaloosa must have a pedigree number that is lower than 279999. It takes about 30 days to determine if an Appaloosa qualifies for Colorado Ranger registry.

Ranger horses are part of the heritage of the western United States. Although this breed may still be in its early stages, the foundations have been set for it to have a bright future. 

Racking Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Racking Horse was first recognized as a breed by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1971. It is known not for its size or appearance, but its distinctive single-foot gait. A breed registry was formed the same year as the breed recognition and this group has been a leader in working with gait and breed preservation without the use of artificial devices.

Before 1970, and in some circles still today, one of the methods used to create higher leg action on a horse is “soring.” The act of soring creates a purposeful injury to the horse to force different leg movements. It is a practice that is illegal, but because it enhances the gait of a horse, is still used in secret.

Some classes in the Racking Horse association do allow for the use of special horseshoes or chains that are 6 ounces or less in total weight to enhance action. The goal, however, is to preserve this breed in its natural state.

More than 80,000 horses are currently registered with this breed. Although they are most popular in the United States, Racking Horses have been exported to several countries as well. With its friendly personality, these horses are the perfect breed to think about for beginners, those with disabilities, and for experiential treatment programs. 

What Is the History of the Racking Horse?

Before the Racking Horse came about, there was the Tennessee Walking Horse. These foundation horses were first bred in the years before the US Civil War, often in the states that would eventually secede from the Union. After the war, as the country moved toward the 20th century, horse shows became very popular. Southern Tennessee Walking Horses had some noticeable difference to the Northern Tennessee Walking Horses.

The southern Walkers were actually the first generation of the Racking Horse. Because there wasn’t a breed association in place, however, they were shown as Tennessee Walking Horses.

It wouldn’t be until the middle of the 20th century when the Racking Horse Breeders’ Association of America, the RHBAA, would finally form. The USDA recognized Racking Horses as being separate from Tennessee Walking Horses in 1981. By 1975, the new breed was already recognized as an official state horse in Alabama.

Racking Horses would gain immediately popularity in the equine world. Also in 1975, Bentley’s Ace, the first stallion of the breed to be syndicated, would be crowned the World Grand Champion. Coming from a local farm in Alabama, the $350 cost his owners paid for him as a colt turned into a $100,000 win.

Two additional stallions became important foundation horses in the early days of the RHBAA. Named Speck and EZD Falcon Rowdy, these two would win a combined 16 world championships in speed trotting. Rowdy was a dappled buckskin and Speck was a red roan. Together they helped to create the beautiful coat color combinations that can be seen in the modern breed.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the popularity of the Racking Horse began to decline dramatically. Some distinct bloodlines were completely eliminated. The ones that remained became closely related and inbreeding began to occur within the breed. To counter this issue, the RHBAA decided to open their registry to several other breeds if the horse can meet their breed standard.

Standardbred, Kentucky Saddle Horses, and Rocky Mountain Horses are common additions in the modern RHBAA. Tennessee Walking Horses are preferred because of the similar gait. Purebred American Saddlebreds are ineligible, but half-Saddlebreds may be eligible if the breed standard of the RHBAA is met.

Characteristics to Expect with a Racking Horse

Racking Horses are classified as light riding horses. They stand an average of 15.2 hands high, with mares sometimes a bit smaller and some stallions standing 16 hands or higher. Most individuals within this breed weigh at least 1,000 pounds.

A Racking Horse should offer a visual appearance of gracefulness at first glimpse. The neck is longer than average, with a croup and shoulders that slope, and pronounced musculature throughout the body. This leads to legs that should be slim, but with a solid bone structure. The hooves should be large enough to naturally limit lameness with the action of the single-foot gait.

Racking Horses should hold their head in such a way that it speaks of their intelligence. They should maintain a profile that is straight, neat, and alert. Their ears should reflect their personality and the eyes should be bright, clear, and large.

All solid coat colors are accepted by the Racking Horse breed registry. Roan coats are also accepted. Dilution genes are found often in this breed, creating pinto patterns. Palomino and buckskin horses are uncommon, but not rare, and some horses may have body markings that are still permitted.

Black, bay, chestnut, and gray tend to be the most common coat colors. Sorrel, yellow, and cremello horses can also be seen from time to time. 

Racking Horses with pinto patterning are allowed to register as a Spotted Saddle Horse while maintain their own breed registry.

The single-foot gait, sometimes called the “rack,” is a smooth gait that comes from its genetic heritage. Racking Horses at a full-speed rack have been known to reach up to 30 miles per hour. During a casual rack, a speed of 8 miles per hour is common. Most individuals within the breed have two standard speeds that they use with this gait.

Racking Horses should have an affectionate personality that is laid back, calm, and gentle. Individual personalities may have more spirit, but for the most part, this breed enjoys human companionship and the chance to go on a long trail ride.

What Is Speed Racking?

Speed racking is a competition that offers the chance for horses to compete with one another, but without the potentially harmful environment of a traditional horse race. The horses from various breeds that can perform the rack gait are brought together to show off their speed. They compete by completing a distance challenge. The conformity to the gait, when combined with the actual speed over the distance, is put together to produce a score.

The horse with the highest score is then crowned the champion of the event. Since the 1970s when horse shows were used as an alternative for racing, Racking Horses have won the world championship about half of the time.

Any horse can technically be taught to perform the rack, but this breed prefers to use the natural gait of the horse to perform the movement. Speed racking competitions are open to any breed, but if there is evidence of soring or any other illegal or harmful method to create the necessary leg action, the horse will be disqualified. The breeder, trainer, or owner may also be removed from their breed registry.

Speed racking events can be organized by almost anyone, but there are a few large events that take place throughout the year. Although the US Trotting Association doesn’t track speed racking, the RHBAA does, along with the Speed Racking Association of America.

Two events are held in Jamestown, TN each year that have turned into rather large celebrations for those who love speed racking. Called “Big Guns” and “Racking on the Edge,” these events are a great way to get to know this breed and the people who love these horses.

To qualify for competition, a horse may be required to demonstrate a specific speed while using the rack. For the Big Guns event in Jamestown, a 20-mph minimum is often required.

What Is the Future of the Racking Horse?

Racking Horses may not be the most popular breed in the United States today, but their population numbers are not listed as being threatened right now. Thanks to the quick action of the RHBAA, genetic bottlenecking due to inbreeding is not a risk to the survival of the breed. Although other bloodlines are still accepted, Racking Horses are still treated as a unique breed with an incredibly smooth gait thanks to its ancestry.

Their personality makes them an inviting family horse and a good ride for those who enjoy working with horses on a recreational basis. Racking horses are also quite affordable, with some older horses priced around $1,500. Stallions may be priced around $6,000 and registered mares are usually priced around $2,500.

For those who love working with horses, a Racking Horse is a wonderful addition to any herd. It is the perfect option for a first-time owner or those who may be afraid of being around horses. They may be big, but they are lovable, and they love going fast. 

Przewalski Horse Origin and Characteristics

There is only one true “wild” horse that is currently known and that is the Przewalski horse. Other horse breeds may be allowed to roam freely and the American Mustang has roamed in herds in the US West for more than a century, but these horses are listed as being “semi-feral” instead.

Most horses in the wild are either escaped or released horses that have been left to their own devices. At one point, they were domesticated. Now their descendents are roaming in the wild, but the semi-feral status still remains.

There are some physical traits and characteristics which makes the Przewalski horse stand out from other breeds as well. It is a rare breed, very endangered, and was believed to be extinct in the wild by 1966. Thanks to a key preservation program, this horse is being reintroduced to its native habitat in Mongolia and other designated areas of protection.

The Przewalski horse may be referred to as a Takhi horse, a Dzungarian horse, or the Mongolian wild horse.

What Is the History of the Przewalski Horse?

The Przewalski horse may be one of the oldest breeds that still currently exists. The archeological record shows evidence of this breed being present around the 30th century BC. Estimations of its origins place this horse breed being on the planet up to 160,000 years ago.

The first recorded sighting of the Przewalski horse from a European standpoint occurred in the 15th century. Johann Schlitberger recorded seeing these horses during his travels in Mongolia. The breed, however, is named after a Russian colonel. Nikolai Przhevalski described these horses in the 19th century after forming an expedition to find them.

In 1900, Carl Hagenbeck captured a few Przewalski horses so they could be placed in zoos By 1945, only two populations remained in captivity, in Prague and Munich. These horses would become the salvation of their species. 

DNA testing has been completed to determine if the Przewalski horse is the foundation breed for the modern domesticated breeds, and it is not. Their sequences have not been found in domesticated breeds. The sequences found in domesticated breeds are not found in the Przewalski horse either.

That makes it a unique horse breed in today’s equine world. Most horses today have 66 chromosomes, whereas the average domesticated horse breed has 64 chromosomes. Przewalski horses can be bred with domestic horses and produce fertile foals, even though the offspring will have 65 chromosomes.

Every Przewalski horse that is living today is a direct descendant of 9 horses. There were 13 horses captured in 1945 and held in captivity. These 13 horses are direct descendants of another 15 horses that were captured around the turn of the 20th century. When the horses were believed to be extinct in the wild as of 1966, the Zoological Society of London began working with various organizations to bring this breed back into the wild.

The total population of this breed is estimated to be about 2,000. Around 300 are currently living in the wild in Mongolia, checked on periodically, but left to be free-ranging. In 1998, a population of Przewalski horses was introduced into the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and this herd is believed to be increasing in size as well.

There is also a herd of Przewalski horses located in Hungary within the boundaries of the Hortobagy National Park. This herd is studied intensely to ensure behaviors, herd structures, and health concerns can be identified to help other breeds should something negative occur. 

What Are the Characteristics of the Przewalski Horse?

Przewalski horses are very stocky when compared to the average horse breed, with legs that are noticeably shorter. Przewalskis will stand about 12 hands high, though some individuals can be as tall as 14 hands. Despite their stocky appearance, these horses are below average in weight at 650 pounds.

Most horses within this breed have a coat color that is dun. Pangare features are common, with dark brown coloration around the mane, flanks, and belly quite common. The mane is usually a darker brown and the belly of the horse is closer to a yellow or white coloration. The muzzle of the horse usually matches the coloration found on the belly.

Most Przewalski horses have striped legs that are similar to the primitive markings that are found on other breeds. They also have shorter hair, but a longer dock, than what can be seen in the average domesticate horse today.

Przewalski horses also have hooves that are longer in the back. When compared to feral horses that are described as being wild, there is a noticeable difference in the thickness of the sole.

When living in the wild, Przewalski horses tend to live in small herds that consist primarily of family grounds. There will be one stallion, up to 3 mares, and their offspring. At the age of 2, the young horses begin to explore the idea of forming their own permanent family groups. Young stallions may also form their own herd, called a “bachelor group,” until they establish their own family.

Some bachelor groups may have older stallions join them, especially if they have lost their family herd for some reason. Family herds may join together to form a larger herd that moves around together, but the family group holds a priority over the herd in such a circumstance. 

Przewalski horses prefer to stay in visual contact with their family at all times. They have several forms of communication that are shared as well, which is not usually seen in domesticated horses. The complexity of the social behaviors and how they structure their herds into long-term family groups is quite unique.

What Has Happened to the Przewalski Horse Today?

Breeding programs around the world are working hard to preserve this breed. Small family herds can be found in several zoos around the world, while there are also programs that are working to continue reintroducing this breed back to their native habitat.

One of the largest breeding programs is located in China, where over 120 horses are currently divided into more than a dozen breeding herds. This program was started in 1985 with just 11 horses that were imported. Nearly 60 horses from this program have been reintroduced to the wild.

The Przewalski horse is nowhere near being out of danger, but the recovery has been strong since the 1980s. At one point, the population of this breed was down to 12 known individuals. It will continue to take a concerted effort by breeders and preservation experts from around the world to help this breed to survive, but the most difficult steps have already been taken. 

Pinto Horse Origin and Characteristics

Pinto horses are not an independent breed. They are a “color” breed, which means they can appear in several different horse breeds around the world. For a horse to have a pinto coat, there must be large patches of white and then a “solid” coat color which complements it.

Some cultures have selectively bred their horses over the years to obtain pinto patterning on the coat. It can also occur naturally because of lineage and genetics within certain breeds.

Pinto horses, or “colored” horses in some cultures, are one of the most popular coat types in the world today. Some breed registries will accept horses based solely on the patterning of their coat. The coat pattern is distinct from other spotting genetics.

A pinto horse is sometimes called a “Paint,” but this is inaccurate. The American Paint Horse is the true paint, which is a pinto-type horse that has bloodlines from a Thoroughbred or an American Quarter Horse.

What Is the Origin of the Pinto Horse?

“Pinto” in Spanish can mean “spotted,” “painted,” or “dappled.” The coat coloration has not yet been officially identified through DNA typing, but the history of spotted horses goes back to the earliest days of documented human history. Cave art, pottery, and other artifacts from antiquity have shown that spotted patterns on horses date back thousands of years.

Objects from Ancient Egypt, Russian, and the Roman Empire all show evidence of coat spotting that is similar to the pinto pattern. 

In the first days of horse domestication, the spotted patterning in a coat may have been one of the first traits that was selectively bred. This popularity continued for centuries, but peaked in the 17th century when Europeans found spotted horses to be particularly attractive. When that trend ended, however, there were large numbers of horses that were no longer valuable.

That is when the pinto horse came to the Americas. Many of them were turned loose because of the costs of caring for them. Some were sold and breeding for the spot patterning continued. The native and First Nations tribes were particularly attracted to the pinto horse and several groups created their own breeding programs as well.

It is because of this history that the United States currently has the largest population of pinto horses in the world today.

What Are the Color Patterns of a Pinto Horse?

There are several descriptions that are used for the coat coloring that is found on a pinto horse. Color combinations and spotting combinations may each have their own terminology. Here are some of the common terms for the colors that can be found.

Piebald: These horses have a black base coat, but any pinto pattern. This creates a spotted horse that is black and white.

Skewbald: These horses have any other base coat color except black and may have any pinto patterning. Most horses within this category are either bay or chestnut, but any other color than black fits into this terminology.

Colored: This term is used for both skewbald and piebald horses. It is a general term used in Europe, especially in Britain, for pinto horses.

Tricolored: Some pinto horses may have three coat colors instead of two, including the white coloration from their spotting. These horses are typically classified as skewbald, but are sometimes separated into their own group.

There are also 4 distinct patterns that are recognized with pinto horses.

  • Tobiano. This is the most common type of pinto horse. The spotting is down the back and legs, with a vertical look to the pattern. The ideal tobiano horse would have a 50% pattern distribution.
  • Overo. This pattern incorporates any pattern that is not recognized as being tobiano. Splashed white, sabino, and frame horses are included in this category. The spotting is jagged instead of rounded, with crisp edging. The head, neck, and body have spotting more so than the withers.
  • Tovero. This pinto horse pattern combines tobiano and overo pattern traits. Multiple spotting genes are often found with horses like this, which creates very unique coat spotting patterns.
  • Dominant White. Some white-spotting patterns are so dominant on some pinto horses that their coat is dominated by the spot coloration. These horses are not true white animals, nor are they albinos. Up to 20 different known variations of this coat pattern have been discovered since 1900 and they have all originated from a lineage where the parents did not have white coats.

Where the spotting occurs on the coat of a horse also has some related terms that are worth noting. The most common term used is to describe a pinto horse as being “chrome.” This indicates that the white markings on the horse looks good.

Some pinto horses do not have a visible spot pattern on their coat. They may have minimal spotting that cannot be seen at first glance. These horses are referred to as being “solid” pinto horses.

One pattern that is unique and quite popular creates a large white spotting pattern down the neck and around the face. This leaves the top of the head and the ears a darker color, created the look of a hat. This is referred to as a “medicine hat” pinto horse.

Some pinto horses have “shields,” or a large, dark patch that covers a majority of their chest. Surrounded by white coloration, it can sometimes be found on medicine hat horses.

When a pinto horse has a spotted pattern, but was foaled from two parents that had a solid coat color, the horse is called a “cropout.” It is usually a negative term because the foal does not meet the breed standards for coloration, but is still a purebred horse.

Why Is a Pinto Horse Different from a Paint Horse?

Pinto horses may occur in any breed. Paint horses do have pinto coloration, but have a verifiable pedigree to Thoroughbreds or American Quarter Horses. A separate registry has been created, the American Paint Horse registry, to track the pinto coloration on these specific bloodlines.

Technically, that means all Paint horses are pinto horses, but not all pinto horses can be Paint horses. 

For a horse to be registered as an American Paint, it must have at least one parent who is registered with their breed association. Both parents must be from Thoroughbred, American Quarter Horse, or American Paint Horse bloodlines.

A horse should therefore only be referred to as a Paint if the ancestry is known. If not, then the correct terminology to use would be to call the horse a pinto.

Pinto horses are often treated as crossbreeds, especially when a breed association does not accept “excessive” white coloration of the coat. Pinto horse associations may represent several breeds instead of just one, but it also gives these cropout horses a place to go.

Spotted horses have always been popular and if you ever get to meet a pinto horse, you’ll likely fall in love with them too.
 

Peruvian Horse Origin and Characteristics

The Peruvian Paso has been protected by government decree since 1992. The breed has been declared a Cultural Heritage of the Nation as well. What has made the Peruvian a unique horse is its 400 years of relative isolation. It has created a breed that is very particular about the horse’s physical characteristics and gait. 

Peruvians are smooth-gaited horses that are prized in the northern areas of Peru where this breed gained a foothold. The ancestry of the horse allows it to be strong and have good endurance. Some individuals may also have an ambling gait because of their specific ancestry.

Because Peruvians are sometimes referred to with Paso in their name, an association with Paso Fino horses is often made. This is an incorrect correlation. Although the breeds do have a shared lineage from Colonial Spanish horses, they are two separate breeds. Paso Finos were developed in Colombia and Puerto Rico and did not interact with the Peruvian.

To avoid any confusion, a transition from Peruvian Paso to just “Peruvian” is being made outside of Peru to differentiate the breeds. 

What Is the Origin of the Peruvian Horse?

The Peruvian has its foundations in the Colonial Spanish horses that were brought over to the New World from Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. The first horses arrived in Peru during the Spanish conquest of the region that was initiated by Pizarro in 1531. After settlements were established, foundation horses were imported from Europe and Central America within a decade.

A variety of breeds were part of the imports, so the modern Peruvian has a very mixed lineage. Barb, Jennet, and Palfreys make up a majority of the ancestry, with Andalusian bloodlines helping to give the breed some of its conformation, action, and style. 

As homesteads established themselves, the horses were used for transportation, agricultural work, and additional breeding. In the north, where plantations where numerous and large, owners needed a horse that could withstand several days of riding to cover the entire land area of the plantation. Meanwhile, in the south where deserts were more prevalent, sturdy horses that could withstand the head were necessary.

These individual characteristics developed in region-specific areas, but would eventually crossbreed to become the beginning of the first true Peruvian breed. And, since the economy of Peru was based on plantation products and not livestock, there was never a need to create a breed that emphasized speed. This separates the Peruvian from the typical agricultural stock horse.

Over the 400 years of isolation, Peruvian breeders emphasized a need to keep the bloodlines pure for the breed. Although gait was the primary emphasis of breeding in most instances, there was also a strong preference for horses that met certain physical conformation characteristics and had a calm, willing temperament. Over time, the dedication to these characteristics has helped to create one of the best gaited breeds in the world.

Beginning in the early 20th century, transportation networks began to replace the need to own a horse for transportation. This caused many breeders to just give their horses away since they could no longer afford to keep them. In the South, this caused the breed to virtually disappear. In the North, however, a need to travel on the haciendas kept the breed alive. 

That survival was threatened in the 1960s when government reforms broke up stud farms. Most of the breeding stock was lost. The only thing that saved the breed was international interest in the horse. Many of the best horses were exported, essentially to save them, and Peru would go several decades with a minimal population of its namesake horse.

There are currently more than 25,000 horses worldwide, with a growing population returning to Peru. Champion horses can no longer be exported, which is helping to refine the breed locally as well.

What Are the Characteristics of the Peruvian Horse? 

Peruvians are average in size, with most standing between 14-15.2 hands high. They have a certain elegance to their initial first impression, but there is also a sense of power behind that delicate exterior. Peruvians should have a heavy neck, a deep chest, and have consistent proportions throughout the body. Stallions tend to be a bit heavier and deeper than a mare, but this is for general comparisons only.

Peruvians can have virtually any coat color, but some are more desirable than others. Solid coat colors are the most popular, with a gray coat and dark skin the most preferred. Black, brown, chestnut, roan, and dun are also common. Buckskins and Palominos are seen from time to time within this breed as well. White markings are permitted along the legs and face, but coat patterning is discouraged within the breed.

The tail on a Peruvian show be set low and should be quiet. The mane should be thick and “lustrous,” displayed with abundance. A flow effect should occur in each gait, especially if high leg action is involved.

Peruvians have an ambling 4-beat gait instead of a trot, which comes into play between the walk and canter. The gait is lateral, starting with the left hind leg and ending with the right foreleg. Two variations of this gait may be performed. The first, called the paso llano, is performed in a straight 1-4 rhythm. The second, which is called the soreandando, is faster and puts the lateral beats closer together. 

This gait allows the horse to cover a long distance with good speed without a high level of fatigue. The gait is natural, without much bounce, and doesn’t require much training for a rider or the horse to master.

One unique trait for the Peruvian is called the termino. This is a swinging leg action that moves outward from the shoulder. It causes the lower legs of the front to roll toward the outside as the horse strides forward. Think about how a human swimmer performs a freestyle stroke and the movement is similar for the Peruvian. Some horses can have a wide or a high termino that affects their overall gait.

Brio and the Peruvian Horse

The Peruvian Paso may be judged on several physical characteristics, but they are also evaluated for what is called “brio.” Brio is a description of the liveliness the horse offers. It includes the courage of the horse, its energy, vigor, and the overall exuberance that is on display. These qualities should be placed naturally at the disposal of the rider and be available on command.

A horse with good brio is going to stay focused and be a willing worker. They keep their attention on the rider, trainer, or the task at-hand. That makes it easy for Peruvians to learn new skills, react to a situation, or respond to a command. It also makes it possible for a horse with good brio to have an excellent stamina and handle a long ride with confidence.

Brio is often referred to as a description of the animal’s spirit, but that isn’t accurate. A horse with good brio can be calm and collected or hot and anxious. There is a certain arrogance that the horse must exude, but there must also be a certain willingness to please and follow a specific role through controlled energy at the same time. 

Genetic Concerns with the Peruvian Horse

Isolation for horses is generally a good thing as it prevents the development of genetic disorders, disease sensitivity, and other health conditions that afflict international breeds. For the most part, this rule remains true for the Peruvian. This breed does have a higher prevalence of degenerative suspensory ligament desmitis, or DSLD, then some other breeds.

DSLD is a condition that is similar to Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, but was first noted within the Peruvian. It was initially thought to be a condition associated with the natural aging process and hard work for individual horses, but has been recognized as a hereditary condition today. It has even been discovered in Peruvian foals.

What Is the Future of the Peruvian Horse?

The Peruvian, like many other horse breeds, has been relegated to a relatively recreational role in modern society. The importance of its heritage should not be ignored, but it is equally important to note the willingness of the horse to form relationships, learn new skills, and have an enjoyable ride down a long trail.

Peruvians excel in show rings at the national level. Regional shows are held throughout the Americas and national-level shows in the United States, Peru, and Europe are recognized by breed associations. For those who are interested in working with a horse for the first time, this breed is an excellent choice to make. They may have some spirit, but they also make for an excellent family horse.

Peruvians have seen some challenges over the years, but their centuries of isolation have helped to create a strong, resilient horse that is ready to meet any adversity head-on. With regulation changes in Peru and continued international breeding programs already being successful, the future of this breed is quite bright indeed.

Percheron Horse Origin and Characteristics

In the Huisne River Valley in France, the Perche province once stood. This is where the breed gets its name. The actual ancestry of the horse, however, is not known. The foundation stock for the Percheron may have been brought into the region as early as the 5th century. Arabian stallions brought into the region in the 8th century may have contributed to the breed, as may have war horses from the region thanks to the wars fought in the Perche region from the 5th thru 10th centuries.

Another theory about the origin of the Percheron involves the Boulonnais breed, brought to Perche from Brittany to help reinforce Roman troops in the region during the BC/AD conversion.

What is known about the Percheron is that in the 8th century, the Comte du Perche brought horses from Asia and Arabia into the region upon his return from the Crusades. Spanish horses were brought into the region as well during various expeditions into the surrounding territories. Rotrou III also imported horses from Spain into the Perche region.

Although the physical characteristics and bloodlines are up for a debate, what is agreed upon by all is that the environment of Perche in the Huisne River Valley influenced the breed to help it become what it is today.

The Percheron is a tall, heavy draft horse today, but in the 17th century and likely long before then, this breed was much smaller. Ancestors of the modern Percheron were often just 15 hands high and had more light draft and sporting horse characteristics. The horses were almost always gray, if era-specific artwork is accurate, and were often the mount preferred for knights and royalty during times of war.

As the need for war horses began to dwindle, the size and power of the Percheron was emphasized in local breeding programs. The rural nature of the region meant that heavy coaches would need to be pulled, often at a fast trot, to reach a destination. That meant the horses pulling the coaches would need to be tall, strong, and have great endurance.

This is the beginning of the modern Percheron. These horses, first called “Diligence” horses, became heavier and taller with each generation. They moved from agriculture work to heavy hauling work in the early industrial sectors of the 17th and 18th centuries.

Percheron Exports and How It Changed the Breed

Beginning in the 19th century, Percherons were exported overseas to the United States and across the channel to Britain. In the first trip to the US in 1839, only 4 horses survived the trip across the ocean. One of the stallions, named Diligence, is credited with siring over 400 foals in the US. Three additional stallions were exported to the US in 1851 and this helped to establish the American-type Percheron.

Then the Civil War broke out in the US. Percheron owners began crossbreeding with local mares to produce larger horses that could serve a variety of needs. After the war, the need for heavy draft horses to settle the West became even greater, which led to further crossbreeding. It wouldn’t be until 1876 when a breed association would form in an attempt to preserve the bloodlines of the exported horses.

In total, more than 20,000 Percheron horses were exported to the United States from 1865-1906. They were used in the traveling circuses of the era, on homesteads, and were even a popular carriage horse in the cities.

Many of the Percherons that came to Britain, however, came by way of the United States. That meant many of the first horses were crossbreeds instead of purebred horses.

Because of this movement, you see three different breed standards in France, the UK, and the US. Beginning in 1911, registrations were restricted to parents already registered with the society. As mechanization took over, the need for heavy draft horses dramatically declined.  Population numbers in the US in 1988 reached a low of 1,088.

Part  of the reason for the dramatic decline was the development of the Augeron breed in the 19th century in France. This breed, which merged back with the Percheron in the 1960s, had its own stud book for more than a century, partially due to the fact that for some time, only horses that had been foaled near Perche were entitled to register.

The 20th Century and the Percheron Horse

It wouldn’t be until 1966 that the French stud book would allow draft horses from other areas of France that were either purebred Percherons, but foaled elsewhere, or other breeds that were closely related. Between 1970-1990, the focus of Percheron breeding in France was purely meat production.

In the early 1990s, the need for sleeker, more consistent Percherons for export became apparent. Percherons were sought after in Japan especially, but the French horses were too large. That is when the French began to import American Percheron stallions to improve the consistency of their breed.

Many of the stallions imported during the 1990s were black, which has led to black beginning to be the predominant coat color in some lineage lines.

At the same time, the decades after World War II were devastating for the Percheron in the United States. Only a handful of farms maintained bloodlines so that the breed could be preserved. Recovery efforts began in the 1980s, which expanded after European demand increased a decade later. 

Characteristics of the Percheron Horse

The preferred physical characteristics of a Percheron depend on the country and its breed association. In its home country of France, the average height range for a Percheron is anywhere from 15 hands to 18 hands. Stallions are known to weigh as much as 2,600 pounds.

By comparison, a Percheron in the United States is bread to be a little smaller and lighter, but there are taller individuals that are highly sought after as well. The average height is between 16-17.3 hands, with some horses reaching 19 hands. The average weight of an American Percheron is typically under 2,000 pounds, but the top weight in the US is similar to the horses found in France.

In Britain, a Percheron must meet a minimum height standard of 16.2 hands to be registered as a stallion or 16.1 hands for a mare. Weights are a little heavier, around 2,100 pounds for stallions and 1,900 pounds for mares

In Europe, Percherons who are gray or black in coat color are generally all that is accepted for registration. In the United States, chestnut, roan, and bay Percherons are also accepted. All breed registries allow for some limited white marks on their legs or heads, but excessive white marks are usually faulted.

All Percherons should have a straight profile. Their forehead should be broad, with eyes that are above average in size, but ears that are below average. The chest of this breed should be wide and deep for stallions and mares, with a croup that is level and above average in length. This should lead to feet and legs that are noticeably muscled, but still clean.

This leads to a visual first impression of a horse that is strong, rugged, and powerful, but not bulky. 

Like most heavy draft horses, the Percheron displays a coldblooded temperament, although there is the occasional exception. There is a certain pride in the carriage of a Percheron and they always seem to be alert. These horses should be willing workers, backed by a noticeable intelligence, along with a desire for regular social contact.

Percherons are generally easy keepers. Because of their history, they can adapt to a variety of different conditions. At a trot, a Percheron can easily cover about 40 miles in a day without difficulty. 

How the Percheron Is Used Today

Out of all the French heavy draft breeds, the Percheron is the most popular of in the world right now. They’re being used to improve other heavy draft breeds and are foundation stock for the Spanish-Norman horse, which is a cross between an Andalusian and a Percheron. 

Percherons are still used for draft work. In France, the horses are also part of the food production chain. You’ll find them in parades, being used for sleigh rides, and to pull carriages in large urban centers. In Disneyland Paris, teams of working Percherons help to pull the trams down the main street of the park.

In the United States, Heinz utilizes Percherons to counter the marketing that Budweiser has had with their Clydesdales. The Heinz Percherons make regular appearances in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade in Anaheim, CA.

In the United Kingdom, Percherons are still regularly used for forestry work, especially in difficult-to-access areas.

And, as was the case in the US during the period before and right after the Civil War, numerous Percherons are being used to improve the size, strength, and scope of local stock horses. Programs in the Falkland Islands, Australia, and the United Kingdom have Percheron stallions working with local mares to improve local stock.

Australia also crosses Percherons with Thoroughbreds to create horses for their mounted police.

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.