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History of the Mountain Horse

By Jeffrey Rolo

The Mountain Horse (I use the term "Mountain Horse" to denote horses from three registries...the Rocky Mountain Horse Association, the Kentucky Saddle Horse Association and the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association) is by no means a "new" breed; these horses have been "Kentucky's secret" for almost a century! From the early 1900's on, Mountain Horses were used all over the Appalachian Mountain regions of Kentucky as workhorses. Owners of small farms would use these horses for various chores such as drawing carriages through town, plowing fields and giving pleasure rides to their owners after a long days work.

The Mountain Horse was well-loved due to this versatility - not only did the horse have strength, power and endurance for chores such as pulling small plows, it also had a natural agility and gait which made their ride extremely comfortable. Small farmers no longer needed "pleasure horses" AND "draft horses" to serve all their needs as the Mountain Horse performed the duties of BOTH.

Another advantage Mountain Horses had over other breeds was their minimal upkeep. Farmers didn't need to spend a fortune on grain to keep these horses healthy, nor did they need luxuries such as stalls and blankets for the horses. The Mountain Horse needed minimal shelter and food outside of what they grazed on the pasture. Farmers also didn't need to worry about training these horses to gait, as the gait is 100% natural from birth. It was extremely easy to care for and work with these horses; it wasn't a chore that required a significant quantity lot of time.

The reason why Mountain Horses are so docile and well behaved even to this day is because as a whole those who owned them preserved the quality of these horses. If a Mountain Horse had an ill disposition, it was either put down or isolated so as not to be capable of passing on bad blood. This ensured the Mountain Horse would always remain naturally friendly.

In 1986, a group of Mountain Horse owners became worried about the possibility of this horse becoming extinct due to its low numbers, so they joined together to form the Rocky Mountain Horse Association. Their purpose was to preserve the qualities of the Mountain Horse, promote the breed nationwide and protect the small number of Mountain Horses living.

In 1988, political infighting caused a group of people to take their stock of Mountain Horses and create a new registry: the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association. In 1989, yet another group of people took their stock and formed a registry to deal with these horses; this registry was the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association. Each of these registries deals with the same basic horse. The gait is the same, the dispositions are the same and even the bloodlines are often the same. (My stallion is a member of all three registries.) The differences between the registries are more political and cosmetic as the horses themselves are basically the same.

The Mountain Horse has a long history; it's as much an American tradition as baseball and apple pie. If you haven't yet experienced the pleasure of seeing or working with a Mountain Horse, I encourage you to do so soon. No amount of words, pictures or video can do justice to this horse; one can only truly appreciate this breed by seeing it personally.

While I do not have the time to breed or sell Mountain Horses anymore, and while I possess a love for all types of horses, I'll always be a passionate advocate for this special breed.

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