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Rocky Mountain Horse Association

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association

Mountain Pleasure Horse Association

Spotted Mountain Horse Association

United Mountain Horse Inc.

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For many years the Mountain Horse was bred as a calm-tempered, sure-footed, all-round farm horse that could move as easily and as smoothly over rough mountain trails as through an open field. One might say they are a “do it all” kind of horse. They could pull a plow or buggy, work cattle, be ridden bareback by children, or saunter comfortably into town. Mountain Horses are very easy keepers too. Their hardy upbringing and thick winter coats allow them to tolerate our cold Canadian winters with a minimum of food and shelter. Their metabolisms are highly efficient and they don't waste energy on hot or nervous behavior either. (Scroll down for a more detailed history of the Mountain Horse).

Today, the Mountain Horse is a very popular choice among pleasure riders. There is nothing a Mountain Horse can't do, though they truly excel out on the trail and make the ideal family horse. With their smooth, effortless saddle gait the Mountain Horse is a perfect choice for riders with back, hip or knee injuries and age-related fatigues too.

“To know a Rocky is to love a Rocky!”


As a result of generations of selective breeding the Mountain Horse posses a natural and inherited ability to perform a smooth, ambling “saddle gait” that glides forward. The Mountain Horse has a 4-BEAT LATERAL gait, in which one can count four distinct hoof beats that produce a cadence of near equal rhythm, just like at the walk. This gait is initiated by the hind leg, and the sequence goes LEFT HIND - LEFT FRONT - RIGHT HIND - RIGHT FRONT. This is a naturally occurring gait, present from birth, that does not require any training aids or action devices, and is extremely comfortable to ride. Mountain Horses can be ridden at varying speeds while maintaining their saddle gait, averaging 5-25 miles per hour. While the speed may vary the four beat rhythm of the gait should always remain constant. The Mountain Horse moves it's feet with minimal ground clearance, and minimal knee and hock action. The gait is highly efficient, using multiple muscles groups simultaneously, allowing the Mountain Horse to cover great distances at high speeds without tiring.

Like all breeds of horses the Mountain Horse is capable of performing many gaits. While the saddle gait is the most desired and highly sot after gait, many Mountain Horse owners enjoy cantering their horses too especially while out on the trail!


One of the most outstanding characteristics of the Mountain Horse is their incredibly calm, well-mannered, people-oriented dispositions. Because of their amazing temperaments Mountain Horses are easily trained; many veteran horse trainers have remarked how much more quickly Mountain Horses learn and retain knowledge compared to most other horse breeds. Even young, “green” Mountain Horses can be allowed long lay off times between rides without needing “refresher” courses or warm up time to deal “hotness”. Mountain Horses are always willing to learn new things, and relish attention from their owners as they are extremely people-oriented horses. They will do anything and follow you anywhere! Mountain Horses are naturally “thinkers”; when in new or scary situations they take the time to think things through, instead of automatically going in to “fight or flight” mode. This ability combined with their unusually calm temperaments makes them easy to handle in situations where many other horses would “spook” or shy away. While Mountain Horses are slow to mature physically, often taking 4-5 years for full skeletal growth and 5-7 years for full muscular growth, they are very quick to mature mentally. In fact, it is quite common for one of our 3 or 4 year old Mountain Horses to behave better than a seasoned 10 year old of most other breeds!

Conformation & Colour:

The Rocky Mountain Horse stands between 14.2-16 hands; with a medium build; a wide, deep chest; sloping shoulders (ideally with an angle of 45º); the hips should be round and full; the gaskins muscular; the feet are medium sized and in proportion to the body. The head should be of medium size in proportion to the body, with a medium jaws, bold eyes, well shaped ears and a face that is neither dished nor protruding. The neck should be gracefully arched, medium in length and set at an angle to allow natural carriage with a break at the poll. Mountain Horses are also known for their incredibly long, thick, sometimes wavy manes and tails.

The Rocky Mountain Horse has a solid body colour, with no white above the knees or hocks, except on the face where only modest amounts are acceptable. Mountain Horses come in all colours of the rainbow, including silver dapples, creams, roans, champagnes and duns. However, the breed distinction and “crowd favorite” is the chocolate coat colour with a white or flaxen mane and tail.

Note: The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, Mountain Pleasure Horse and Spotted Mountain Horse registries allow for those horses that fall outside of the 14.2-16 hand height range, or have excessive white markings.

The Mountain Horse Registries:

The Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) is a not for profit breed-specific horse registry. The RMHA was established in 1986, primarily through the efforts of Rea Swan, to preserve the rapidly declining population of the Rocky Mountain Horse. Between 1986-1989 the RMHA held “open” registrations to register those horses that met the RMHA breed standards for gait, temperament, conformation & colour.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association (KMSHA) is a for profit type-specific horse registry. The KMSHA was formed in 1989 and independently owned by Robert Robertson Jr. The primary purpose of the KMSHA was to register those horses that met the basic RMHA breed standards but were shorter in height (though no upper height limit was set). However, because the KMSHA is a type-specific registry horses of non-Rocky Mountain Horse breeding may also be registered (eg. Tennesse Walkers). So all RMHA registered horses are eligible to be registered with the KMSHA, but not all KMSHA registered horses are eligible to be registered with the RMHA.

The Mountain Pleasure Horse Association (MPHA) is a not for profit type-specific horse registry. The MPHA was formed in 1989 by a minority group of RMHA members. The primary purpose of the MPHA was to register those horses that met the basic RMHA breed standards but were taller in height and without the white colour restrictions (white allowed above the knees). However, because the MPHA is a type-specific registry horses of non-Rocky Mountain Horse breeding may also be registered (eg. Tennesse Walkers). So all RMHA registered horses are eligible to be registered with the MPHA, but not all MPHA registered horses are eligible to be registered with the RMHA.

The Spotted Mountain Horse Association (SMHA) is for profit type-specific horse registry owned by the KMSHA. The SMHA was formed in 2002 to register Mountain Horses that had white “spots” that were considered too much coverage for any of the existing Mountain Horse registries. Minimal white spotting caused by the Sabino genes is very common among Mountian Horses, occasionally two RMHA horses with minimal white can produce a foal with a significant amount of white that is ineligable to be registered with the RMHA. However, white spotting patterns such as the Tobiano gene are not native to Mountain Horses and have been introduced to by cross-breeding with Tennesse Walking Horses.

The United Mountain Horse Inc. (UMH) is not a breed or type registry, but a not for profit corporation. The UMH was established in 2000 for the purpose of uniting, promoting and exhibiting all Mountain Horses.

A Brief History Of The Mountain Horse:

The Mountain Horse originated in the United States in the late 1800’s. At the time of it’s beginnings there was little understanding of the need to document anything about these unique horses. The people living in this region were quite unaware that one day their utility horses would become the foundation of a very special breed of horse. Oral history passed down from generation to generation tells of a gaited colt brought from the Rocky Mountain region of the United States to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky around 1890. He was referred to as “The Rocky Mountain Horse” by the local Kentucky people because of the area of the country from which he had come. This is the horse credited for the start of the Mountain Horse breed. Little is known about this foundation stallion, but oral history indicated he was chocolate colored with a flaxen mane & tail, and that he possessed a superior gait and an unusually calm temperament. The stallion was bred to the local Appalachian saddle mares in this remote geographical area, and the basic characteristics of a strong genetic line continued. This prized line of horses increased in numbers as years went by, and these are the horses known today as Rocky Mountain Horses.

During these early days, the rural inhabitants of eastern Kentucky considered these Mountain Horses to be horses for all seasons and reasons. They were calm tempered, sure-footed, easy-gaited, and the mount of choice for postmen, doctors, and traveling preachers. The people used them for plowing fields, herding cattle, driving the buggy to church on Sundays, and traveling through the steep, rugged mountain trails. In the old days horses were not a luxury, but a necessity. Every horse had to earn its keep and be extremely versatile too. These horses were worked hard, day in and day out.

The families who owned these Mountain Horses were not wealthy, and could not afford to spend a lot of money on their upkeep. Unlike Kentucky Thoroughbreds that were typically owned by the social elite, the gaited horses of eastern Kentucky received no special care. These horses withstood harsh winters with minimal shelter. The Mountain Horse learned to exist on whatever sustenance it could find. So, like deer, they foraged under the snow, and ate the bark off trees when they were hungry. Only the horses that survived these extreme conditions lived to reproduce their kind. The effect on the Mountain Horse was to produce a breed which is naturally healthy, hardy and long-lived. With many Mountain Horses riding and breeding well into their late twenties and early thirties.

The result is the Mountain Horse you see today: calm, beautiful, healthy, and best of all SMOOTH GAITED!!

Sam Tuttle & His Famous Stallion TOBE:

Sam Tuttle was the most prominent breeder of Rocky Mountain Horses for the first three quarters of the twentieth century. With the advent of better roads and means of travel, the population of gaited horses in the United States began to decline. The exception was the less developed area of the Appalachian Mountains. Gaited horses were still needed for travel where there were no roads, and therefore they were preserved in that area.

Even through the hard times of the Depression and World War II years, Sam Tuttle kept a sizable herd of thirty to forty horses on his farm in Spout Springs Kentucky. Sam is considered as the man most responsible for the survival of the Rocky Mountain Horse. Tobe was the primary Rocky Mountain stallion used in Sam's breeding program. In the 1950s, many people were selling their stallions, and the horse population in general was rapidly declining due to tractors and farm machinery available. Even so, breeders remembered Tobe, and he was always in demand for stud service. People brought their mares to Tobe from many different states, and he was as famous in Estill County as Man O' War was in Lexington, Kentucky.

Everyone who rode Tobe fell in love with him. Tobe's offspring were always in demand, and Sam never had any trouble selling all the Rocky Mountain Horses he could produce.

In the early 1960s, Sam Tuttle managed the trail riding concession at the Natural Bridge State Park in Powell County, Kentucky. He had as many as fifty horses there, including Tobe. This stallion was often seen tied to the hitching post alongside all the mares. He became quite well known in the ten or so years he was ridden there. Besides breeding, Tobe was used as a trail horse. He carried Sam, and sometimes the guests who came for trail rides, with sure-footed ease over the mountainous terrain for many years. Sam loved to show off his beloved stallion. Everyone who rode Tobe enjoyed his gentle temperament and comfortable gait. It amazed people to think that the well-mannered horse they were riding was indeed a breeding stallion.

Tobe was used for breeding until July of his thirty-fourth year, and he passed on his gait, disposition, and other great qualities to his offspring. It has been said that Tobe's progeny followed in his “perfectly-timed” footsteps. Tobe fathered many fine horses before his death at the ripe old age of thirty-seven. One outstanding trait passed on to his get was longevity, as many of his offspring were still riding and breeding into their late twenties and early thirties too.

The 5 Sons Of Tobe:

There are five sons of Tobe that were registered with the RMHA between the formation of the breed association and the closing of it's herd books (1986-1989). They are Kilburn's Chocolate Sundown (1967-1999), Maple's Squirrel (1970-2001), Yankee (1971-2008), Sewell's Sam (1975-1999) and Sam Clemons' Tim (1976-1998). However, many of the RMHA foundation mares were sired by other known sons of Tobe, including Thunder, Blue Boy, Satan and Trigger. Tobe also sired many wonderful daughters too.

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Website Management by Jessica Puccia ~ Last Update February 1st 2012