The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is a sturdy animal that can work in the field and pull a cart, but as one of the gaited horses, it is highly appreciated for its easy comfortable ride!
Bred in the mountains of Kentucky, the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is one of several mountain horse breeds. A couple other well-known mountain horse breeds are the Mountain Pleasure Horse and the Rocky Mountain Horse. All the mountain horse breeds are valued for their smooth gait and calm demeanor.
For over 160 years, farmers In the hills of eastern Kentucky have been breeding horses to suit the needs of their families. The rural terrain is rough, and they needed a surefooted horse that was powerful yet easy to ride. Thus the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse evolved. This is a horse that is able to work a field and pull a cart. With its smooth gait and a calm temperament, the Kentucky Mountain Horse is also a comfortable and easy ride for kids and adults alike.
There are several Mountain Horse registries, which differ primarily on allowable size and markings. Many mountain horses are double or even triple-registered with more than one Mountain Horse Association. The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse registry was founded in 1989. Its focus is to try and preserve the characteristics valued by horsemen in the hilly regions of Kentucky. These horsemen have been breeding these sure-footed, hardy and stoic horses who work and thrive in the sparse mountainous environment. The Kentucky Mountain horse is valued for its distinctive four beat gait, which is comfortable and ground covering. Being sure-footed, it is also noted for its talent as a trail horse.
More than 18,000 horses are registered according to the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association. They are seen primarily in states east of the Mississippi, with over 9,700 in the state of Kentucky. The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association itself has grown at an annual compounded rate of 25 % for the last five years, and is the fastest growing saddle horse association.
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is a light horse breed, and one of the gaited horses. Light horse breeds generally weigh under 1,500 pounds. They are typically used as riding horses for leisure and trail riding. Being agile and swift, many are also used on the racetrack, in the show ring, and for work on the ranch.
Light horses are grouped in a couple of different ways, one being the continent or country where they originated from. They are also grouped according to training, classified as either a stock type, hunter type, saddle type, or ‘other’. A body type is generally attributed to each class, with the ‘other’ classification being a bit of an odd ball. It includes those that are color breeds or those that may fit a body type of one of the training classes, but not be used for that type of training. The ‘other’ types can also include those that may fit into more than one of the type groups.
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse as one of the gaited horses, fits into the saddle type class.
Farmers living in the hills of eastern Kentucky have been industriously breeding horses for over 160 years to suit the needs of the families living in the rough, rural terrain of the area. They needed a surefooted, easy to ride, yet powerful animal to serve the whole family. They wanted a horse that could work in the field, pull a cart, and be comfortable for kids and adults alike to ride through the countryside.
There were no formal written records, yet breeders often kept pedigrees in their heads. They bred their mares to stallions that could advance the qualities they valued in their horses. The Kentucky Mountain horse likely evolved from the pacers and gaited horses which were brought up from Florida and the Carolinas some 200 years ago. Although the early pedigree of most registered horses is at least partly unknown, it is probable that they share some ancestry with the Tennessee Walking Horse.
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is small to medium sized, but powerful. It is a medium boned horse standing between 11 and 16 hands high. It should have bold eyes, well shaped ears and a flat profile. A graceful neck of medium length with a long flowing mane attaches to well sloped shoulders and a deep, wide chest. It may be of any solid color, and white on the face and legs is permitted, but limited on the body to thirty-six square inches.
The Kentucky Mountain Horse is known for its stamina and surefootedness. It has three gaits; the walk, the amble or single-foot which is a very comfortable fast paced gait, and the canter.
There are several Mountain Horse registries, which differ primarily on allowable size and markings. Many mountain horses are double or even triple registered with more than one Mountain Horse Association. Some registries are:
- Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association: The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association (KMSHA) was founded in 1989. Its focus is to try and preserve the characteristics valued by horsemen in the hilly regions of Kentucky.
- Spotted Mountain Horse Association: The Spotted Mountain Horse Association (SMHA) is a subsidiary association of the KMSHA, it was founded in 2002. It registers horses that have spots, and so do not conform to the solid color requirements of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association.
(Both solid color and spotted breeds are recognized by the University of Kentucky Equine Parentage Testing and Research Center as unique breeds, each with its own genetic DNA markers.)
- Mountain Pleasure Horse Association: The Mountain Pleasure Horse Association (MPHA) was formed in in 1989. The Mountain Pleasure Horse has a larger height requirement, with the lowest height being 14.2hh.
- Rocky Mountain Horse Association: The Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) was formed in 1986. The Rocky Mountain Horse is closely related to the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, but it traces its ancestry to a foundation sire called Old Tobe.
Horse Care and Feeding
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is an easy keeper and does well on grass hay and grain, with a vitamin and mineral supplement if not allowed to graze freely. They do very well in a pasture environment and are quite social.
Horse Training and Activities
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is supremely adapted to be a trail horse. Good for pleasure riding, endurance and trail, this is an excellent family horse for kids and adults alike. It is a good choice for new riders and riders with physical limitations as the gaits are smooth and easy to ride.
Common Health Problems
The Kentucky Mountain Horse was bred for its hardiness and is not prone to any special health or maintenance problems.
The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is fairly available with prices that vary in range but are reasonable.
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