|Scientific Name||Equus ferus caballus|
|Common Name||Missouri Fox Trotter|
|Adult Size||14 to 16 hands high|
|Diet||Herbivore (grains and grasses)|
|Temperament||Gentle, Reliable, Intelligent|
History & Domestication
The history of the Missouri Fox Trotter is as unique as its gait. Originating in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri during the early 19th century, the breed was developed by settlers who needed horses that were sure-footed, reliable, and able to travel long distances over challenging terrains. By blending the bloodlines of various breeds including Arabians, Morgans, and American Saddlebreds, the Missouri Fox Trotter was born.
Its name derives from its characteristic gait, the “fox trot,” which offers riders a smooth experience, even over uneven grounds. This gait, combined with their stamina and good nature, made them indispensable to farmers, ranchers, and hunters. Their history is so cherished that in 2002, they were designated as the official state horse of Missouri.
Missouri Fox Trotters typically range in size from 14 to 16 hands high. They possess a robust and compact build, which speaks to their stamina and strength. While they may not be the tallest of breeds, their physique is well-suited for the long rides and rugged landscapes they were bred to traverse.
A well-cared-for Missouri Fox Trotter can live anywhere from 20 to 30 years. Given their robust nature and origin from the demanding terrains of the Ozarks, they often enjoy long and healthy lives when provided with proper care, diet, and regular veterinary checks.
Breeding practices of the Missouri Fox Trotter have always aimed to preserve the breed’s unique attributes, particularly its signature gait. Today, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association plays a crucial role in preserving and promoting the breed. With a studbook and rigorous standards, the association ensures that the breed’s lineage remains pure and its iconic characteristics are maintained.
The signature “fox trot” gait is the Missouri Fox Trotter’s most distinguishing feature. This four-beat broken diagonal gait sees the horse walk with its front feet while trotting with the hind, resulting in a remarkably smooth ride. The gait is not only comfortable for riders but also allows the horse to cover significant distances without becoming overly fatigued.
Behavior and Temperament
Missouri Fox Trotters are renowned for their calm and reliable disposition. They are intelligent horses, quick learners, and often form strong bonds with their owners. Their gentle nature combined with their unique gait makes them favorites among riders of all ages, including those who may have physical challenges. Their origins in the rugged Ozarks have also endowed them with a sure-footedness and confidence that riders greatly appreciate.
Handling a Missouri Fox Trotter is generally a pleasure due to their calm disposition. However, like all breeds, they benefit from consistent, positive reinforcement-based training methods. Their intelligence means they can pick up new skills rapidly, but it also implies they can learn bad habits if not guided correctly. Thus, experienced handling, especially during their formative years, can mold them into exemplary riding companions.
Regular grooming is essential for the Missouri Fox Trotter. Their coats, which can come in all equine colors, should be brushed daily to maintain luster and health. They also benefit from routine hoof care, bathing, and checks for any signs of health issues. Due to their active nature and history of trekking through challenging terrains, it’s especially important to regularly check their hooves and legs for any signs of injury or distress.
Diet & Nutrition
The dietary needs of the Missouri Fox Trotter are similar to other horse breeds. They thrive on high-quality hay supplemented with grains, depending on their activity level. Ensuring they have constant access to fresh water is vital. Regular consultations with equine nutritionists or veterinarians can help tailor a diet that meets their specific needs, considering factors like age, activity level, and overall health.
Missouri Fox Trotters are hardy animals, accustomed to the varied climates of the Ozarks. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures but should be provided with shelter from extreme weather conditions, be it the scorching sun or freezing snow. In colder climates, they might require blankets, while in hotter areas, shade and ample water are essentials.
Common Health Issues
Missouri Fox Trotters are generally robust, but, like all breeds, they can be susceptible to certain health issues. Common concerns include equine metabolic syndrome, laminitis, and arthritis, especially in older horses. Regular veterinary check-ups can help catch and address potential health issues early, ensuring a long and healthy life.
Given their history in the vast terrains of the Ozarks, Missouri Fox Trotters flourish in spacious environments. They should have ample space to graze and move about. While they are adaptable to various living conditions, they do best when they have a combination of pasture for grazing and a stable for shelter.
Cost of Care
The cost of caring for a Missouri Fox Trotter mirrors that of other horse breeds. Expenses can include feed, veterinary care, farrier services, grooming supplies, tack, and boarding fees if applicable. Given their robust nature, they may have fewer health issues than more delicate breeds, which can save on veterinary bills in the long run. However, as with any horse, potential owners should be prepared for the financial commitment required to ensure the well-being of these magnificent creatures.