Shining Mountain Foxtrotters

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Why a Gaited Horse

As the “baby boomer” generation reaches the Golden years, many are finding they are spending fewer hours on the trail, and more time in the hot tub! Let’s face it, those of us in our middle age just aren’t as flexible as we used to be! Long hours in the saddle cause many to become sore and stiff. For those facing these “facts of life”, there is a solution: make sure your next horse has “shock absorbers”! Easy to ride, smooth gaits can ease out bumps and jostles, and make it possible to go on those long rides you really enjoy.

Gaited horses were originally bred to be the primary mode of transportation before the advent of the carriage, and were the favored “saddle” horse, or “road” horse prior to the automobile. These breeds have been specially developed to give the rider a comfortable and easy ride. They are BRED to be riding and trail horses, that is their specialty.

Besides the smoothness of the ride, gaited horses are known for their easy going temperaments, their trainabililty, and good minds. They excel at competitive trail and endurance riding and are used for pleasure, trail, and as working Ranch horses. Our section of Wyoming has lots of Missouri Foxtrotters working on the ranches.

Although stock horse breeds are dominant today, this wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1800’s, gaited horses were the Cadillacs of saddle horses, highly valued for their smooth comfortable gaits, and the ability to travel long distances with exceptional endurance and smooth rides. Back in the era when the horse was the main mode of transportation, the horse which did an amble, foxtrot, or single-foot, was the one all the Cowboys wanted to ride! As one person puts it, “if you ever ride a few miles on a gaited horse, and have any regard for your body, you’ll be sold!”

Many people know there is a difference between gaited and regular trotting horses, they just aren't quite sure what the difference is. Gaited horses perform what is known as an intermediate gait, instead of a two beat trot which can be bouncy and uncomfortable. They perform the same kind of variations at the walk, at speeds much faster than the common walk. Since there is always at least one foot on the ground and usually two or three, there is no moment of suspension when all four of the horse's feet are airborne (as is the case with non-gaited breeds). In the gaited horse, there is no moment of gait impact, as in non-gaited horses when two of the four feet hit the ground on the fly (causing the rider to be jarred). The gaited horse is able to travel with minimal jolting of himself and his rider, allowing the horse to be smooth and sure footed in the bargain.

We chose the Foxtrotter breed of gaited horse, as they are known to be the best for the steep, rough country of the Rockies, and the best suited to do the everyday ranch work required of a horse here in the West.

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