The Missouri Fox Trotter is a beautiful mid-sized gaited horse breed. It is one of the smoothest and most graceful riding equines that America has ever produced. Their impressive stamina and effortless gait have allowed the Missouri Fox Trotters to prove themselves as talented stock horses and trail riders ever since they were bred in the Ozark mountains 200 years ago. This unique and muscular breed has more to it than just its gait! So, we're here to fill you in on everything there is to know about the Missouri Fox Trotter.
Missouri Fox Trotter Characteristics
Many of the Missouri Fox Trotter's physical characteristics stem from their proficiency at the foxtrot. As a fox trotting horse breed, this equine has been bred to excel at that particular gait.
Certain breeds are "gaited." This trait means they are naturally talented at a specific type of movement that other horses may have to be trained to perform. The Tennesee Walking Horse, for example, is a gaited breed that does the "running walk" gait exceptionally well. For a Missouri Fox Trotter, on the other hand, a running walk is considered undesirable.
We'll explain what exactly the foxtrot is later in this article. For now, let's take a look at the horse itself. The Missouri Fox Trotter is a proud-looking and almost regal breed, holding their heads and tails high nearly at all times.
They have a muscular body and strong legs that add to their sure-footedness. The Missouri Fox Trotter has a straight facial profile, medium-length neck, and pronounced withers.
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Size
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA) is the definitive authority on these equines. The MFTHBA considers the average Fox Trotter to be 14-16 hands (56-64 inches) high, and 900-1,200 pounds in weight. This range is considered a medium size for a horse, and similar to the proportions seen on racehorses.
While racing breeds are prized for their speed, the Missouri Fox Trotter is better at covering a lot of ground at an efficient pace. In other words, where a Thoroughbred would be a sprinter, the Fox Trotter runs cross-country.
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Personality
Missouri Fox Trotters are ideal for equestrians who are just starting out. A child or disabled rider would also enjoy the calm nature and smooth gaits of these confident equines.
Fox Trotters are also great for those interested in trail riding or packing trips. Their stamina and ability to carry high amounts of weight make them perfect companions on the go.
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse History
This fox trotting horse breed is unsurprisingly from the state of Missouri. Fox Trotters were born out of necessity. Early 19th century settlers needed a workhorse that could handle the rocky terrain of the Ozark Mountains.
The Missouri Fox Trotter was just what the settlers needed. It was able to perform tasks around the homestead, such as plowing fields and hauling logs. The Fox Trotter had many uses. But, perhaps the two greatest services this breed could provide were working cattle and handling the mountainous region.
As stock horses (those that wrangle cattle), Missouri Fox Trotters proved to be focused, restrained, and calm. Their unique gaits made for a smooth ride, which quickly appealed to more than just cowboys. The Missouri Fox Trotter's confidence over rough terrain and ability to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time made them one of the best breeds for countless working Americans.
A stallion from Canada by the name of Tom Hal was perhaps the most influential horse for this breed.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA) began in Ava, Missouri, in 1948. The first of its kind, the MFTHBA still operates today. It is the largest horse association for Fox Trotters, having registered roughly 100,000 horses in its history.
To this day, Ava, Missouri, is still the place to be for all things Fox Trotter, whether it be breed shows, celebrations, or casual meet-and-greets. If you're ever around, be sure to check out the Missouri Fox Trotter showground site just north of Ava, Missouri. Whether or not you ride, there's almost always an equestrian around who'd love to talk horse breeds, swap show stories, or provide you with information about the Fox Trotter community.
How to Care for a Missouri Fox Trotter
Different horse breeds have their own quirks and requirements. This Missouri equine, however, is a relatively straightforward animal to look after.
Their ability to work and train with minimal grooming or dietary fuss is partly what makes these horses so suitable for beginners. Just make sure you're providing your horses with constant access to water, nutritious food, space to run around in, covered shelter when they need it, warmth in winter months, and of course, lots of love.
So, besides the state of Missouri, how did this breed earn its name? Well, its signature movement, known as the fox trot (sometimes spelled "foxtrot"), is something else an owner will have to look after. This trot is a smooth, four-beat, broken gait.
Why preserve their gait? Well, horses that are bred to move a certain way have joints and muscles that have been developed over the years to suit that particular movement. When horses go against this natural gait, they run the risk of hurting themselves or falling out of conformation down the line.
Defining & Differentiating the Proper Gait
"Four-beat" refers to the number of audible hoofbeats that can be distinguished from one another as the horse walks. In a two-beat gait, two of the horse's feet that are diagonal from each other (front-right and hind-left, for example) would hit the ground simultaneously. Then the other set of hooves (front-left and hind-right in this example) follow right after. This pattern results in two distinct beats.
A regular trot is a two-beat gait. It features the horse's diagonal feet (a front foot and a hindfoot) moving and landing simultaneously. The fox trot is nearly identical to the trot, except that the front and rear feet rise and fall at slightly different times. This tweak is what makes the gait "broken," and there are four distinct hoofbeats.
The movement is similar to a fox's bouncy gait, which is why it is called fox trotting. It can be a hard concept to visualize, so check out this excellent video of an equestrian breaking down this movement.
It is the rider's responsibility to not only exercise their equine's stamina, speed, and focus but also to protect what is so special about Missouri Fox Trotters.
Missouri Fox Trotter Gait Training
Whether you're entering them in a show or just taking them riding, the Missouri Fox Trotter benefits from training just like all other horse breeds. Horses that excel at a particular gait, such as Missouri Fox Trotters, should have their unique walks examined regularly.
Just because gaited horse breeds do well with a particular gait doesn't mean they will always automatically trot that way. If a rider notices a lack of a fox trot in their Fox Trotter, they may just need a gentle reminder. Many gait exercises aim to get the horse to "break into" a fox trot, rather than have them begin with one.
First, make them move at a slow speed. Steadily increase the pace, and the horse should break into its signature trot. If it doesn't, try walking the horse uphill, through tall grass, or on soft ground. All of these conditions should prompt a fox trot.
If your Missouri Fox Trotting horse still doesn't live up to its name, poles can help bring out the fox trot. Lay the poles three large steps apart and have your horse begin at a walking pace. Hold the reins loosely. Allow the equine to figure out for themselves that they must break into a trot to clear the poles.
After you've taken them over the poles and they've broken into the trot, ride them until they break into a fox trot. If they fall back into a walking movement, bring them back over the poles until you see the smooth walk that you're looking for.
Think your horse is ready for a show? Ava, Missouri, hosts the largest annual Fox Trotter show, called the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse World Show and Celebration. Around 1,400 horses attend every year!
Nutrition and Feeding for Missouri Fox Trotter
As a guideline, horses should eat 1.5-2.5% of their body weight in forage and drink 5-10 gallons of water every day. Forage refers to long-stem hay, pasture grasses, and legumes. You should consult an equestrian doctor to determine the specific levels of ingredients like non-structural carbohydrates, neutral detergent fiber, and total digestible nutrients.
Forage is the cornerstone of an equine's diet, though not the only thing every Missouri Fox Trotting horse will need to maintain its health. If your horse isn't getting all of the nutrients or energy it needs, a grain might be necessary.
Grains can target a particular need an animal has, such as low fiber or low carbohydrates. Popular grains include oats, barley, corn, wheat, and milo. Once you've been able to discuss your horse's nutritional needs with an expert, they will be able to advise on whether or not grain is recommended, as well as what kind.
For an extra boost of beneficial nutrients check out these options for horses!
Coat Color and Grooming
Regular grooming is not only considerate and healthy for a horse, but it's also a great way for a rider to build trust with their Missouri Fox Trotter. Working or show ring horses should be groomed daily (before and after riding). Non-working horses can be groomed three times a week. This breed's coat can be any solid color found in other equines, as well as pinto. White marks on their faces or legs are typical for these horses.
After trail riding or training, first hose your Missouri Fox Trotting horse down to minimize the number of attracted flies. Use a curry comb on the horse's body, brushing in circular motions to eliminate dust, mud, and other debris.
Next, run mane and tail combs through the horse's hair, freeing any matted or dead hair. As you groom, search for any signs of infection on their feet, legs, bodies, or faces.
A body brush will remove anything on the horse's coat that the curry comb did not catch. A finishing brush will bring out even more shine! Use a dampened soft cloth or sponge to gently wipe the horse's face. Be sure you're paying extra attention to the muzzle and eyes. It is also always a good idea to check each foot of your Missouri Fox Trotting horse for any rocks or dirt that need removal.
Missouri Fox Trotter Horse Health Problems
Missouri Fox Trotters are known to be strong equines! As a result, they do not frequently suffer from common health problems or congenital conditions that affect other breeds. However, certain equine diseases need consideration for every horse owner. Three common health issues are equine viral arteritis, strangles, and influenza.
- Equine viral arteritis: Also known as EVA, this is a contagious and viral disease. Symptoms can vary from fever and depression to miscarriages and foal death, so a veterinarian is required to properly diagnose the animal. This condition is much more serious to younger horses than to adults, and as such, is primarily the concern of breeders.
- Strangles: This is a highly contagious disease that is caused by the bacteria Streptococcus equi. It results in labored breathing for the horse, which is why some refer to it as "strangles." Other symptoms include nasal discharge and swellings on the head and neck.
- Influenza: Equine influenza is a viral disease that can generally put horses out of commission for up to three weeks. Lethargy, watery nasal discharge, enlarged lymph nodes, loss of appetite, coughing, and a fever are all signs of an equine with influenza. Reduce the chance of your horse contracting influenza by regularly cleaning their stall or paddock and constantly rotating their food and water.
Vaccines might be able to prevent your horse from contracting some of these infections or illnesses. Regular trips to the veterinarian are perhaps the best way to maintain the health of your horse. Additionally, invest in quality foot care to protect the gaits that this breed is so well known for.
How to Get a Missouri Fox Trotter Horse
If you'd like to look into purchasing a Missouri Fox Trotting horse, expect to spend around $5,000. Though, Fox Trotters can be found for as little as a few hundred dollars and as much as $15,000. These prices will vary based on factors like the horse's training and whether it is a stallion.
EquineNow has made it easier than ever to search for horses. Their site allows you to filter your search by age, height, gender, and more so that you can find the best available Missouri Fox Trotter.
Once you've got yourself a horse, it is advisable to register the animal with a group like the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA). A Fox Trotting horse breed association like MFTHBA documents the lineage of registered equines and works hard to preserve the breed's health and integrity.
More About This Horse Breed
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is a dignified, no-nonsense breed that can glide over rough terrain and look beautiful doing it. Furthermore, they are an excellent introductory horse for those new to equestrianism.
Their gentle and confident attitudes are reassuring to those who might be frightened by large animals. After some time with the Missouri Fox Trotter, we think you'll see why this breed was and continues to be one of America's most prized horses!