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The Missouri Fox Trotter (MFT) is a mid-sized horse breed developed in Missouri, USA. It’s a muscular horse with a stock horse build, famous for its “fox trot” gait.
The MFT originated in the Ozark Mountains in the early 1800s, where settlers needed high-stamina horses well suited for working with livestock. Today, the breed is still used for ranch work, but it is also a popular choice for trail riding.
As of 2012, there were nearly 100,000 registered MFT horses. Most of the MFT horses live in the United States, but this breed is also popular in Canada and parts of Europe (especially Germany).
The fox trot
The Missouri Fox Trotter performs an ambling gait known as the fox trot. This is a four-beat broken diagonal gait in which the front foot of the diagonal pair lands before the hind, eliminating the moment of suspension, increasing smoothness and creating a sure-footed ride.
During the fox trot, the horse always have one front foot on the ground. The style has been described as “walking in the front and trotting in the back”.
With the horse always having at least one foot on the ground, the horse’s topline moves much less than during a traditional two-beat trot, and the ride is thus much less bouncy.
An average Missouri Fox Trotter with a rider on its back will be able to maintain a speed of 5-8 miles per hour while using the fox trot. This is somewhat slower than medium trot speed (6-8 miles per hour) and is known to help the horse conserve energy.
For short distances, the fox trot can reach speeds of 10 miles per hour.
The Missouri Fox Trotters developed in the Ozark Mountains, where their unique gait was perfect for the rocky terrain. They were renowned for their ability to both work well with cattle and provide the cattlemen with a smooth ride.
Today, the smooth ride makes them a favorite among trail riders, who also appreciate their stamina and weight-carrying ability. Even riders with physical disabilities tend to do well on the back of a Missouri Fox Trotter, and MFT horses are utilized in several riding programs for people with disabilities.
The US Forest Service employs MFT horses, since they are so suitable for mountainous terrain.
Mules resulting from the mating of a donkey with a MFT mare are popular among hunters, especially in western United States.
The Missouri state horse
The Missouri Fox Trotter was declared official state horse of Missouri in 2002.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association
The breed standard is maintained by the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association (MFTHBA).
The main breed registry was created in Ava, Missouri in 1948. The stud book was open until 1982.
The historic-type registry
In 2006, a separate MFT registry was founded in the US to preserve and promote the older heritage type of Missouri Fox Trotter, the type of horse that dominated the breed before a great influx of Tennessee Walking Horse blood took place after 1970.
It’s kept by the Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association (FFHA). This type of MFT
The first MFT horses were exported to Europe in the 1950s, when the Queen of England imported several palomino horses.
A European MFT registry was founded in 1992. Today, it’s kept bythe European Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Association (EMFTHA), which is an affiliate of the MFTHBA.
(Since 2004, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association maintains a separate registry for fox trotting ponies in the 11-14 hands range.)
Any solid color is accepted, and so is pinto. White markings on face and legs are common.
This is a muscular horse, with sloped shoulders, pronounced withers, a short back, and sturdy legs. The neck is medium long, and the facial profile is straight.
The Missouri Fox Trotter hail from horses brought to Missouri by settlers, chiefly people coming from Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia. The stock their brought included gaited horses, i.e. horses with a natural inclination to perform four-beat horse gaits (ambling gaits) that are comfortable for the rider.
Examples of breeds that have contributed to the Missouri Fox Trotter are the Standardbred, the American Saddlebred, and the Tennessee Waling Horse. There is also Arabian genetic material in the mix.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Wold Show and Celebration
The main MFT show is the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Wold Show and Celebration held once a year in Ava, Missouri. In an average year, around 1400 horses will participate in the competitions.