Magnificent—that’s the best way to describe this beautiful, strong, and graceful horse. Bred by settlers in the Missouri Mountains to help around the property, today, it’s known globally for the unique “fox gait”. The Missouri Fox Trotter horse is smart, affectionate, and obedient, which makes it the perfect companion on a farm or ranch. This is a loyal, capable horse that won’t shy away from hard, demanding work, and that’s what makes it so popular.
|Care Level:||Low/moderate; good for first-time owners|
|Temperature:||Tolerant; handles heat and cold|
|Temperament:||Docile, calm, gentle, friendly toward humans and fellow animals|
|Colors:||Black, chestnut, champagne, brown, palomino, gray, cremello, grullo, dun, buckskin, perlino, mixed|
|Lifespan:||20–30 years (but can live up to 40 years)|
|Weight:||1,000–1,200 lbs (stallion), 900–1,100 lbs (mare)|
|Height:||14–16 hands (stallion), 13–15 hands (mare)|
The Missouri Fox Trotter is often recommended for first-time riders, as it’s one of the most patient and friendliest horses out there. Where did this breed come from, though? What are the most common uses for it? Should you pick the Missouri Fox Trotter for trail riding and competitive riding, or maybe you’ll be better off with a different beast? How do you feed, train, groom, and take care of this beautiful horse? Read on, and you’ll find answers to all these questions!
Missouri Fox Trotter Breed Characteristics
What Are These Horses Used For?
The slow lope, comfortable ride quality, and perfect manners have earned the Missouri Fox Trotter the title of a fantastic pleasure horse. It moves gently and easily overcomes obstacles: you can ride a Fox Trotter for hours and not get tired. These horses also excel at trail riding and competitive riding. According to the MFTHBA, 90% of Missouri Fox Trotters are used for these exact tasks.
Hunters and fans of pack trips appreciate their strength, endurance, and stamina. Amateur horse riders that lack the experience and want to learn how to ride often pick this breed for making “baby steps”. The Missouri Fox Trotters are also a great choice for children and people with disabilities. Patient, tolerant, and enthusiastic around human riders, they rarely (if ever) throw off the rider or give a bumpy ride.
Where Did These Horses Originate From?
As you’ve probably guessed by the name, Fox Trotters did, indeed, originate in Missouri. Their roots trace back to the Ozark Mountains that stretch from Missouri to Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. In the 19th century, local settlers were in need of a reliable, proficient, and easy-traveling horse that could navigate the unforgiving terrain of the Ozark physiographic region. So, they decided to mix gaited horses with stock breeds.
After countless trials, the Fox Trotters were born. The smooth, confident, and beautiful gait instantly won over local communities. Soon, every single sheriff, doctor, hunter, and merchant was dreaming of riding a Missouri Fox Trotter! Along with offering a comfortable ride, these horses could haul heavy carts, plow large fields, and take care of cattle in style. A quick note: each year, Ava, Missouri, holds a show that pits 1,400 Missouri Fox Trotters against each other.
Getting Recognition and Arriving in Europe
These majestic horses were officially recognized by the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association in 1948. In the 50s, American breeders started to export them to the European market. Around that same time, the Queen of the UK began importing foreign horses into the country. Today, Missouri Fox Trotters are mostly found in the States and Canada, with only a small number of horses in the EU.
There are more than 100K Missouri Fox Trotters registered by the MFTHBA. Thanks to their ability to withstand heat and cold, these horses can handle a wide range of climates. As of 2009, there are around 600 Missouri Fox Trotters living in various European countries. And, each year, the MFTHBA honors exceptional Fox Trotter horses.
Which Horses Contributed to the Missouri Fox Trotter?
As mentioned, the pioneers in Missouri combined different horses to create a “superstar” breed that could do farm work and trail riding equally well. But which breeds did they use? The settlers came from neighboring states like Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and they brought their gaited horses to mix with local equine stock. Here are some of the most frequently used breeds:
Temperament & Intelligence of the Missouri Fox Trotter
These horses are equally intelligent, good-natured, and docile. In contrast to many other breeds, they don’t take long to “warm up” to humans. The friendly, open-hearted, and eager-to-please attitude is what makes them big people pleasers. The bold, fearless character is another highly important trait. That said, the gait (also known as “fox trotting” or “ambling”), is this breed’s most thought-after characteristic.
It’s not as fast as a gallop yet not as slow as a walk. Missouri Fox Trotters provide an incredible level of comfort by always keeping at least one foot on the ground: there’s no suspension, but a sure-footed ride. Add a high stamina level, calm demeanor, and low maintenance needs, along with a witty brain, and you’ll see the true appeal of Missouri’s famous horses.
Appearance & Varieties
The Missouri Fox Trotters aren’t the biggest horses out there, but they are well-built and ready to get some work done. They have mighty shoulders, legs, well-developed necks, and relatively short backs. These horses always keep their heads (and tails) high and that gives them a majestic, grandiose look. Specifically bred to be equally strong and slender, the Missouri Fox Trotters are both bulky and elegant. The average Missouri Fox Trotter reaches 64 inches in height but can be as short as 56 inches.
But what about the colors—what choices do you have in this regard? With these horses, the sky’s the limit! They are available in black, brown, chestnut, cremello, and a bunch of other colors. Missouri Fox Trotters aren’t high steppers, due to their size. Instead, they have a perfectly-timed gait and keep the “rhythm” steady no matter how challenging the road is. Thanks to their strong, well-developed joints, these horses always gallop with confidence and can go on for hours without taking a break.
Things to Know When Owning a Missouri Fox Trotter:
Habitat & Stable Requirements 🌾
The Missouri Fox Trotters are quick to adapt to new environments and aren’t at all “needy” when it comes to maintenance. As long as you keep the stable clean and safe, the Missouri Fox Trotter will happily spend its days there. Ideally, the horse should have easy access to both indoor and outdoor shelters so that it can stay comfortable when it gets cold or starts to rain outside. An enclosed barn with a roof and proper ventilation is the way to go here.
Also, make sure there’s enough room in the stall for the horse to be cozy when standing, sitting, or lying down to get some shut-eye. As for the floors, avoid hardwood and concrete, as they tend to get slippery. If the horse slips and falls, that might cause severe damage. Instead, go with sand, clay, or grid mats, and be generous with the bedding (straw or wood shavings). Also, use a horse deodorizer to keep the place nice and dry.
And if we’re talking about outdoor pastures, the horse should have access to at least two acres of land to stretch its legs (three acres for two horses and four for three). And don’t forget about a fence! It should be tall enough to prevent the Missouri Fox Trotters from jumping over. Wood and pipes are the most common options. You can even go with woven wire, but never barbed wire, as it will hurt the Missouri Fox Trotters. A shelter for hiding from the weather will come in handy as well.
Food & Diet Requirements 🥕
Plenty of grass and water: that’s the cornerstone of any Missouri Fox Trotter’s diet. On average, they drink 5–10 gallons of water daily (that’s 19–38 liters) or up to 15 gallons on a hot day. As for food, the ideal volume for Missouri Fox Trotters is 1.5–2.5% of their body weight. That means a 1,200-pound stallion should eat 18–30 pounds per day. Hay, pasture grasses, and a moderate amount of legumes are the best treats for the Missouri Fox Trotters.
Also, talk to an animal doctor to figure out which grains will suit your horse best. We’re talking about wheat, barley, oats, and corn.
Daily exercises are necessary for keeping a Missouri Fox Trotter in shape and strengthening your bond. A simple trot around the property is a great way to start, but you can also go with a walk, small jumps, turnouts, and downhill rides. And if it’s a young horse and you’re trying to help it master the various gaits, start with the flat-foot walk (the simplest one). On average, 30–40 minutes of training per day for 5–6 weeks should get it there.
Once the horse masters the first gait, switch to a foxtrot (only ride it for around 30 minutes a day) and then to a canter.
The Missouri Fox Trotters are well-mannered, sweet-tempered, and loyal horses. That’s why they are (relatively) easy to train. And, thanks to their witty, curious nature, it doesn’t take Missouri Fox Trotters forever to learn new tricks. However, do keep in mind that they sometimes tend to “forget” their trademark gait. But, that’s totally okay. To break the horse back into a fox trot, move it slowly and gradually increase the speed. That should lead to a trot.
If not, walking it through tall grass/another soft surface might do it. Patience and positive reinforcement (like a gentle scratch or tasty snack) is the key to training a Missouri Fox Trotter. Be firm, yet friendly and you should be able to get a good handle on the horse in 3–4 months. Again, keep the sessions short (30–60 minutes for regular training and 20–30 minutes for intense sessions).
Just like any other horse, the Missouri Fox Trotter relies on its owner for grooming. To remove dead/loose hair, use a combination of curry, mane, tail, and body brushes. Also, don’t forget to wash the horse regularly to keep it clean and bacteria-free. The hooves require attention as well. If you take the horse for a ride seven days a week, you will have to use a hoof pick daily to get rid of any dirt/debris that might get stuck in there. Regular trimming/shoeing should be a part of the routine as well.
Generally, it’s recommended to groom your horse every day to keep it in tip-top shape (even if it spends the whole day in the barn). Brushing helps increase the blood flow and makes the skin stronger. Also, by keeping the horse clean, you’ll be able to detect any cuts, lumps, or bumps that might appear on the Missouri Fox Trotter’s body.
Lifespan & Health Conditions 🏥
On average, Missouri Fox Trotters live for 20–30 years but can go on for four decades when taken care of properly. Missouri Fox Trotters are strong, healthy, and don’t have any breed-specific diseases. Regular vet visits, premium-quality food, and a friendly environment—that’s all these horses need to live and prosper. Now, ideally, they like to live in warmer climates but can tolerate harsh weather conditions. And here are the most common health issues with Missouri Fox Trotters:
Male vs Female
Stallions are bigger and taller than the females. Male Missouri Fox Trotters also have a stronger bone/muscle structure. That allows them to be more enduring than the mares. On average, a Missouri Fox Trotter weighs 1,000–1,200 pounds and reaches 14–16 hands in height (58–64 inches). The mares, in turn, weigh around 1,000 pounds and are slightly shorter (13–15 hands). Male Missouri Fox Trotters are a bit more aggressive and headstrong.
The “ladies” are generally even-tempered and sweeter. But, female horses get a bit unpredictable when they’re on their period. So, if you’re planning on participating in a horse race or other competition or activity, it might be wise to wait it out. That said, the horse’s sex won’t matter much as long as you manage to create a strong bond with it.
Are These Horses Fast? What’s the Average Speed?
Fox trotting is the golden middle between a slow walk and a steady canter. And, while trotting with a rider on its back, this horse can easily maintain a speed of 5–8 miles per hour. If you need it to go faster, the Missouri Fox Trotter can accelerate to 10 Mph, but only for a short while. More importantly, the Missouri Fox Trotter gets to conserve energy while trotting.
That’s exactly why these horses have so much stamina. By keeping an intermediate speed, they put minimal pressure on their joints and muscles, which allows them to traverse short distances without taking breaks; as a bonus, that ensures a comfortable, bounce-free ride for the cavalier. So, unless you really need to get somewhere fast, it’s not recommended to push the Missouri Fox Trotter to its limit.
3 Little-Known Facts About Missouri Fox Trotters
1. Missouri Fox Trotters Are Featured in RDR2, a Popular Video Game
Red Dead Redemption 2, the latest offering by Rockstar, is a chart-topping and award-winning video game available for PCs and consoles. The story begins in 1899 and unfolds during the Wild West era. And, while the Missouri Fox Trotter isn’t the only horse available in the game, it’s very much loved and appreciated by gamers for its above-average stamina, speed, and handling. So, if you don’t have access to a Missouri Fox Trotter just yet, you can take it for a “test drive” in RDR2!
The developers did a fantastic job of recreating the noble, affectionate, and hard-working character of the Missouri Fox Trotter.
2. Missouri Fox Trotters Are Multi-Talented Horses
Some breeds are great for farm work; others excel at being family horses. With the Missouri Fox Trotters, you’ll get a horse that can do almost anything it puts its mind to. Strong, intelligent, and eager to please, they are equally great at pulling heavy plows and buggies, managing cattle, and covering long distances on challenging terrain. On top of that, the smooth, comfortable gait, agility, and friendliness make Missouri Fox Trotters the perfect choice for amateur riders.
Speaking of the gait, Missouri’s finest have mastered the fox trot, flat-footed walk, and canter. As they say, it takes one single ride on this fascinating horse’s back to fall in love with it!
3. Missouri Fox Trotters Are the Official State Horses of Missouri
That’s right: back in 2002, Missouri recognized Fox Trotters as the state’s official horse/symbol. This was long overdue, of course, because, as we learned earlier, Missouri Fox Trotters have been serving the locals for over 200 years, helping them survive and prosper in the mountainous areas of the Ozark region and the neighboring states. The decision was made on the fourth of July, 2002, and came into effect on August 28th (that same year).
These sweet-tempered, capable, and intelligent horses are an ideal choice if you’re looking for a reliable, sure-footed helper on the farm. True, these days, Missouri Fox Trotters are mostly used for trail riding by hunters and rangers. However, that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten how to pull wagons and plows or help in hay-making and sowing.
And then there’s the steady steps and mellow gait. If you’ve never ridden a horse before, with this breed, you will learn in no time! Fox Trotters are all-around solid horses that are equally great at pulling heavy machinery, beating the competition in various games, and helping you master the art of riding.