Why a Fox Trotter? What’s so special?
Quite often we Fox Trotter people don’t know that there are people who might not understand our attraction and commitment to the Missouri Fox Trotter. We think everyone must know how great the horse is and just haven’t seen the light. But often after telling people that I ride a Fox Trotter I get looks and comments that lead me to believe that the Fox Trotter is not well understood.
I won’t go into the history of the breed except to say that the Fox Trotting Horse has been around for quite a number of years. There are written stories of horses that fox trotted way back in the 1800s. A horse that fox trotted was a desired mount for most people who had to cover long distances. Those cowboys who trailed up from Texas to the north all wanted to ride a fox trotting horse. Every doctor, lawyer, judge, and merchant that traveled by horse back tried to ride a fox trotting horse, most did.
It was only in the late 1940s that some fellows in Missouri decided to start a registry in Ava, MO that led to the formation of the official Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association. If a bunch in Texas had done the same thing I guess it would have been the Texas FTHBA (oh the horrors!). Anyway, there were fox trotting horses in places other than the Ozarks for quite a while.
So, why ride a Fox Trotter? The simple and short answer is that they are an all-around superior horse. They can do just about everything any other horse does and they do it smoothly. So, lets talk about the myths of the Fox Trotter and the answers to those questions from people who are unfamiliar with the breed.
The Fox Trotter is only good as a trail horse.
Well, they are the preferred trail horse for most serious hard-core trail riders. The reason? The smoothness of thier gaits. I won’t go into the technical descriptions of their gaits; you can get those at the MFTHBA website and I encourage you to visit and read the gait descriptions. But, quite simply, you don’t post the fox trot, their walk is way cool, and the canter/lope is without peer. That is the reason so many people use them on the trail.
The Fox Trotter is just an old people’s horse.
It is true that alot of people in their later years (let’s say in their 50s and up) own and ride Fox Trotters. Usually the “older set” has gravitated to the Fox Trotter because someone told them they should ride one. This conversation usually occurs when the older person starts to discuss their aches and pains while riding. Years of riding a rough going horse leads to ankle, back, hip, and knee problems that limit tha amount of riding the older person can take. After trying a Fox Trotter one time, most people smile, chuckle and say, “Why did it take me so long to find these horses?” A Fox Trotter will extend your riding life for years and increase the amount of time you can spend in the saddle by hours a day.
Fox Trotters have to have special bits and special shoes and special saddles and are a high maintainence horse.
Not even close. Fox Trotters can be ridden in any style bit and require no special shoes or special saddles. Their care is what you would give any horse.
It is true that there are bits sold as “gaited horse” bits or “bits made specifically for the Fox Trotter”, but they are just not necessary. Many old-time Fox Trotter people say the gait is all in the mouth. It may be true, but it is my experience, limited as it may be, that a Fox Trotter can fox trot in a rope halter ridden bareback.
Many people ride their Fox Trotters in snaffle bits. The 2012 Open Amateur World Champion Western Pleasure horse was ridden in a 1/2 inch rawhide bosal, nothing in his mouth. So, obviously, the bit does not make the fox trot, the horse does.
A Fox Trotter should have hoof care of the highest standard, but does not require special shoes. Most knowledgable Fox Trotter owners have their farrier trim their horses feet to particular angles. The Fox Trotter and most other horses perform best when their feet are trimmed to the same angles on the front feet and the same in the back. For instance, my horse works real well with his front feet at 55 degrees and his rear at 53 degrees. It is not necessary to do this but they just move better. Lots of Quarter Horse performance horses are trimmed similarly. It helps the horse move more comfortably. Because the Fox Trotter often slides his back feet when they land it is good to use a shoe that will allow that slide, such as an EZ. They can be bought anywhere and most farriers use them on other horses.
Your saddle should fit your horse, period, regardless of breed. Fox Trotters tend to have slightly wider shoulders than stock bred horses but do not require a special saddle. Most saddle manufacturers make saddles with a wide range of gullet width. Your Arabian saddle probably won’t fit a Fox Trotter, but it won’t fit any other horse either.
Fox Trotters are not good for ranch work or endurance riding, or competition.
Wrong again. The Fox Trotter is an excellent ranch horse. The horse of choice for the old time cowboy was a fox trotting horse. Ben K Green wrote about fox trotting horses in all his books. They are the best type of ranch horse. The Fox Trotter is a horse with excellent endurance and can “ride the big circle” and make the big gather. Their ability to go all day and go comfortably in a very sure footed way makes them perfect for the working cowboy. It has been a great bit of marketing that has made the quarter horse the horse of choice for ranchers now.
The Fox Trotter is just now coming into his own in endurance racing. They have won numerous endurance races around the country. Their easy going way is superior to other horses in that it allows the rider to ride more relaxed and therefor have greater rider endurance.
The Fox Trotter has excelled at competitive trail competition for as long as there has been such a sport. Check out the results of competitions and you will find Fox Trotters in the top of the finish list every time.
Fox Trotters have to have a bunch of special training to fox trot.
The Fox Trotter can perform their namesake gait when they drop out of momma. Some Fox Trotters can fox trot in a prettier manner than others and some have some gaits that we all wonder what the heck is that. But, most horses are naturally fox trotters and need no help getting there.
The Missouri Fox Trotter is just a real nice horse. They have everything a rider could want. They come in every imaginable color and range from 14 hands up to over 16 hands. The Fox Trotter is known for their calm and friendly demeanor and are cherished for their ease of training.
If you have not experienced the ride and nature of the Missouri Fox Trotter you owe it to yourself to seek one out to ride. The motto of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association is “To Ride One is To Own One” and that is the truth.
I once saw a horse trailer that had a sticker on it that said, “This trailer carries an addition for which there is no cure – A Missouri Fox Trotter!” Now that is the truth.