Arkansas Chapter MFTHBA


History of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horses

The breed of the Missouri Fox trotting Horse is some 150 years old. The early settlers and pioneers originally developed the breed in the Ozark Mountains, a plateau covering southern Missouri and northern Arkansas. The Ozarks are famous for their rough and rocky country. The need for a horse being able to travel long distances in a smooth manner was imminent.

1821 the first settlers crossed the Mississippi river to settle in the Ozarks. Most of them came from Tennessee, Kentucky, or Virginia and brought their horses with them. The typical gait of the Foxtrotter provides a high degree of surefootedness and therefore the settlers started breeding those horses with the “broken walk”.

The name given most specific for this breed is the foxtrot. All horses of this breed have a natural, genetic ability to perform a broken 4-beat gait. Foxtrot has no high action and therefore is very safe. Thanks to this gait the rider hardly feels any movements, making a very long ride a pleasure.

The horses walk in front and trot in hind. This extremely safe gait prevents movements for the rider and quick fatigue for the horse. Other gaits are a fast flat walk and a very comfortable canter. Thanks to these qualities the Foxtrotter quickly became the favorite horse in the Ozarks. Everyone traveling long distances including ranchers, farmers, doctors, sheriffs and tax persons preferred a Foxtrotter. Only automobiles were able to slowly replace the Foxtrotter.

Foxtrotters have always been and still are bred to be used in the cattle business. Quickly they got their nickname: “The Cowboy’s Cadillac”. Despite the increasing availability of cars and trucks the Foxtrotter is still the most desired for hard ranch work.

To better coordinate the breed, in 1948 the MFTHBA (Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breeder’s Association) was founded. Today, more than 97,000 Foxtrotters are registered in Ava, MO.
Since its start in 1959, The Show and Celebration takes place every year in Ava, during the week of Labor Day. Tthe first European Championship took place in 1996, and has been repeated since then in a biannual mode.

In 1982, the stud book was closed, allowing only horses from registered parents to be entered. In 1992, the European Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Association (EMFTHA) was formed as the Fox Trotter association for Europe and an affiliate of the MFTHBA. The first European Championship Show for the breed took place in 1996, and in 2010 the EMFTHA and the Free University of Berlin began working together to start a European stud book for the breed. The Fox Trotter became the official state horse of Missouri in 2002. In 2006, a new registry, the Foundation Foxtrotter Heritage Association (FFHA), was formed with a goal of preserving and promoting the original heritage type of Fox Trotter that was seen in the first 20 years of the MFTHBA registry, in large part through reducing the amount of Tennessee Walking Horse blood. The Tennessee Walker did not figure prominently in original Missouri Fox Trotter pedigrees, and so the FFHA, by restricting the amount of Walker blood, is attempting to develop horses that more closely resemble the original Fox Trotter type.

Trail and pleasure riders as well as the Park and Forest Rangers all over the United States have discovered the advantages of the Foxtrotter. You will find no better way of traveling than on the back of a Foxtrotter.