There are over 30 horse breeds born and bred in the United States. From gaited to stock, and everything in between, the United States has developed many diverse breeds. Each horse has their own personality, look and All-American story. Do you have any of these All-American horses in your stable?
In West Springfield, Massachusetts in 1789 a bay yearling colt, Figure, was born. As a yearling, he became the property of Justin Morgan, in order to help repay a debt. Figure became well known for his physical feats in racing, pulling and militia training. He also became well known in the horse community for his characteristic’s prepotency (ability to pass on looks and qualities to offspring). Figure became know as the “Justin Morgan” horse. Figure passed away in 1821 at age 32 after being kicked by another horse.
The offspring of Figure were well regarded, being called the “horses of all work.” In fact, during the Civil War, Morgans became great cavalry mounts and artillery horses. Two stallions, Black Hawk and Hale’s Green Mountain Morgan, dominated the Morgan breeding of the mid-19th century. They showed at Midwestern state fairs and heightened the popularity of the breed, cementing the breed’s legacy.
In 1905 the United States Morgan Horse Farm in Virginia, established by Congress, was key in perpetuating the Morgan Horse. This farm transferred to the University of Vermont in 1951 and remains operational.
Greek mythology records the epic exploits of a wonderful winged horse named Pegasus. The stories of early Texas cow country speak of another legendary horse. He was called Steel Dust, and like Pegasus, he could fly, but without ever leaving the ground. (Excerpt from They Rode Good Horses: The First Fifty Years of the American Quarter Horse Association by Don Hedgpeth).
Steel Dust was foaled in Kentucky and brought to Texas in 1844. The moniker of this horse came to define the breed. These horses, “Steeldusts,” remain as the cowboy’s preferred ride. Steel Dust is the first modern day American Quarter Horse. The Quarter Horse breed’s main developing happened Colonial American with the love of horse racing.
Colonial farmers that loved to watch horses run saw that the local Chickasaw horses were much faster than their farm horses. These Native American horses are of Spanish Bard descent and quickly cross bred with the colonist’s stock horses. For the next 150 years, the Quarter Horse continued to develop. The “quarter” refers to the quarter mile distance, a popular race length in Colonial horse racing.
What do you get when you breed an Arabian/Appaloosa to a Shetland? A Pony Of the Americas. In Mason City, Iowa 1954, Black Hand happened. The colt that gave way to the breed, Black Hand is POA #1.
Black Hand’s owner, Les Boomhower, and his friends set up a breed standard for the confirmation of the ponies. They had to be 44-52 inches in height, have a head as distinguished as the Arab, a body as muscled as the Quarter Horse, and a requirement of Appaloosa coloring. The breed required children to ride and show the ponies, adults could show the horses on halter or with a cart.
In 1996 the registry had over 40,00 ponies. The height requirement continues to increase and Shetlands are no longer staples of breeding programs, in favor of larger ponies. Adult under saddle classes are now a typical part of any POA show.
Today, POAs continue to be a family favorite. They are gentle, loving and also athletic. The POA motto is “Try hard, win humbly, lose gracefully and, if you must … protest with dignity.”
The Rocky Mountain Horse originally sired from a gaited colt, “the Rocky Mountain Horse”. In 1890, he moves from the Rocky Mountain region to the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky. This foundation stallion, with the chocolate coat and flaxen mane and tail, bred with the local mares and the breed persists.
Sam Tuttle, a Kentucky man, is the man most responsible for the continuation of Rocky Mountain Horses. Through the Great Depression, he kept a sizable herd of 30-40 horses on his farm and continued to breed his primary stud, TOBE. TOBE’s offspring were very popular throughout the region. Sure footed, well tempered and a great ride, and anybody who met TOBE loved him. He passed along his best characteristics to his offspring, and the smooth gait, sweet disposition and striking color are all still breed standards today.
The Rocky Mountain Horses of today are almost uniform in color. In fact, the breed standard is strict on how much white markings can be on each horse’s legs and face.
As their name suggests, the Missouri Fox Trotters developed in the Ozarks of Missouri since the 19th century. They have smooth gaits, stock capabilities and stamina to boot. The “fox trot” gait is a diagonal gait, with four beats. The front foot of the diagonal pair lands before the hind foot, creating an ultra smooth gait.
These stock horses derived from a myriad of other breeds, including Aradians, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers and Standardbreds. Breeders choose different characteristics from each breed to create a well dispotiontioned, all-around horse capable of pulling plows and buggies, and riding across the rocky Ozarks.
In 1948, many breeders organized and chartered a stud book. This association’s registry remained open until 1982, when the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association required registered horses to have at least one parent registered. The following year, two registered parents became required by the MFTHBA. In 2004, the Missouri Fox Trotting Pony registry became active.
In 2002, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse was named the official state horse of Missouri.
The American Cream Draft is the only true American draft horse still in existence. The name of this rare breed comes from their palomino coats. The breed began in Iowa in the early 20th century from a single mare, “Old Granny.” They became popular for their farm hand abilities but as farm machinery improved and was readily available, the breed was faced with near extinction. An official breed registry was developed in 1944 to preserve and improve the breed. At the turn of the century, there were only 222 American Cream Drafts in the registry. However, the number of registered horses increases every year.
The breed registry is very strict on the physical characteristics of each horse. Colors recognized are light, medium and dark cream with amber or hazel eyes. Stallions have pink skin and white manes. Mares with dark skin may be registered as “foundation stock” and foals that are too dark may register in the appendix registry.
Currently the most famous of all American Cream Draft horses” live in Colonial Williamsburg. Here, they pull wagon and carriage rides. Williamsburg also runs a breeding program to increase the American Cream Draft population.