Frequently Asked Questions

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About The Rocky Mountain Horse

The RMHA is dedicated to the conservation, breeding, development and promotion of the Rocky Mountain Horse® breed. Through careful breeding, the Members of the RMHA, strive to produce an animal that meets the highest standards of this breed and maintain the desirable characteristics of the breed in successive generations. – “One Horse For All Occasions.”

The Rocky Mountain Horse® is a distinct breed resulting from the breeding of two registered Rocky Mountain Horses. Through a carefully controlled registration process conducted by the Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) the resulting offspring of this breeding may be registered by the RMHA after DNA parental verification. After reaching the age of two years, the horse must be examined by trained and licensed RMHA examiners to receive a final certification.

The Certification mark ®, unique to the Rocky Mountain Horse Breed, is the only certification mark issued by the United States Patents and Trademark Office to an Equine Breed.

The Rocky Mountain Horse traces its bloodlines to “Tobe”, a legendary stallion owned by Sam Tuttle, the most prominent breeder of Rocky Mountain Horses for the first three-quarters of the twentieth century. More information related to the history of the Rocky Mountain Horse is located on this website.

Tobe was the foundation stallion to which most modern-day horses registered by the Rocky Mountain Horse Association can trace their lineage.

Tobe was owned by Sam Tuttle, the most prominent breeder of Rocky Mountain Horses for the first three quarters of the twentieth century in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky. Tobe was bred to the local Appalachian saddle mares in a relatively small geographical area and the basic characteristics of a strong genetic line continued. This prized line of horses increased in numbers as years went by, and these are the horses known today as Rocky Mountain Horses.

Tobe was always in demand for stud service. People brought their mares to Tobe from several different states for breeding because he passed on his perfect four-beat gait, disposition, and other great qualities to his offspring. More history of this great Stallion will be found in the history section of this website.

The Rocky Mountain Horse has an inherited, natural and distinct four beat lateral gait that produces a cadence of near equal rhythm that remains constant. The gait can be heard as each hoof strikes the ground independently. The speed may vary, but the gait remains constant. The horse moves the feet with minimal ground clearance and minimal knee and hock action providing an ambling gait that glides forward. Because the gait does not waste motion, it enables the horse to travel long distance with minimal tiring.

Because of the natural gait favored by most Rocky owners for both the comfort of the rider and horse, there is sometimes a misunderstanding by owners of non-gaited breeds that the Rocky Mountain Horse can only gait. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most Rocky Mountain Horses are capable of performing all of the same gaits as non-gaited horses such as the walk, trot, canter and gallop.

The wonderful disposition of the Rocky Mountain Horse is one of the main characteristics that owners will talk about when you ask them about their horse. One of the frequent comments by trail riders is how Rockies handle themselves when startled by a deer jumping across the trail, a covey of quail taking flight nearby, or tractors working around them at their barn or in their pasture. Because of their natural attraction to their human companions and inherent curiosity, Rockies are much more inclined to wait for their human partner’s reaction to a dangerous situation than to be spooked by something different.

Yes. The Rocky Mountain Horse® is an American breed. The breed was established in 1986 by the founding of the Rocky Mountain Horse Association in Winchester, KY. The Rocky Mountain Horse Association was issued a Certification Mark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, defining the traits and process by which this breed is identified. Only a horse registerable by the RMHA should be identified as a Rocky Mountain Horse®.

Registered Rockies trace back to specific studs and mares from a small geographic region in the Appalachian Mountains and foothills of Eastern Kentucky. People from this region had been breeding incredible horses as “using horses” since the late 1800s, but did not establish a registry or official breed organization. Sam Tuttle is credited with preserving the breed through the hard-economic times of the early twentieth century and it is his herd of horses, descended from the saddle stock mares of Eastern Kentucky and the legendary Rocky Mountain stallion, that became the foundation of the “Rocky Mountain Horse” before the RMHA existed.

The RMHA was founded as a non-profit in 1986 to establish breed standards that would preserve the characteristics of this well-established landrace from the region. A few founding members of the RMHA spent several years traveling to hundreds of farms and carefully selecting studs and mares that met specific criteria for gait, conformation and disposition to establish the first foundation books for the breed registry.
As Rocky Mountain Horses® became very popular, other for-profit registries were started under a variety of different names to provide papers for horses that may not meet the RMHA breed standards or fulfill the registration and certification requirements of the RMHA. While some Rocky Mountain Horses® may also be registered by these other organizations, other horses in those registries may have backgrounds and characteristics very different from those of the Rocky Mountain Horse®.

The RMHA has always operated as a non-profit corporation (501c5) with the primary goal of establishing and maintaining a registry for the Rocky Mountain breed. The RMHA is dedicated to preserving the characteristics of this magnificent horse. The establishment of the RMHA as a non-profit corporation has played an important role in maintaining the original breed characteristics of the Rocky Mountain Horse®. As history has shown with many larger breeds, both gaited and non-gaited, the characteristics of a breed may change over time to gain or maintain numbers and profits. The adherence to the original breed standard is what has always set the Rocky Mountain Horse® apart.

The term “Mountain Horse” has become a generic term in usage by some publications and websites lumping various “Mountain Horses” under one heading. To be sure what you have is a Rocky Mountain Horse®, ask to see the horse’s papers or ask to have its identity proven by checking its DNA against the RMHA DNA database. Every registered Rocky Mountain Horse® has DNA on file and can be identified by a simple test on pulled tail hairs. If what you want is the “real thing”, be sure that is what you get.

When considering a horse for purchase, ask to see the registration papers (pedigree) issued by the RMHA. The pedigree will indicate whether the horse is “registered” and “certified.” A foal must be registered, requiring DNA parental verification by the association through independent genetics laboratories. Certification by three trained and official RMHA examiners must inspect the horse after it is at least twenty-three months old to certify that the horse meets all of the RMHA breed standards.

For offspring to be eligible for registration by the RMHA, this certification must be completed and both parents must have been certified and registered before breeding. This certification process is unique to most American breed associations, and it is the reason RMHA could be issued a Certification Mark by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The certification mark specifically states: “THE CERTIFICATION MARK, AS USED BY PERSONS AUTHORIZED BY THE CERTIFIER, CERTIFIES THAT THE HORSES HAVE BEEN EXAMINED BY THE CERTIFIER AND MEET THE CERTIFIER’S STANDARDS REGARDING HEIGHT, BODY, GAIT, TEMPERAMENT AND COLOR”

If you have questions, you can always contact the Rocky Mountain Horse Association headquarters for assistance at 859-644-5244 or e-mail: admin@rmhorse.com.

The ideal place to buy a Rocky is from one of the RMHA breeders that specialize in Rocky Mountain Horses. Locations and contact information may be found on this website by checking sponsors, advertisers and the Breeders Directory which is located under the Breed section. Another good source is to review “The Rocky Mountain Horse” magazine, which is published twice a year and is free with RMHA membership.

Occasionally an individual owner will have a Rocky for sale and if you know and trust the seller you may wish to buy from them. It is suggested that you read the previous question “How can I know I’m getting a Rocky when buying?” If you have no experience with Rockies, it is suggested that you have a friend who has extensive experience help you when checking and trying out the horse. It is always good to ask the seller to provide a veterinary checkup before finalizing the purchase.

Because of their great temperament and athleticism, most Rockies are easily trained. Many trainers look forward to working with Rockies because of their wonderful minds and interest in learning.

However, like any horse, rockies are not born broken. They need to learn to control their flight reflex through exposure to a wide variety of stimulus and how to give to pressure. To maximize their wonderful, incredible gait, they need to develop softness, balance, and rhythm. Make sure you work with an experienced trainer if you are not experienced yourself in order to really bring out the potential of your Rocky.

The natural horsemanship approach to training is about horse and human communications and respect without regard to breed. Because of their fondness of human companions, Rockies respond quickly to the natural horsemanship training approach.

In the RMHA survey, some 90% of the association members rank trail and pleasure riding as their main activity. In recent years more and more Rockies have been entered in Competitive Endurance rides and winning or placing high in their classes. Their sure footedness, versatility, temperament, endurance and smooth gait have created a high demand among trail riders.

The history of the Rocky is that of a horse for the entire family. For many generations the Rocky could be seen pulling a plow during the day, being ridden by children around a pasture in the evening or other family members taking a short trail ride before supper. On Sunday the same horse would be pulling a buggy taking the family to church. Through generations this bonding with humans and Rockies has most likely been imprinted in the horses’ disposition.

The Rocky is well known for the apparent understanding of the needs and abilities of their riders. Because of their almost uncanny ability to identify with a handicapped rider’s needs, Rockies are increasingly being used in handicapped riders programs.

Reading articles on this website, browsing the photo gallery, reading the association magazine “The Rocky Mountain Horse” which comes free with a membership will leave little doubt of the Rocky being an ideal family horse.

Most Rocky Mountain Horses are considered “Easy Keepers”. It is not unusual for many Rocky owners to seldom find a need for feeding grain if good pastureland is available. During winter periods or in areas where good pasture is limited, most owners feed local quality hay. Like all breeds, an individual horse may have slightly different needs and the owner needs to watch for over or underweight and adjust feeding accordingly.

Basic routine veterinary care and feeding will normally lead to a long healthy life. It is not unusual for Rockies to live into their thirties. Depending on the terrain and riding habits of the owner, some owners keep their Rockies shoeless.

Many Rocky owners regularly ride bareback. In recent years, the popularity of bareback riding has led to the addition of both youth (12-17) and adult bareback classes to be added to the International Show program. Because of their good temperament, Rockies are easily ridden bareback. Although the Rocky Mountain Horse is not difficult to ride bareback, even experienced riders who have the balance and skills to ride without a saddle should proceed with reasonable caution.

The RMHA By-Laws require that the height of a Rocky Mountain Horse be no less than 58 inches (14.2 hands) and no more that 64 inches (16.0 hands).

There are many beautiful and popular colors in the Rocky Mountain Horse breed. Because of the popularity and high demand for chocolate with flaxen (sometimes almost white) manes and tails, people often think it is the primary color of the breed. However, there are many beautiful colors in addition to chocolate. There are blacks, bays, chestnuts, red chocolates, sorrels, roans, palominos, buckskins and duns, to mention a few. Within the chocolate coloring, there are variations from light to dark.

Only solid body colors are accepted for regisration and certification. There are no paint, appaloosa, spotted or all white horses in the Rocky Mountain Horse registry. When the RMHA was formed, the breed standards established solid body color requirements, with definitive limits for minimal markings.

As of August 2019, there were over 25,000 registered Rocky Mountain Horses® included in the RMHA pedigree database. We know there are more Rockies out there that have not been registered. Please contact the RMHA office to see how to get your Rocky registered today.

Rockies are ridden in a wide variety of saddles from cutbacks and dressage, to troopers to reining and cutting saddles. Work with a qualified saddle fitter to select a saddle that fits your Rocky well and meets your style of riding.

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