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.