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Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
Alternative names: Spotted Mountain Horse
Country of origin: United States (Kentucky)
Breed standards
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association: Breed standards
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is a gaited breed of horse developed in eastern Kentucky. They are a medium-sized horse used mainly for under-saddle work.



The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse should be of medium bone and substance, as well as being athletic and refined. They are usually compact, close-coupled, and well-muscled. They have a cob-sized head with a straight profile and broad forehead. The neck is of medium thickness and length, and the withers are flat.[1]

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is distinguished by its natural four beat gait called an amble, or rack. This smooth, gentle gait can be maintained over rough terrain and has the same footfall pattern as the walk has. The result of this gait is that the rider sits almost motionless astride the horse while it carries the rider at speeds almost as fast as most horses canter. These hardy horses have a calm and kind demeanor. Registered horses must show a gentle and willing disposition; demonstrate evidence of a naturally smooth, even, 4-beat gait under saddle.

These animals may be of any color with white on face, legs, mane, or tail if registered with the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association (KMSHA), as well as being spotted, having over 36 inches of white if registered with the Spotted Mountain Horse Association (SMHA); the height must not be less than 11 hands (for class B), or 13.3 hands (for class A); must be of good conformation and meet the "breed standard" as adopted and revised in 2006. Foals of KMSHA/SMHA registered sires and dams may be temporarily registered at birth, but must demonstrate the necessary characteristics when they reach an age to be trained under saddle.

The University of Kentucky Equine Parentage Testing and Genetic Research Center has recognized both the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and the Spotted Mountain Horse as individual breeds with distinctive characteristics and genetic DNA markers.[2]

Breed Standard

The breed standard for the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is: After observation by two examiners a horse registering to be part of the KMSHA or SMHA must present a calm temperament along with a willing disposition. The horse must present a natural and smooth four-beat gait that is comfortable under saddle. The four-beat gait must have four distinct hoof beats. Any horse over 11hands can be registered for either the KMSHA or SMHA.[3]

Conformational characteristics for breed standard of the KMSHA and SMHA are that the horse must show at an above average degree of beauty and refinment.[3]


These saddle horses were originally bred by the mountain people of the hills and valleys of eastern Kentucky for the demanding needs of farm life. It was an obscure breed until it became noticed in the late 1980s. Since then, these horse have become highly sought after as pleasure horses in Kentucky and the rest of the world. They are highly prized for their easy-going temperament, intelligence, versatility, willingness, and especially their smooth and natural 4-beat gait.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association (KMSHA) was formed in 1989 by Robert Robinson, Jr. (a native of Irvine, Kentucky) to document, preserve and promote the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse. In 2002, the Spotted Mountain Horse Association (SMHA) was formed as a subsidiary of the KMSHA to register spotted mountain horses.

The KMSHA has closed its registration books, and is working with the University of Kentucky to identify new genetic markers that will further individualize the breed. The SMHA's books are still open to outside registration, provided the breed standards are met.[2]


The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse has been developed as an all-around utility horse, used mainly for riding.[1] People today use the Kentucky Mountain horse form both English and western riding. This horse is good for in the show ring or just out on the trail.


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Breed Standards". Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association. Referenced January 20, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse". International Museum of the Horse. Referenced January 20, 2008.
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Breed Standards". Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association. Referenced October 17, 2008.

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