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Mountain Pleasure Horse - Equine Info Exchange
MPHA has a traveling drill team, consisting of 18 purebred Mountain Pleasure Horses that provide demonstrations at venues such as the Kentucky Horse Park, Equine Affaire and Breyerfest.

The Mountain Pleasure Horse is a breed of gaited horse that was developed in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. This breed reflects the primitive Appalachian gaited horse type and genetic testing shows them to be ancestral to modern breeds developed in the region, including the American Saddlebred, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Rocky Mountain Horse. Although formal written history is limited, individuals whose families have bred these horses for several generations can often provide names and dates as far back as the early 19th century. Some Mountain Pleasure Horse bloodlines are traceable for over 180 years.

The signature gait of the Mountain Pleasure Horse is an evenly spaced, four beat lateral gait, commonly known as the saddle rack. Lacking the moment of suspension that produces the bounce of a trot, this smooth intermediate gait is delightful to ride. In fact, people who have previously given up riding due to back or joint problems are often able to ride a Mountain Pleasure Horse in comfort. This natural gait of the Mountain Pleasure Horse is not taught or mechanically produced, but is the product of generations of careful breeding. Mountain Pleasure Horse foals are known to demonstrate their innate ability to perform this genetically inherited gait within hours of birth.

Mountain Pleasure Horse - Equine Info Exchange

The comfortable ride and sure-footedness of the Mountain Pleasure Horse are also due to the good conformation for which they have been bred. They are a medium sized horse, nicely proportioned, with a physical structure conducive to soundness and longevity. A laid back shoulder, ideally having an angle of 45 degrees allows the horse to move out in a reaching stride. Strong, correctly angled hind legs enable the horse to have good impulsion in all gaits and also to navigate rugged terrain and steep hills with safety and ease. A nicely arched neck, attractive head and kind eye complete the picture of a gentle family horse.

Mountain Pleasure Horses are descendants of the smooth gaited horses that came to North America with the first settlers. Small, hardy Hobbies, gaited ponies from the British Isles, were used to develop the first American horse breed, the Narragansett Pacer. Bred in the New England Colonies during the 17th century, The Narragansett was a fast pacing horse for racing contests. They also performed a smooth saddle gait, sometimes referred to as a “single-footed trot", which made them favorite mounts for traveling between the sparsely settled colonies, especially in rugged terrain. The Narragansett Pacer had disappeared from the New England colonies by the early 1800s when road development led to greater demand for trotting breeds. The breed did not vanish into extinction, however. Small populations continued to thrive in the Appalachian regions where horseback travel prevailed, not only because road development lagged, but because the Appalachian horsemen loved a smooth riding horse.

In Eastern Kentucky, the descendants of these horses were simply referred to as “saddle horses” or “mountain horses. They were expected to be able to work the fields or carry a rider comfortably, whichever was needed on a given day. While the rugged topography isolated Appalachia, it didn’t keep the mail from being delivered or the salesmen from making their rounds, relying on their “old-time mountain horses” for transportation.

Genetic testing has shown the Mountain Pleasure Horse to be ancestral to all American gaited breeds. From the early 1900s until the early 1940s, people involved in the development of the Tennessee Walking Horse made regular forays into eastern KY to find well-gaited mares to put to their foundation Walking Horse stallions. These quality mountain saddle mares contributed greatly to the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. Similarly, they were sought out to lock in the smooth gaits of the American Saddlebred and later, the Rocky Mountain Horse.

Mountain Pleasure Horse - Equine Info Exchange

The Mountain Pleasure Horse Association was formed in 1989, with goals to preserve the bloodlines and encourage the breeding of Mountain Pleasure Horses.

On September 29, 1994, Brereton C. Jones, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky issued a very special proclamation to recognize the importance of the Mountain Pleasure Horse. In this proclamation, Jones acknowledged that breeders in Eastern Kentucky had developed a unique breed of horse known for its gentle disposition, smooth gait, work ethic and sure-footedness. He noted that these horses had been bred for 160 traceable years and that research by the University of Kentucky found them to be the parent stock of all other American gaited horse breeds. A photocopy of this document can be viewed on the website of the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association.

Due to the genetic importance and small numbers of Mountain Pleasure Horses, Equus Survival Trust has placed the Mountain Pleasure Horse on their watch list, with their status listed as “critical”. Because of their unique place in gaited horse history, Mountain Pleasure Horses have been used in a number of genetic studies, most recently the Horse Genome Research Project.

From 1994 to 2009, the MPHA books remained closed to outside horses. In March, 2009, the MPHA board of directors opened the books to allow appendix horses and “outstanding mountain stallions” to be registered under certain circumstances. The stated purpose of this was to increase the number of breeding horses within the registry. In 2014, as MPHA board members reviewed the registry, it was determined that appendix program had brought about negative consequences. Also in 2014, The MPHA board separated the registry into two divisions: Purebreds and Appendix. Appendix horses continue to qualify for participation in all MPHA events. The progeny of Appendix horses will continue to be listed in the Appendix registry but only horses descended from the original foundation stock would be included in the Purebred section of the registry.

In current times, the Mountain Pleasure Horse is primarily being used as a favorite trail mount. MPHA offers a Trail Riders Mileage club to members who wish to track their trail miles and earn awards. MPHA also offers competitive obstacle courses through the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Program. Mountain Pleasure Horses excel at all of these venues as well as endurance, cattle penning and even barrel racing. Their versatility is astounding.

Mountain Pleasure Horse - Equine Info Exchange

MPHA has a traveling drill team, consisting of 18 purebred Mountain Pleasure Horses that provide demonstrations at venues such as the Kentucky Horse Park, Equine Affaire and Breyerfest. Our goal is to inform and educate the public about this wonderful, rare heritage breed. MPHA currently has a breed representative stationed at the Kentucky Horse Park Breeds Barn for weekly shows. You can also find the MPHA Drill Team on Facebook at "Rockin R Rhythm Riders Gaited Drill Team".

To learn more about this wonderful Heritage Breed, we invited you to visit the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association website where you will find archived articles and videos, a listing of horses for sale and a calendar of events for Mountain Pleasure Horses. You can also visit MPHA on Facebook.

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