The Fox Trotter has three natural gaits: an easy going flat foot walk, the smooth and comfortable fox trot characteristic of its name, and a relaxed and free-flowing canter. No special shoeing or training is required for these horses to perform their gaits. The fox trot is a broken diagonal gait performed by walking in front and trotting behind with reach in each stride. In a correct fox trot, the front hoof of the diagonal pair strikes the ground just before the rear hoof, and one front hoof is on the ground at all times. The Fox Trotter is not a high-stepping horse, but an extremely sure-footed one. And because of the sliding action of the rear feet rather than the hard step of other breeds, the rider experiences little jarring action and is quite comfortable in the saddle for long periods of time. The head and tail are slightly elevated, giving the horse a graceful carriage. And the rhythmic beat of the hooves, along with the nodding action of the head, present an appearance of relaxation and poise. The moves should be smooth and consistent with no noticeable up and down motion. The ideal characteristics of the Fox Trotter are that the animal will travel in a collected manner with animation, rhythm and style. In each of the gaits, remember "Style and Grace, It's Not a Race!"
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse (Fox Trotter) is best known for the comfort it affords its rider. Loved as a trail horse, the majority of registered Fox Trotters are owned by people who use them for trail riding, competition, endurance, and pleasure riding. Acclaimed as a show horse, the Fox Trotter is also recognized for its beauty and style in the show ring.
Used by hunters and forest rangers for its endurance and surefootedness in rugged terrain, by ranchers for its versatility and intelligence, and on Hollywood movie sets for its gentle nature, the breed has quickly earned its reputation as a horse for all situations. The Fox Trotter was bred in the hills of the Ozark Mountains by hard-working citizens who needed one horse to perform multiple tasks. The breed was developed to plow the fields, work the cattle, pull the family buggy and carry the country doctor on his rounds. Today it is rapidly gaining popularity throughout the United States, Europe and the Middle East. By 1948 a breed association was formed for this talented horse to maintain an accurate stud book for the breed. By 1958 the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association located in Ava, Missouri, was reorganized and reincorporated as a stock company. In 1973 the corporation was changed from a stock company to a membership organization. The registry was kept open for qualifying stock until 1983. After that time, horses approved for registration had to have both parents permanently registered in the MFTHBA, effectively becoming a "closed book" registry.
Surefooted in mountainous terrain, gentle in temperament, and smooth of gait for the comfort of both horse and rider, the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed's motto today is "To Ride One Is To Own One".