Meet the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse

A horse wearing a saddle.
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse. By Kittymama (Own work (Eigenes Bild)) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Many breeds of horse were developed in the United States and Canada to suit the terrain, environment and the use they were intended for. One such breed is the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse that originated in the state of Kentucky. These horses are closely related to the Tennessee Walking Horse and other similar breeds originating in the southern United STates. There are two registries. One accepts solid colors, the other accepts only horses with pinto and extensive white markings.

 It's smooth gaits and hardiness make it a popular choice for riders who would like a gaited horse. Gaited horses are great for those riders with bad backs or are otherwise looking for a smooth ride.

Body Type:

These hardy horses are medium boned. The registry encourages breeding for excellent conformation, with a broad chest and well-angled shoulder.


There is a great variance of size within the breed with horses that are between 13.1 hands (53 inches) to 16 hands (64 inches) high. They must be 11 hands high to be registered, which means some horses are actually pony-sized. The registry divides the horses into Class A over 14.2 hands, and Class B, which are between 11 and 14.1 hands.


Although they are called Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses they are equally talented hitched to a cart or sleigh. Their smooth gait and sure-footedness make them wonderful trail horses and ideal for riders with bad backs.

They were bred to be an all purpose horse equally useful for riding, driving and general farm work. The rough terrain of the area they were developed in required them to be surefooted and reliable, with a calm temperament.

Color and Markings:

The breed comes in a variety of solid colors with many eye-catching palomino, and chocolate colored coats.

Chocolates are a deep brown with a pale flaxen mane and tail. The registry allows white markings on the face such as stars and blazes and stockings and socks below the knee. They have generous flowing manes and tails. Those horses with pinto or other white markings may be registered with the Spotted Mountain Horse Association, a subsidiary of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association.

History and Origins:

The people of the Kentucky Mountain area have bred these horses for centuries for their unique smooth gait, hardiness, and calm demeanor. They were an all-purpose horse—capable of working in the fields or carrying a family member to town. The registry was begun in 1989 in an effort to preserve the unique characteristics of these horses. Since this is a new breed one often finds ‘unknown horse’ or horses from other breeds in a registered horse’s family trees only a few generations back. Like many of the gaited horses in the United States they are related to popular breeds like the Tennessee Walking Horses, Rocky Mountain Horses and possibly the Florida Cracker horse. The Narragansett Pacer is an ancestor that is the bloodlines of such breeds as the Canadian Horse and the Morgan Horse.

Unique Characteristics:

The most distinguishing characteristic of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse is the natural four gait beat called an amble, or rack. This is a very smooth gentle gait that can be maintained over rough terrain and has the same footfall pattern as a walk. As a result the rider sits almost motionless while the horse carries him at speeds as fast as most horses canter. Having been developed in hilly regions where pasture was sparse, these horses are hardy and stoic with a calm, kind demeanor.

Champions and Celebrities:

Owned by noted breeder Sam Tuttle, Tobe is the prominent foundation stallion of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and most horses in the registry have Tobe in the ancestry.