Westward Ho! the settlers were on the move. The West was calling and the name of the West was Missouri. The Little House on the Prairie was being lived for real. Crops were being raised and the cattle industry was to find the second largest producing state in Missouri.
When Missouri became a state in 1821, more pioneers came flooding in across the Mississippi from Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky. They brought the soft-gaited horses that had served them so well in their home states. But the rugged Ozark mountains held new challenges for these hardy trailblazers.
Horses that could perform the broken gait called the fox trot proved to be the most useful for the purposes at hand. It didn't take long for a selective breeding program to begin. As early as 1820, there was a conscious effort to develop a true fox trotting horse. So, what is so special about the fox trot gait? C.H. Hibbard, historian and charter member of the Fox Trotter Association describes the gait as, "a broken gait, with the animal walking with the front feed and trotting with the back feet. The back foot disfigures the track made by the front foot." Hibbard goes on to say "the fox trotting horse was not a high stepping horse but an extremely surefooted one because of its shuffling gait. Further because of the sliding action of the rear feet rather than the hard step of other breeds the rider experienced little jarring action and was quite comfortable in the saddle for long periods of time."
The Missouri Fox Trotter: