Long before the Civil War, the amazing Mountain Horse of Kentucky was being developed. In the early 1700s the governor of Rhode Island brought Scottish Galloways, Irish Hobies, and Spanish Jennets to Narragansett County. He needed an easy-going horse that would be close to the ground and smooth to ride. He more than accomplished this by producing the pride and joy of Narragansett, the Narragansett Pacer.
The Narragansetts became the most sought-after commodity shipped to the West Indies and other south American destinations. Different areas created special laws directed at the import of Narragansett Pacers. Surinam only allowed a ship to dock if it had equine cargo aboard. If a vessel contained at least 60 horses, many areas did not charge trade permits.
There were ships specially designed for equine transport. They were known as "horse jockeys." Each horse to be shipped required 110 gallons of water, 500 pounds of hay and 10 bushels of oats. Successful delivery of each horse depended on careful attention. Such care demonstrates how prized these Narragansetts were.
Spanish Jennet blood was also handed down through the Narragansetts. Their medium size, heavy manes and tails, bone structure, heavy muscling in chest and hindquarters, the angle of the shoulder, all leave evidence that the Narragansetts found their way to the protective anonymity of the Appalachian Mountains.
The farmers of Eastern Kentucky came to depend on these horses for their very survival. It was imperative that the horse consistently display a number of qualities: an even, cooperative disposition was the primary concern. Animals that didn't have heart and a true willingness were not used for breeding. The horse had to be an "easy keeper." They could only be fed what they could forage during the cold winter. Those that weren't strong enough to flourish on this basis didn't survive.
The smooth 4-beat gait was also considered a necessity. Rougher horses were put to the plow, but the super-smooth horses with great heart, disposition and stamina were the ones chosen to reproduce. Eventually a consistently high quality became the norm.
Today we have a number of Registries that honor different characteristics of the Mountain Horse. Consequently, there are differences in each of the breeds developed from the same source. The major characteristics that remain in all of the Registries are temperament, gait, and their companionship with their humans.
Mountain Pleasure Horses - http://www.mtn-pleasure-horse.org
Rocky Mountain Horses - http://www.rmhorse.com
Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses - www.KMSHA.com
The Spotted Mountain Horse - www.KMSHA.com
Kentucky Natural Gaited - www.KNGHA.com
Some lovely Mountain Horses:
The Mountain Horses: