The Grand Mesa is a lesser known Colorado gem near Grand Junction in the western part of the state. It is thought to be the largest flat topped mountain at 350,000 acres and has over 300 lakes. On top of the Mesa is the Grand Mesa National Forest. In summer the meadows are bursting with colorful wildflowers. Here we encountered this cheerful group of Missouri Fox Trotter trail riders taking a break on their morning ride.
I learned that the Missouri Fox Trotter is an American breed of horse with a unique four beat gait. It was bred in the Ozark Mountain foothills, and used by settlers who valued its smoothness. The unique gait known as a fox trot consists of a four-beat diagonal in which the horse appears to be walking with its front legs and trotting with its hind legs. The horse’s head moves up and down with the beat and its tail balances the head movements. This fox trot gait provides a very smooth and comfortable ride which the horse can maintain for long trail rides at speeds up to twelve miles per hour.
The Missouri Fox Trotter is also known for its stamina and soundness. The horses have a willing and gentle disposition, and are very surefooted. They are generally medium-height and appear in most equine coat colors including solid colors and some pinto patterns. These handsome horses have an elevated neck, head, and tail carriage, sloping shoulders, a short back with a rounded croup, and a slender body with a deep chest. They should have muscular and powerful hindquarters and legs.
Today, the breed is still popular in Missouri, as well as elsewhere. They are very popular with forest rangers and pleasure riders. The breed is used in competitive trail riding because of their steady disposition and versatility. Missouri Fox Trotters compete in western-style performance classes, Western and English Pleasure, show jumping, ranch, versatility and halter classes.