Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse News

2007 November/December
Winter Issue


KMSHA Foundations:
The Breed Shapers


by Mary Marshall

The humble beginnings of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and the Spotted Mountain Saddle Horse evolved alongside the rich Appalachian heritage of the people who settled in the area. Their principle objective was to breed a multi-purpose horse that could work the land, be ridden in style and comfort, and serve as an important economical asset. The horses had to be tough to survive the rugged mountain lifestyle, and versatile enough to perform multiple tasks with a stable, and willing nature.

Descended from the Narragansett Pacer, Spanish Jennet, and ambling Galloways of Colonial times, the ancestors of the modern Mountain horse navigated into the unchartered territory of a hostile new land with the pioneers. The aforementioned breeds were well known for their comfortable gaits and willing attitudes, which were an absolute necessity if you spent countless hours in the saddle as your primary mode of transportation.

As the country began to adopt motorized transportation and the evolution of more lucrative professions beyond the farm, the horse lost itís position as a staple of daily existence. In spite of the transition, early foundation breeders and Kentuckians Sam Clemons and Junior Robinson were determined to breed and maintain records on the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse. The unique four-beat gait, gentle temperament, and startling beauty of the Mountain Horse could have remained hidden away in the Appalachian foothills had it not been for the vision of these two instrumental breeders.

The cradle of the Mountain horse was Estill County, Kentucky. During the 1890s, a family on their way back to Virginia, made a stop in Log Lick, Kentucky, to visit the Tuttles. The following morning the family sold the Tuttles a colt that had been traveling alongside their mare. That stallion became an instrumental influence in the Mountain Horse breed, and sired two influential sons that settled in Estill and Clark Counties in Kentucky.

The exact origins of the Mountain horses are speculative. However, breeder Sam Tuttle purchased a mare in 1918, Lucy, and bred her to one of the descendants of the original stallion purchased from the family from Virginia. The mare was eventually bred to the Hinz Stud, located at Hinz Farm, and the resulting foal was Tobe. As history has it, Tobe was the sire of Old Tobe, foaled in 1927. Old Tobe was a virile and prepotent stallion who became a "breed shaper" for several Mountain horse breeds. A foundation sire par excellence,

Old Tobe stamped his get with his signature chocolate color and flax mane and tail. The great stallion lived to the ripe old age of 37, and died in 1964. One of his sons, also named Tobe, became an influential foundation sire of the modern type.

An important connection to the formation of the breed occurred between Tuttle and breeder Sam Clemons. The modern foundation stallion, Clemonís Tim, was foaled in 1970. Sired by Tobe out of a mare listed as Tuttle Stock, the chocolate stallion became a revered sire of coveted Mountain horses.

A horseman named Charles Kilburn purchased the Tobe mare Nance from Tuttle in 1958. Kilburn became good friends with Tuttle, and went on to purchase the stallion Major and mares Tillie, Nellie, and Bird. The influential sire Kilburnís Chocolate Sundown, a direct descendant of Old Tobe and Nance, was foaled in 1970.

Tuttle, a skilled breeder and horseman, was significantly impressed with Kilburnís Chocolate Sundown, nicknamed "Chocolate," and stood him at his farm. Chocolate was bred to hundreds of good Mountain mares under Tuttleís watchful eye.

Kilburn said that Tuttleís breeding goals focused primarily on producing stock with a smooth four-beat gait, and a shorter stride. Chocolate produced get with a consistently short four-beat gait, and produced a variety of colors in his offspring, including black and sorrel. Tobe became well known for producing varying hues of chocolate with a flax mane and tail in his offspring. Tobeís outstanding sons include Sewellís Sam, Maples Squirrel, and Yankee, the last stallion that Tuttle stood at stud.

The offspring sired by the aforementioned stallions were consistent in type, gait, temperament, and quality. It was obvious that there was a need for a registry to showcase the breed.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse was as natural as breathing to Junior Robinson. His first and foremost concern was to breed a horse known for itís gentle temperament and smooth, four-beat gait. Although most of the records had been kept verbally by the Appalachian people, there was limited written verification of pedigree. Robinson was determined that the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse would have a registry in order to determine and verify parentage for the future, while selectively breeding horses with a smooth gait and gentle temperament.

Instrumental in the formation of several Mountain horse registries, Robinsonís concern was that good horses under 14.2 hands tall that possessed a true four-beat gait could also be registered alongside their taller counterparts. The undertaking to form a registry was a monumental task, but the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Registry was inaugurated by Robinson as founder in 1989, and accepted itís first registered horse General Jackson, bred by Robinson and currently owned by noted author and breeder Barbara Weatherwax. General Jackson, standing 13.3 hands tall, was the embodiment of the ideal Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse, and has brought Weatherwax hours of pleasure in the saddle.

Many horses shorter than 13.3 demonstrated the classic four-beat gait, and conformational attributes of the breed so the KMSHA opened up a "Class B" registry in 1992 in order to accommodate horses ranging from 11 hands tall to 13.3 hands. The "Class A" registry consists of horses ranging from 13.3 hands and up. Both registry classifications require identical standards for identification.

The Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse has won legions of fans worldwide and continues to grow in popularity. The KMSHA registered itís 20,000th horse in 2007, STF Lydia. The foundation bloodlines, so meticulously and selectively bred, have given the world a breed renowned for kindness, versatility, beauty, and intelligence.