Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse News
2009 Stallion Issue


Member Spotlight
Gaiting to the Heart of Europe

by Noemi LeBlanc

For the very first time the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and the Kentucky Mountain Spotted Horse breeds have arrived in the heart of Europe - the Czech Republic. The pioneer owners Noemi Le Blanc (a Czech native) and her husband Larry, tell their story of how it happened.

The very first time I became aware of the Kentucky Mountain Horse breed, and the gaited breeds in general, was about 15 years ago when I purchased the first edition of Elvin Hartley EdwardsĎ book "The Horses". The two page description with a photo of a pretty chocolate horse with a flowing flaxen colored mane and tail caught my attention and I made a mental note that there is a breed that walks differently than the breed Iíve been involved with - the Thoroughbred. It has been my dream to become a jockey ever since I can remember, however eventually I had to come to terms with the fact that I havenít been blessed with sufficient talent (or time) for riding so I decided to shift my attention to breeding, abandon my professional riding aspirations altogether and stick with recreational riding only.

After I graduated from the Czech University of Agriculture in Prague, I enrolled in an exchange program with Ohio State University and after a few months left my home country for Lexington, KY. I started working at a large Thoroughbred farm and was trying to get acquainted with all the aspects of a Thoroughbred breeding/training operation to prepare for my future career in this industry. During this time I met my future husband, Larry. His passion has always been Quarter Horses and western riding. He never owned a gaited horse and never really expressed any particular enthusiasm for gaited breeds. In his defense - I did not either, I imagined gaited horses would be rather boring to ride Ė who would want to ride in the same gait all the time? Isnít changing to trot, canter and gallop the fun part about riding?

About 3 years into our marriage a friend of ours mentioned he was selling one of his horses and asked if we were interested. When he said it was a six year old Kentucky Mountain mare we didnít get too excited about buying her, but he kept praising her personality and saying how great she is to ride.

Eventually, with a little apprehension, we went to see and test ride her. What a surprise she was for us! Her gait was so different - smooth, yet exciting and so much fun when she sped up! We fell in love with the "boring" gait and closed the sale on the spot. Our friend had one of her foals in the pasture, a good looking yearling palomino colt, and we decided we will have her bred again. Our plan was to breed her first and then ship her into the Czech Republic. She would be a foundation mare of our herd over there. Czechs are great horse lovers and enjoy to ride, unfortunately not many have the time to take lessons to be confident enough trotting and cantering out on the trail. Gaited horses could offer these riders what they are looking for Ė comfortable and exciting, yet safe ride they can enjoy without having to be experienced riders!

We started our search for the perfect stud on the internet and one day came across a website of a farm near Georgetown, KY. Classic Farm offered a great number and variety of stallions, but one of them took our breath away. He was a gorgeous buckskin and we had no doubt in our minds he was going to be our first foalís dad.

In early spring 2008 we called Dave Stefanic, owner of Classic Farm, and set up an appointment with him and his wife Sue. They gave us a great tour of their place and showed us all their stallions. We had no idea how beautiful Kentucky Mountain Horses are. Our little mare is a rather plain, short chestnut manifesting no Spanish heritage and we hadnít seen any other Kentucky Mountain horses besides her. The horses on Classic Farm were incredible, some of them in a strong Spanish type, many with beautiful rich chocolate colored coats with flaxen manes and tails. We felt like children in a candy store walking around with eyes (and mouths) wide open. We asked the Stefanic's if they had any ready to breed fillies for sale and they took us to a field of their three year olds. As soon as the horses saw us they started walking over to us to check for treats. The herd was led by a beautiful tall black filly Ö it didnít take us too long to decide we were going to take her. Afterwards we continued to the second farm the Stefanic's own. After looking at the stallions there, we were ready to leave when Dave pointed at another field with few fillies in it. We went to take a look but didnít really plan on buying any more horses. I changed my mind surprisingly fast (it took a little longer to change the one of my husbandís) when I laid my eyes on a chocolate filly and she became the next member of our rapidly growing herd.

Our next plan was to get the mares in foal and ship them to the Czech Republic sometime in late fall 2008. We boarded all our horses at Classic Farm to be bred. In that time we frequently visited the farm trying to educate ourselves about this breed. Amy, Daveís daughter-in-law, was extremely helpful to us and not only told us everything she could think of about the breed, but also let us ride a few horses and gave us pointers on breaking and training methods. I realized that this breed might enable me to resume my professional riding ambitions in the future.

All our mares were successfully bred and on November 19th we took them to the NY airport. Four days later the very first members of the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse and Kentucky Mountain Spotted Horse breed to set hoof onto the Czech soil. They settled down well in their new home and seemed to enjoy it. Larry and I arrived in Czech a week before Christmas and went to see them right away. We were happy to see they were in a good shape after the strenuous trip. They were checked by a vet and confirmed in foal a week prior to our arrival. Unfortunately, two days into our visit Acadia, our black spotless spotted mare, lost her baby. What a disappointment! Luckily she recovered fast and didnít show any signs of discomfort after that. The other two, Mocha and Gena, are still in foal and we are looking forward to seeing our first babies in early summer this year!

We hope the future of the Kentucky Mountain horse in the Czech Republic will be bright and we will do our best to contribute to that. Our current vision is to have a herd of around 6 to 8 broodmares in a few years and one stallion that would attract mares from neighboring European countries. We would like to become examiners and hopefully one day help organize shows in which European breeders could show off their beautiful Kentucky Mountain horses.