Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse
by Barbara Weatherwax
KMSHA was founded on one man’s dream and vision. Robert "JR" Robinson believed that a horse’s quality, not height or color, was what made a good horse. In 1989 he founded the Association on that single concept plus his love of a great horse, General Jackson.
That was almost twenty five years ago – when KMSHA was first formed and Jackson was seven years old. Today at 31, Jackson is a vibrant, talented and a true "People magnet."
My story of Jackson is less "historical" and much more personal. I first met him in Kentucky. I was doing early research for my book The Fabulous Floating Horses, and one of my first interviews was with JR Robinson. We sat in his kitchen with his wife Bonnie and immediately hit it off. We talked for hours sharing horse experiences and comparing our thoughts about our favorite thing on earth….horses.
Then we moved our conversation up the hill to the barn. For the first time, I laid eyes on the General. Seeing that face took my breath away; and as JR led him out of his stall into the light, I heard the perfect pucka, pucka, of his footfall and fell in love. I never touched him, and I couldn’t know then, that eventually I would have the joy and the privilege of seeing that face every morning when I open the barn door and start my day with a Jackson kiss (in the winter he usually has a runny nose in the morning, so it’s a bit of a "runny Kiss"). But I’m getting ahead of my story.
JR kept Jackson in his daughter’s name, so he wouldn’t be tempted to sell him – but once JR had passed, Jackson was sold. To my great joy, my dear friend Desirai Schild and I were able to bring him to the West. Our first plan was to share his maintenance and housing but once I was on his back – and felt that perfect gait and totally honest spirit, I wasn’t able to share.
The first time I rode him was the day after he arrived at Desirai’s in Idaho. Desirai tossed his halter and lead to me and said, "go get your boy, we have friends coming to ride with us." I had never put a hand on him before that day and I had never ridden a stallion, so I pulled up all my courage, opened the gate into the field where he was, and simply called to him. To my amazement, he headed straight for me and stopped in front of me and shoved his beautiful head into my arms.
That day we rode with four mares, one in heat, and not once was there an unpleasant moment. Under saddle, Jackson is all business and a total gentleman. In fact that day I discovered the only thing he likes more than people and the "ladies" – is groceries.
Jackson is the most honest and pleasant horse I have known in my many years of riding and living with horses. He is very high energy, and full of GO – so he may not be an everybody horse, but he fills the bill for everything I could hope for in a ride. The first time I was on his back I exclaimed that I could simply ride on to Montana… he was so very comfortable and enjoyable, I didn’t want to get off.
Well, since that first ride there have been many more. We’ve competed in shows and represented the KMSHA in lots of demonstrations. He loves crowds and enjoys the attention he always gets from his fans. Jackson thrives on excitement and he is a true competitor. When I no longer felt it was right for a founding father of a registry to be competing in Breed Shows, we only participated in the game portions of shows. But after several years, both Jackson and his "mom" ran out of steam and returned to the adventures of trail riding.
Mountain horses excel on the trail. That is what they are bred for. Quarter Horses are for cowboys, Thoroughbreds run, Sport Horse Breeds jump and Mountain horses pack their folks all around the hills and dales. Mountain Horses are bred as companions. The General is the dearest companion I could have imagined.
Once Jackson became 30, I decided he could do with a smaller, lighter rider. My terrific pal and riding buddy for years, Jackie Scott has taken over the reins of the General. Riding with Jackson and me for years, Jackie has developed an affection and appreciation for him that truly equals mine. We ride regularly and consistently. We call our riding "The Senior Program."
Jackson is getting out more often and more regularly than ever before. If the traditional stories about his grandfather "Tobe" are true, Jackson can look forward to twenty or more years of usefulness. I can only hope that I can keep up with him.
The General has produced some amazing get. I’m luck to enjoy his daughter Pearl who was raised at JR’s farm in Kentucky. She is at home in any terrain which makes for a super trail horse; plus she is a fabulous cart horse!
Robert E. Lee is definitely a Jackson son who exhibits his father’s flawless gait and most importantly, his lovely disposition. General Jackson has truly left his mark in our hearts and in his get.