By DYAN WESTVANG
very definition of "foundation" is the base, beginning, support, start,
or ground level support of anything. Therefore, to find the foundation of a breed
or horse type, one must trace back to the earliest beginnings of the type and
come forward to that point in which the type either begins to significantly deviate
into something other than the original type, or to a point where sufficient individuals
are locked into a gene pool which represent the genetic type (genotype) of the
In most cases, the foundation of a breed will
not be a large number of horses. It will not likely include numerous generations
of the same stock. The foundation will be those few type-specific individuals
that overall affect the breed along the original guidelines set by the pioneers
of that type.
Any student of the horse understands the difference
between early horses of a breed and the true foundation horses. There are no breeds
in America that can boast having thousands of "foundation" individuals
at their base! Most types start with a group of horses that are impacted dramatically
and standardized by a few great contributors both stallions and/or mares.
searching for foundations one must then realize what forms the bedrock upon which
this foundation sits. In other words, from whence were the foundation horses sprung?
early America there was no such thing as breeds of horse. There were types or
families of horses usually recognized by one progenitor or by an owners name.
Boundaries between the groups were vague, being governed primarily by ability,
utility, and individual accomplishment. It was not uncommon for one sire to produce
offspring of several different types or families.
Today that sort
of thing would be considered cross breeding. In early America it was simply expedient.
There were not many horses in the early years to begin with. There were few types
of horse at that time either. Therefore the types interbred according to region,
need and purpose.
From Britain came the Galloway, Hobby, Old English
Coach Horse, Hackney, and Thoroughbred with the Galloway and Hobby making up the
largest portion of the earliest group. The Galloway had also been instrumental
in the development of the English Thoroughbred as well as many other types. The
Galloway and Hobby were the earliest English imports to the New World because
they were strong, hardy workers, and were smooth riding horses that covered great
distances under heavy loads without tiring or breaking down.
were small horses which were easier to ship and were no longer in great demand
in the mother land. They found a ready market in the New World, first going to
Barbados and other Caribbean Islands and then branching out to the main lands
of North America, South and Central America where they founded various independent
strains of horse depending upon selective breeding and whatever they were crossed
From that stock springs nearly every breed developed in the
Americas to one extent or another. In North America they were particularly influential
to the degree that every American breed traces to that original stock at some
As roads eventually developed in America, other types came
from Britain mainly geared to pulling loads or upgrading stock. Some came to extend
the art of sport to the Colonies.
From France and Holland came the
heavier, larger, light draft types. Spanish horses filtered into the mix through
various importations but did not make up a significant impact on early American
horses until much later.
Each of these types of horse came to America
but not in large numbers. Crossing the Atlantic in the dank, dark, hold of a ship
while being tossed about on high seas was not conducive to successful horse transport.
Only a scant 30-50% of each ship load lived to see the shores of the New World.
To say shipping horses was a costly and highly unsatisfactory endeavor is a gross
Because of the logistics and the expenses of importing
horses, it became very prudent of the early colonials to breed their own horses.
Soon imports of horses became limited to bringing in blood stock with which to
improve Colonial stock.
Horses of those times and well up into the
19th century generally ran at large breeding as opportunity afforded. In some
areas laws governing the castration of stallions dictated smaller stallions to
become geldings, but that did little to increase size of the stock overall.
these reasons, all of the breeds of horse developed in the United States between
1492 and the twentieth century, came from the same genetic sources. The difference
between them lies primarily in the percentages of types mixed to form a new "breed"
and the art of selective breeding.
Selective breeding requires a
breeder to breed together only horses of very similar type, style and/or function
to form a loosely uniform group. Some form of inbreeding, whether it be line breeding,
close breeding or true inbreeding is then used to standardize that uniformity
to a prepotent condition. Within a few generations this sort of breeding produces
a group of horses that breed true and are recognizable by characteristic.
matter what American breed one investigates, if the heritage is searched back
far enough, it will land squarely with the same types of horse all the other breeds
spring from. What's more, specific individuals are common to most if not all the
breeds as well.
Therefore all American breeds are closely related.
They are simply selectively bred for different function, style or type. In the
gaited breeds, each type is also selected for a specific way of traveling.
the gaited breeds that sprang up in America, all inherited their ability to gait
from the exact same few ancestors anciently. Whether speaking of American Saddlebred,
Kentucky Mountain Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, Rocky Mountain Horse, Missouri
known or unknown, ALL share some common ancestry. Yet over
the course of time each group was type bred to be specifically and significantly
different from one another.
Once breeds began to be recorded in the
late 1800's, the emphasis on particular bloodlines and founding sires became significant
as well as vital to each of the specific groups. Whether one looks into the foundation
of the Saddlebred, Tennessee Walking horse, Kentucky Mountain Horse, Missouri
Foxtrotter or any other American breed
particularly gaited breed, it soon
becomes apparent the 'breed' was started from a very few individuals.
analyzing the records of the Missouri Foxtrotter, it is very obvious that for
the first 20+ years the type of horse brought into the registry was overwhelmingly
Saddlebred in breeding. Foxtrotting Saddlebreds were the backbone of the early
pioneers to the Ozarks and were revered enough for someone to want to preserve
the type as an individual breed.
Of the horses coming to the MFTHBA
registry from known parentage, the Saddlebreds were by and far the largest group.
Of those who came to the MFTHBA as full blooded horses again the Saddlebred was
by and far the largest group. The Saddlebred also made up the part of other horses
that came to the MFTHBA registry as cross bloods. For instance, those who came
as ½ Tennessee Walker were also more often than not ½ Saddlebred
etc. Those that came as ¼ Tennessee Walker were most generally ¾
Saddlebred. Had it not been for the foxtrotting Saddlebreds there would be no
Missouri Foxtrotter as we know it today. Had it not been for the foxtrotting Saddlebred
there would have been no registry for Foxtrotting horses today!
1948 and the end of 1969 there were about 2,000 horses registered. Of that number
many were geldings or were horses that did not reproduce at all. That 2000+ horses
also includes offspring of the earliest horses as well as second generation of
those first horses.
The type remained very static in their genetic
make up until approximately 1970. After 1969, however a dramatic change in the
genetics of the group began. From latter 1969 until the books closed in the early
1980's, the majority of horses brought in to the breed were Tennessee Walking
Horses. This type had made little to no impact upon the breed prior to that time.
By the mid to late 1970's sufficient numbers of Walking Horses had infiltrated
the MFTHBA to make a dramatic impact upon the genetic make up and type of horse
enclosed within the boundaries of the Missouri Foxtrotter Horse Breed Association.
the original type of Missouri Foxtrotter found itself on the brink of extinction.
All the original blood had been diluted to such great extent by Tennessee Walking
Horse as to alter the conformation, style, ability and very nature of the horse.
Many traditional Missouri Foxtrotter enthusiasts
revere and prefer the original type of Missouri Foxtrotter.
So it was in 2006 that a group dedicated breeders
and enthusiasts formed The FOUNDATION FOXTROTTER HERITAGE
ASSOCIATION in an effort to locate, distinguish and
preserve what is left of the original style, Missouri
There is precious little to no pure foundation stock
left in existence. Because of that, the FFHA allows
horses with 50% or LESS TWH blood that can trace their
heritage to the original foundation stock entering
the breed prior to 1970 as foundation. NO particular
bloodline is excluded. The effort is to preserve the
original type of Missouri Foxtrotter and preventing
the Tennessee Walking Horse blood taking over and
dominating the group.
find percent of blood the "V-Factor" system is used. This system measures
horses by 16th's percent of blood in a numerical manner. The higher factor numbers
are, the more TWH blood in the bloodline. The object is to give breeders a way
to know what they are working with genetically. The ultimate goal is to preserve
the original type and genetic base as close as possible while still considering
the importance of solid conformation, true foxtrot gait, and all the other attributes
for which the original Foxtrotters were noted..
This is not to say
horses with more TWH in them are not good horses, they are merely different as
should they be considering the difference in genetic make up.
determining Foundation, however, the earliest foundation for the Missouri Foxtrotting
Horse was NOT Tennessee Walking Horse. There were thousands of horses already
registered in the MFTHBA before a significant number of TWH were allowed entry
to the registry. With that influx of "new" blood a secondary "foundation"
Unfortunately when that occurred no one kept track of where the
original foundation went and how badly it was being diluted by the new type.
a larger and larger percentage of Missouri Foxtrotters are actually purebred Tennessee
Walking Horses by blood. There is nothing particularly wrong with that if this
is what someone wishes to ride, however it does bring into question why one would
wish to ride a full blooded horse from another registry rather than simply purchase
a TWH in the first place.
One might question "isn't that the
same scenario as preferring to ride a horse that is purebred Saddlebred?"
The answer to that is no. The original Saddlehorses that made up the earliest
foundation of the Missouri Foxtrotting Horse group were of the Old style of Saddlebred
called Saddlehorses. Evolution and show breeding has selectively bred the Saddlebred
into a far different animal than were those earlier types. There is no comparison
between the old Saddlehorses and todays high headed, higher strung American Saddlebreds.
They function differently, have different conformation and are different in temperament.
The old Saddlehorses were working animals with good energy and work ethic. They
were solid goers with gentle natures and were the utility horse of the region.
TWH that came into the MFTHBA were of a totally different type. They were brought
into the registry primarily for the show ring rather than for utility use.
both types are good horses and have merit, they are simply different in nature,
function and ability.
There are those who claim any horse with an
"F" in it's number is a "foundation" horse but that simply
does not compute. By the time the "F" numbers were taken out of use
there were over 22,000 horses in the registry. ALL of those horses simply could
not be foundation because by then there were already 3,4 and possibly 5 generations
into the same blood!
The "F" in the early numbering originally
it had nothing to do with "foundation". Stallions
in the early registry were given numbers prefaced by "S" and Geldings
were given a "G". THE F only signified the SEX of the horse, not where
it placed in the scheme of foundation!
After a time it got rather
sloppy in record keeping to use the "S" and "G" because some
stallions became geldings yet they still had offspring to their credit. The papers
had to be changed but then the records became confusing when a gelding had offspring!
Eventually the registry opted to continue on using just the "F" but
then they forgot to stop! NO registry has a 20 year foundation. The "F"
in the Missouri Foxtrotter registry can safely be used to denote early horses
but it certainly does not distinguish 'foundation" from those early horses.
In the TWH breed for instance the "foundation"
is credited to a number of about 250 individual horses
both mares and stallions as the original foundation.
Those horses received "F" numbers while
all the later horses were given just numbers.
In the American Saddlebred registry the "foundation"
was credited to a few original stallions and then revised down to only one
In the Morgan Registry the foundation is considered to be Justin
Morgan or more loosely a few of his sons and a scant number of mares but not thousands
ONLY in the MFTHBA do we see multiple generations of early
horses numbering in the tens of thousands accepted as "foundation".
Furthermore, in the 1970's when the "F" numbers were abandoned
to the use of the current numbering system, there were still horses brought in
to the registry from outside. For another 13 years new horses were allowed registry
so in terms of new blood coming into the registry the "F" numbers do
not accurately denote "foundation" on that level either.
true bed rock foundation of the original breed was the Saddlehorse. It was so
for over 20 years. It was those horses that laid the basis for the type of horse
meant to be preserved and it was they who were the reason behind starting the
registry in the first place.
The only other breed that comes close
to doing what the MFTHBA did in terms of bringing in a new type to dilute the
foundation, is perhaps the Quarter Horse. In the 1960's they brought in a number
of Thoroughbred horses to dilute the original base that had been allowed to get
too over muscled and stubby in action. There was a hue and a cry about it but
none the less it was done. WHY? Because there were those who wanted to race their
horses and the chunky, double muscled QH's could not move well enough for racing.
That blood diluted the base and produced a different type of horse.
Good, bad or indifferent that change of type is clearly defined and seen today.
MFTHBA did similar when they brought in the TWH to dilute the foundation only
in this case the driving force was to get numbers up in the registry and to produce
a showier, longer strided horse for the show ring.
the old horses were short strided. WELL
that is not true. These people are
exchanging the term short strided for short over stride. There is a huge difference
in those two terms.
The old time Foxtrotters were expected to cap
their tracks. A horse can extend it's limbs fully and use it's shoulders and haunch
extremely well and still cap it's tracks! That simply means the horse is traveling
square with it's center of balance squarely under itself for superior balance.
Horses with a big over stride lose that balance and effectively
have to adjust its balance in order to perform movements laterally such as changing
leads, picking up a canter etc. That is why so many of the long over stride horses
tend to lope which is a four beat gait, rather than perform a true three-beat
canter. They have less ability to coordinate and collect instantly for that change
To have a large over stride the conformation of the hind
end of a horse needs to be balanced differently than in a horse that moves square
and balanced. The old Foxtrotters were evenly measured in the hind end structure
with the measurements between the four joints starting at the hip and ending at
the hock being close to equal. In the long over stride horse the top measurement
is usually shorter and the measurement between stifle and hock longer in order
to achieve that stride. In most of those horses no two measurements are equal.
This alters function. That is not to say one is good and the other bad, it simply
means they are decidedly different.
The old Foxtrotters at the foundation
of this breed functioned more as a stock horse type while the newer type functioned
more as a straight line breed geared for going forward with stride and speed.
This can be compared with the foundation QH with its unique stock
horse ability although they were short strided and balanced, compared with the
TB bred QH that had less quickness but more stride and speed.
great horses, simply different.
There is no one in the QH breed that
accepts the late coming TB outcross horses as foundation to the breed. In fact
many traditional QH people rather resented the outcross.
In the MFTHBA
the influx of TWH that came decades after the beginning of the registry, came
as outcrosses, NOT foundation. Again that does not mean one type is bad and the
other good, they are simply different.
It is virtually impossible today to find the pure
"foundation" horses. There are estimated
fewer than 100 left to the breed. To find what is
left of that original blood then one must accept some
of the TWH blood as well in order to get to a reasonable
facsimile of the original horse. There fore horses
with LESS than half original blood are desired for
saving the "foundation" type.
are a larger number of horses in the registry today who have half or less TWH
blood. By examining those horses and seeing how they function, measure, and move
we find by bringing those numbers down to approximately 1/3 or ¼ TWH blood
the group becomes nearly identical with the original horse.
of the breeders since using the V-factor system are also noting a more uniform
product in the foals they produce. By keeping the genetic ratios balanced it is
possible to standardize a group rather efficiently.
to the foundation comes along with that use of the V-factor because the lower
the number the more original blood.