FINDING THE FOUNDATION

By DYAN WESTVANG

The 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 original concept.

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.

When 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?

In 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.

They 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 with.

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 point.

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 understatement.

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.

For 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.

No 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.

Within 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 Foxtrotter etc, …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.

When 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!

Between 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.

Suddenly 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 Foxtrotter.


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.

To 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.

When 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" was laid.
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.

Today 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.

The 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.

While 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 signified FEMALE… 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…Denmark.

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 of horses!

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.

The 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.

The 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.

Critics argue 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 in motion.

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.

Both 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.

Luckily there 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.

Some 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.

Getting back to the foundation comes along with that use of the V-factor because the lower the number the more original blood.

 

 

 

 
 

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