Genetic testing has shown the Mountain Pleasure Horse to be ancestral to all American gaited breeds. From the early 1900s until the early 1940s, people involved in the development of the Tennessee Walking Horse made regular forays into eastern KY to find well-gaited mares to put to their foundation Walking Horse stallions. These quality mountain saddle mares contributed greatly to the Tennessee Walking Horse breed. Similarly, they were sought out to lock in the smooth gaits of the American Saddlebred and later, the Rocky Mountain Horse.
The Mountain Pleasure Horse Association was formed in 1989, with goals to preserve the bloodlines and encourage the breeding of Mountain Pleasure Horses.
On September 29, 1994, Brereton C. Jones, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky issued a very unique proclamation which recognized the importance of the Mountain Pleasure Horse. In this proclamation, Jones acknowledged that breeders in Eastern Kentucky had developed a unique breed of horse known for its gentle disposition, smooth gait, work ethic and sure-footedness. He noted that these horses had been bred for 160 traceable years and that research by the University of Kentucky found them to be the parent stock of all other American gaited horse breeds. A photocopy of this document can be viewed on this website.
Due to the genetic importance and small numbers of Mountain Pleasure Horses, the Equus Survival Trust has placed the Mountain Pleasure Horse on their watch list, with their status listed as “critical”. Because of their unique place in gaited horse history, Mountain Pleasure Horses have been used in a number of genetic studies, most recently the Horse Genome Research Project.
From 1994 to 2009, the MPHA books remained closed to outside horses. In March, 2009, the then MPHA board of directors opened the books to allow appendix horses and “outstanding mountain stallions” to be registered under certain circumstances. The stated purpose of this was to increase the number of breeding horses within the registry. In 2014, as MPHA board members reviewed the registry and it's overall effects on the breed, it was determined that appendix program had brought about negative consequences. To counteract that, also in 2014, The MPHA board separated the registry into two divisions: Purebreds and Appendix. Appendix horses continue to qualify for participation in all MPHA events, but maintain appendix designation in the database. Also, MPHA does not offer a "grading up" policy and the progeny of Appendix horses will continue to be listed in the Appendix registry, with only horses descended from the original foundation or purebred stock included in the Purebred section of the registry.
In current times, the Mountain Pleasure Horse is primarily being used as a favorite trail mount, for competitive obstacle and trail obstacle events, as well as an 18 horse mounted drill team which performs at events and venues all over the country including the world renown "Breyerfest" and breed demonstrations at the Kentucky Horse Park several times a year. . MPHA offers a Trail Riders Mileage club to members who wish to track their trail miles and earn awards, as well as a competitive obstacle course series for year end awards and prizes through the Association. Mountain Pleasure Horses excel at all of these venues as well as endurance, cattle penning and even barrel racing. Their versatility, beauty and willingness is simply astounding.