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Discover The Horse: Old Kentucky Saddler/

Mountain Pleasure Horse

Many Thanks to Alyssa Mathews and her awesome crew for this fabulous video of our beloved horses!! 

Welcome to the  Mountain Pleasure Horse/Old Kentucky Saddler Website!! We're thrilled to have you swing by & learn more about Kentucky's original heritage breed and the oldest gaited breed of horse in the United States!


Below you will find information (both current, and historical) about our rare & endangered breed and we encourage everyone to submit any pics, history or stories you'd like to share about YOUR Mountain Pleasure Horses..we'd love to add them to our website!


** Update** The MPHA will be participating in the KBIF for 2022-2024!!! .
Check the calendar of events and facebook  for upcoming events!! 

MPHA/Rockin R Rhythm Riders Drill Team

2023 Events: 

May 13-14th Ky Horse Park – Parade of Breeds Demo

June 3rd MPHA Arena Obstacle Challenge – TBA

June 17-18th Ky Horse Park – Parade of Breeds Demo

July 14-17th Breyerfest – KHP, Lexington, Ky

July 22nd MPHA Arena Obstacle Challenge – TBA

Aug. 12-13th Ky Horse Park – Parade of Breeds Demo

August 26th MPHA Arena Obstacle Challenge – TBA

Sept. 16th MPHA Arena Obstacle Challenge – TBA

Oct. 141th MPHA Arena Obstacle Challenge – TBA

Check out our Equine Database Link above!


Our  database now has a button that allows you to upload an image (picture) file of each horse listed in the database and “attach” it to their lineage COOL is THAT???!!! So…anyone with pictures (preferably conformation pics – NO people or saddles if possible) of any MPHA horses alive OR deceased, please take a few minutes to upload those to the website! All you need to do is get on the website, click on “horse database”, & type in the horse’s name. When it pulls the name up, just click on it. You will then see a drop down box you can click on & add an image. Once the box turns green in’re all done! We’d LOVE to have as many pictures as possible of our horses..this will be an awesome addition to our database, so get to clicking!!! 🙂 p.s. If you want to see an example, I’ve added a pic to Goldfinger, just click & you’ll see him!!​

Mountain Pleasure Horse /Old Kentucky Saddler

Kentucky's Heritage Horse - The oldest gaited horse in North America with less than 3,000 alive today. The original Mountain horse is the​ foundation stock for many of the current gaited breeds  today and continues to be the gold standard for personality, train-ability, reliability and the smooth, old time gait. We welcome you to browse through our historical archives and relieve a piece of Kentucky's heritage - the MOUNTAIN PLEASURE (Old Kentucky Saddler)  HORSE ​

200 Years of History and Heritage...the Original Old Kentucky Saddler..

The Mountain Pleasure Horse (Old KY Saddler) is a breed of gaited horse that was developed in the Appalachian Mountains of Eastern Kentucky. This breed reflects the primitive Appalachian gaited horse type and genetic testing shows them to be ancestral to modern breeds developed in the region, including the American Saddlebred, the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Rocky Mountain Horse. Although formal written history is limited, individuals whose families have bred these horses for several generations can often provide names and dates as far back as the early 19th century. Some Mountain Pleasure Horse bloodlines are traceable for over 200 years.

The signature gait of the Mountain Pleasure Horse is an evenly spaced, four beat lateral gait, commonly known as the saddle rack. Lacking the moment of suspension that produces the bounce of a trot, this smooth intermediate gait is delightful to ride. In fact, people who have previously given up riding due to back or joint problems are often able to ride a Mountain Pleasure Horse in comfort. This natural gait of the Mountain Pleasure Horse is not taught or mechanically produced, but is the product of generations of careful breeding. Mountain Pleasure Horse foals are known to demonstrate their innate ability to perform this genetically inherited gait within hours of birth.

The comfortable ride and sure-footedness of the Mountain Pleasure Horse are also due to the good conformation for which they have been bred. They are a medium sized horse, nicely proportioned, with a physical structure conducive to soundness and longevity. A laid back shoulder, ideally having an angle of 45 degrees allows the horse to move out in a reaching stride. Strong, correctly angled hind legs enable the horse to have good impulsion in all gaits and also to navigate rugged terrain and steep hills with safety and ease. A nicely arched neck, attractive head and kind eye complete the picture of a gentle family horse.

Mountain Pleasure Horses are descendants of the smooth gaited horses that came to North America with the first settlers. Small, hardy Hobbies, gaited ponies from the British Isles, were used to develop the first American horse breed, the Narragansett Pacer. Bred in the New England Colonies during the 17th century, The Narragansett was a fast pacing horse for racing contests. They also performed a smooth saddle gait, sometimes referred to as a “single-footed trot", which made them favorite mounts for traveling between the sparsely settled colonies, especially in rugged terrain. The Narragansett Pacer had disappeared from the New England colonies by the early 1800s when road development led to greater demand for trotting breeds. The breed did not vanish into extinction, however. Small populations continued to thrive in the Appalachian regions where horseback travel prevailed, not only because road development lagged, but because the Appalachian horsemen loved a smooth riding horse.

In Eastern Kentucky, the descendants of these horses were simply referred to as “ Ky saddle horses” or “mountain horses". They were expected to be able to work the fields or carry a rider comfortably, whichever was needed on a given day. While the rugged topography isolated Appalachia, it didn’t prevent the traveling Doctor, Preacher, Frontier Nurse or schoolteacher from reaching their destination. In addition, the postal carriers still had mail to be delivered and salesmen had to make their rounds to the local stores. These folks, as well as many others relied on their “old Ky Saddlers” for daily chores, plowing, pulling buggies and general transportation.

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.

The Disposition….

The disposition and trainability of the Mountain Pleasure Horse may be the most appreciated characteristic for novice horse owners. They are a very intelligent horse that loves attention. Veteran trainers of other breeds are amazed at how fast they learn. It is not uncommon to see two and three year olds effectively competing with older horses at area horse shows or on challenging trail rides. Once the Mountain Pleasure Horse has been trained, they remember their lessons well. The Mountain Pleasure Horse is waiting with its natural gait and willing disposition, whether you ride once a week or once a month.

The Gait.....

The Mountain Pleasure Horses’s distinctive, easy riding gait, allows the sure-footed horse to cover a lot of ground with minimum effort for both the horse and rider. The gait is an evenly spaced, four beat lateral gait with moderate forward speed and extension without exaggerated knee and hock action. The horse moves out with a gait in which one can count four distinct hoof-beats that produce a cadence of near equal rhythm. The gait is natural. It is bred into these horses through generations of proper breeding. No action devices, aids or harsh training methods are necessary or allowed by the Mountain Pleasure Horse Association. The unique thing about the Mountain Pleasure Horse is its’ ability to travel long distances at this gait with a variance of speed. Fast or slow, the beat remains the same. The Mountain Pleasure Horse is also unique in its ability to adapt and learn. You will find these horses in many competitions from drill team, competitive obstacle,  barrel racing and extreme cowboy races to the gracefulness of the show ring. However, their forte’ is their sure footed ride on the trails. Combined with their easy, no bounce gait, the Mountain Pleasure horse is the perfect horse for the young and the young at heart rider.

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