Most folks know Missouri's state animal is the mule. But I didn't know until recently that we also have a state horse.

Most folks know Missouri's state animal is the mule. But I didn't know until recently that we also have a state horse.
The Missouri Foxtrotter is the official state horse of the Show-Me-State, as of 2002. The Missouri Foxtrotter has an interesting history, so I learned. Missouri foxtrotting horses were developed in Missouri in the first half of the 19th century by crossing a number of breeds brought in by the Southern settlers from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee who dominated Missouri's population prior to 1860.
The settlers, particularly those hewing out lives in the rough Ozarks, needed a sure-footed horse that was also very versatile. The same horse that plowed a field or hauled away logs on Saturday might be harnessed to the family wagon or buggy on Sunday to bring everyone to church. Or it might be saddled up to carry someone into the neaest settlement. Or it might be needed to work livestock.
The Southern settlers of Missouri brought some fine riding stock with them, but for the tough and varied work required in the Ozarks in particular, they realized something else was needed. So they cross-bred Morgans, Arabians and initially other breeds, and later American Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walking Horses, and Standardbreds to develop what became the Missouri foxtrotting horses.
The result was a very sturdy animal that could sustain hard work for extended periods of time but one that was also extremely smooth-gaited. I've read some reviews on the Missouri Foxtrotter and they all praise the extraordinary smooth ride. I don't ride myself, so I wouldn't know. But I'll trust those who do.
The Missouri Foxtrotter is supposed to be able to travel far distances relatively quickly due to its unique ambling gait, making it a traditional favorite of Missouri circuit riders, lawmen, and other professionals of the pre-automobile days whose work required making long trips in short time.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association was founded in Ava, Mo. and began registering horses with the special “foxtrot” gait and other specific characteristics in 1948. In 1982, they stopped introducing new horses and only the decendents of Missouri Foxtrotters registered from 1948 to 1982 can now be entered into the books. Today there are about 100,000 registered Missouri Foxtrotters in North America and around 600 in Europe, where they brought by the Queen of England in the 1950s.
To learn more about Missouri's Official State Horse, check out the MFTHBA website at mfthba.com

Wes Franklin writes a column for the Neosho Daily News.