The Missouri Fox Trotter has a unique gait. The first thing noticeable to the rider is the smooth ride. The gait is natural, so there is no undo effort on the horse to maintain this complicated gait. As the horse moves it steps forward on its two front hooves and the back hooves trot; in doing so the horse seems to move in a diagonal direction. The trotting gait is the signature move of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse. The horse moves in smooth motion; the head bobs up and down with the gait. The horse's ears and neck are erect, while the tail is slightly elevated and bobs up and down with each step. The Missouri Fox Trotter is a beautiful horse, and truly fascinating to watch.
The natural gait of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is 4 beats. The first two hooves step down and then there is a slight hold before the back hooves catch up. The beat is uneven, and the right back hoof comes in behind the left front hoof in a diagonal step. It is almost like a dance step. The sequence looks a bit confusing, but if you were to watch it the fox trot goes like this: the right hind hoof hits the ground, then the right fore hoof, then the left hind hoof, followed by the left fore hoof. The timing of the gait is measured by the time elapsed between the hooves hitting the ground. The fox trot is defined as a diagonal gait because of the diagonal appearance of the hoof falls.
The gait of the Missouri Fox Trotter may appear a bit complicated; however, this is the natural gait. With each step the weight is shifted so that the horse maintains its balance and is able to produce a smooth trotting gait. As the horse changes from a slow trot to a running trot, the weight bearing on the legs changes. The faster a rider tries to push the horse out of its natural trot and into a run the rougher will be the gait because the 4 beat gait is replaced by a 2 beat gait.
The Missouri Fox Trotting Horse is capable of several variations of the trot. For show purposes, several trots and canters may be exhibited for the judges. There are subtle differences between the variations, and a novice horse enthusiast may be hard pressed to tell the difference. What is noticeable is how little the rider moves in the saddle. The rider moves as one with the horse in graceful fluid motion, rather than bouncing on the saddle.
Those that are true Missouri Fox Trotter enthusiasts usually belong to an organization. You can find a Missouri Fox Trotter organization online. If you buy a new horse, you will want to transfer papers from the former owners. You will need to register your horse with the organization. If you don't know where to register your Missouri Fox Trotter you can start with your local saddle club; they can direct you in how to enter your horse in horse show competitions.