Horses/Missouri Fox Trotter Soundness
I found your website while researching health and soundness issues for Missouri Fox Trotters. Specifically, I landed on a response you provided on 3/2/2012 to a post entitled "Control issue Fox Trotter".
My husband and I looked at a 12-year-old Fox Trotter yesterday, and even though we're not going to purchase him, I am curious about some observations we had and would like to be educated about them for future reference. Like the horse in the referenced article, I observed that the Fox Trotter wanted to side step while at a walk. I never got him beyond a walk even after encouraging him vigorously with voice, clicking and leg aids. I only encouraged him that vigorously at the urging of his present owner. I would never have encouraged my own horses that vigorously - we would have been in the next county if I had. Overall, the horse did not seem to have the energy I would have expected from a 12-year-old. We have two horses that are between the ages of 13 and 15 (a quarter horse and a TWH, respectively), and they could run rings around this Trotter. He also did not want to pick up either front foot for hoof cleaning but willingly lifted up both rear feet with no extra urging. My husband and I are by no means experts, but we're pretty sure this horse has soundness issues.
The sellers had 3 Fox Trotters on site, and we were very impressed with the personalities of all three. And, I was impressed at the smooth ride even though I didn't get a chance to experience the faster Fox Trotter gaits. I would definitely consider looking at other Fox Trotters.
Thanks in advance for your expert advice.
MFT's, like other gaited horses, have some very special issues. They can be difficult to fit to saddle and will not move properly under a saddle if it does not fit. Way too many people want to put the saddles on top of the horse's shoulder blades which restricts the way the shoulder works so the horse cannot gait properly. I have one client who has gone through 5 saddles trying to find one that fits her TWH mare and her. I think she finally got one that works for both of them last fall.
I have run into some unique problems with the gaited horses involving the shoulders and from what you describe it sure sounds like this horse would be one of them. They get very tight in the shoulder, because of the way they use their front end, and he may have been to the point where he couldn't lift his front legs. Have also seen problems like this when the horse needs to have a chiropractor adjust them, shoulders go out, the poll goes out, one horse kept popping a couple of ribs out when they put him in boots to protect his feet rather than riding him barefoot.
They generally are nice horses, willing to please and try hard. I judged 3 of them yesterday at a 25 mi. competitive trail ride and saw that all 3 moved a little differently even though they were all listed as MFT's on the judge sheets. One horse trotted when shown in hand, one paced and the other one did a mix of walk and gaiting. Some of this was due to the riders who were handling them (they were all rookie riders and had never done this before) and unfortunately I did not get to observe them on trail.
Bottom line, any horse you look at that behaves as this one did has some major issues that need to be resolved before you would have any idea of what it is really like to ride. Sort of sad that the horse was in the condition you describe, he's hurting and probably has been for a while. They make nice trail horses, move differently than the TWH's do, not as big a stride and timed a little differently but very comfortable to ride. They don't pull quite as strong with their front legs as the walkers do so you don't have to shift your weight quite as far back as the walkers when they gait, you can sit a bit more upright. If you have a TWH already you'll notice the difference when you ride a MFT that is gaiting correctly.