Breed evolution: The Gaited Pony isn't a cross of two distinct breeds; rather, it's any pony that exhibits smooth gaits. Ponies have long been appreciated for their intelligence, hardiness, and load-carrying ability. When you add smooth gait to the equation, who can resist the Gaited Pony?
Lifelong horsewoman Kelly Robison has owned and bred Gaited Ponies at her Rocky Hill Farm in East Liverpool, Ohio, since 2001. In 2004, she founded the American Gaited Pony Registry.
"Parents realize when they're teaching children to ride, that a youngster can get bounced right out of the saddle on a trotting horse," Robison says. "Imagine how much easier for them to learn on a Gaited Pony. And ponies aren't just for kids; they're also for the young at heart. Any small adult, or a rider with bad knees or challenges mounting a tall horse, will appreciate them. A Gaited Pony will give you the smoothest trail ride you've ever had."
For entry into the AGPR, a pony must mature no taller than 14.2 hands high (58 inches) at the withers. He must exhibit a saddle gait other than a trot, such as a running walk, fox trot, pace, or rack. Gait verification may be conducted either in person or via a videotape. If the pony is less than 4 years old, temporary papers are issued; permanent registration is awarded when he reaches age 4 and still stands 14.2 hands or less. The AGPR also tracks the lineage and size of registered ponies; such information is valuable for those making breeding decisions.
Owners tell us: Toni Meins of Ava, Missouri, has been involved with ponies since 1969, and today breeds Gaited Ponies with Missouri Fox Trotter bloodlines. She double-registers her stock with the AGPR and the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association, which has a pony division.
"My pony mare, Oreo, 10, traces back to some of the first ponies I had," Meins says. "Ponies will serve you well during their long lives. I still have the first Gaited Pony I bought. He'll be 36 this year and is still in excellent condition."
Meins has hauled her Gaited Ponies to some of the best trails in the country, including those in the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming and near Mount Rushmore in South Dakota. But she also loves the trails in her backyard. At Fox Trotter shows held in Ava, the association organizes 10- to 15-mile trail rides that originate from the showgrounds.
"It's a great way to meet other trail riders and introduce them to our remarkable Gaited Ponies," Meins says.
On the trail: Jennifer Rhodes' daughter, Audrey, was born infatuated with all things equine. "When she signed up for riding lessons, I went along for the ride, too, and got hooked!" says Rhodes, who resides in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. "About a year later, I bought Audrey a horse. Then I visited a friend and rode her son's Gaited Pony mare. Instantly, I knew she was the one for me."
The mare, Honey, who stands 12.2 hands high, has been Rhodes beloved mount for the last seven years. "She's a beautiful, dappled, liver chestnut, with a very refined head," the proud owner says. "We're not certain of her breeding, but we believe she's Welsh Pony crossed with Tennessee Walker. She's very athletic, surefooted, and smart. And her running walk has a big stride, which allows her to easily keep up with other horses.
"We spend lots of hours on the trail, and Honey has developed a fan club among trail riders," Rhodes adds with a smile. "She's very friendly, but definitely a queen, and knows she's all that!"