Rocky Mountain Horse: Facts, Lifespan & Origin

rocky mountain horse picture

The Rocky Mountain Horse is a muscular and strong breed of horse, originally from the Appalachian Mountains. It has become an extremely popular breed due to its pleasant disposition, hardiness, sure-footedness and unique coloring. Nowadays, it is used for riding, show jumping, dressage and even trekking.


The Rocky Mountain Horse has its origins in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, from a single horse named Old Tobe. Old Tobe was a solid black horse with an unusual silver mane and tail, who was brought to Kentucky around 1900.

Old Tobe was eventually owned by Sam Tuttle of Spout Springs, Kentucky. It was under Tuttle’s ownership that the Rocky Mountain Horse became a distinct breed, as he bred Old Tobe to a variety of other horses in order to create the desired characteristics. By the end of Tuttle’s breeding program, he had created an easily recognizable breed with a well-defined look, an even temperament, and surefootedness on rough terrain. 

In 1986, the Rocky Mountain Horse Association (RMHA) was established to protect and promote the breed. The RMHA was successful in developing a stable and growing group of Rocky Mountain Horses. Today there are over 20,000 registered Rocky Mountain Horses.

Physical Characteristics

Rocky Mountain Horses have a distinctive look, with a shiny black, chocolate brown, or bay coat. They have lighter manes and tails, usually flaxen in color, and feathering on the lower legs. The most distinguishing characteristic is their muscular body, deep chest and a small head.


Rocky Mountain Horse stands between 14 and 16 hands high. They weigh anywhere from 850 to 1,000 pounds.


The Rocky Mountain Horse is known for its docile and gentle personality. It’s also one of the most reliable horses around; they are often used as pleasure horses because of their easygoing attitude and willingness to please. They are smart and trainable, making them great for beginner riders, but also have enough spirit to entertain experienced equestrians.

Life span

Rocky Mountain Horses usually live between 30 and 35 years if they’re properly cared for and are healthy. They are considered a hardy breed that can withstand harsh climates, so they tend to live longer than other breeds. 


Rocky Mountain Horses can be bay, chestnut, chocolate (also called black), black, or silver dapple. The most common color is the chocolate or black coat.


Rocky Mountain Horses are used for trail riding, as show horses, and as family horses. While they’re not usually used for racing or competing in sports like dressage or jumping, they do have the potential to excel in these areas.


The price of a Rocky Mountain Horse can range from $1,000 to $15,000. The cost varies depending on the horse’s pedigree, age, and training level. If you buy directly from a breeder, expect to pay more than if you purchase a pre-owned horse. Prices will also depend on if the horse is registered with the Rocky Mountain Horse Association.

Regular Expenses

Owning a Rocky Mountain Horse comes with some additional expenses. You’ll need to factor in the cost of regular veterinary visits, vaccinations, deworming, hoof trimming, and other routine maintenance. You should also set aside money for feed and hay for your horse. Depending on where you live and the quality of feed you purchase, you can expect to spend anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per year. Additionally, tack and riding equipment will add up quickly.

  • Boarding – Depending on your situation, you may also need to factor in the cost of boarding. If you plan to keep your Rocky Mountain Horse stable or in a pasture, costs can range from $200-$600 per month. Be sure to determine what is included in the boarding fees before committing to anything.
  • Feeding – As mentioned before, feed and hay will also be an ongoing expense. Depending on the amount of time you spend with your horse, you can expect to budget anywhere from $100-$200 per month for food alone.
  • Veterinary Care – Vet bills are another important consideration when owning a horse. Regular check-ups, vaccines, deworming and farrier visits can add up quickly. As a general rule, it is wise to allot $400-$1,000 per year for veterinary care.
  • Farrier Care – Many horse owners also require a farrier to trim and balance the hooves of their horses. This is an important part of horse care, as it helps keep your horse healthy and prevents injury. Farrier services may run anywhere from $150-$350 per visit.


How fast is a Rocky Mountain Horse?

Rocky Mountain Horses are generally considered to be sure-footed and have an average speed of around 16 mph.

Can you jump with a Rocky Mountain Horse?

Yes, Rocky Mountain Horses have the agility and strength to jump obstacles on the trail or in the show ring.

How much weight can a Rocky Mountain Horse carry?

The average Rocky Mountain Horse can carry approximately 170-200 pounds, depending upon the individual horse’s size and strength.

What are Rocky Mountain horses good for?

Rocky Mountain Horses are versatile and can be used for many activities, from pleasure riding to showing in the show ring. They are also well-suited for more strenuous activities, such as endurance riding or competing in cross-country events.

At what age does Rocky Mountain stop growing?

Rocky Mountain Horses typically reach their full adult size between 4 – 6 years of age.

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