All About “The Smokey Valley Horse”

Selection Criteria

In order to meet the standards for inclusion in the Smokey Valley Breed, a horse must meet the following standards.

SOUND MINDED – A quality horse of any kind must be sane, confident, and willing to please its rider.

SEEKING-FORWARD – A gaited horse that is “more whoa than go” simply does not deliver the riding experience that capable riders expect. In addition to requiring the rider to constantly request both impulsion and collection, the reluctant horse can become tiring and frustrating on long rides. An appropriately forward horse that delivers impulsion on light leg pressure and leaves the rider with the simple task of collection and the proper head set on a light rein will provide a superb riding experience to a wide range of rider skill levels.

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STRIDE – The candidate horse must over-stride its front foot placement with the rear foot on the same side by a minimum of 18 inches (distance from the front of the front foot track to the rear of the rear foot track placement on the same side). 

SQUAREThe horse must perform square 4 beat gaits (with no evidence of pacing) either barefoot or keg shoes on all 4 feet. Running-walk transitioning to rack gaits is preferred. A racking horse that performs a smooth quality 4-6 mph slow gait, which extends to higher speeds will be accepted. It is the goal of the breeders to continue to broaden the smooth gait speed range as long as the ride quality at lower speed ranges is not compromised.

STRUCTUREThe conformation should exhibit characteristics of the overall quality…relatively short back, long legs, well-sloped shoulder, long, finely shaped neck rising steeply out of the shoulder, fine throat, and a refined head shape and size.

SMOOTH GAIT SPEED RANGE All Smokey Valley Horses should perform the superbly smooth running walk and/or rack gaits spanning the 5 to 15mph range. A wider smooth gait speed range is desirable, with many horses achieving 5 to 25mph with extraordinary comfort to their rider. Speed alone is not recognized as desirable in our breed if the horse cannot perform a smooth 4-beat gait from 5mph to the top end of their gait with no uncomfortable gait transitions.

STAMINA -The Smokey Valley Horse is expected to be somewhat forward and to exhibit exceptional stamina and ruggedness under demanding conditions.

SURE-FOOTED –  A long-striding and collected horse can be exceptionally surefooted in rough and mountain terrain. Smokey Valley Horses are tested in some of the most rugged terrains our country has to offer, including the rugged hills of our homeland in Eastern Kentucky, the mountains of Yellowstone country, and the rough and tumble trails of Arizona.

STYLE -A Smokey Valley Horse will project an image of quality, refinement, alertness, and intelligence. When in motion, the horse should project the substance and appearance of a smooth, fast, relentless, and willing traveling companion.


“If you happen to own a horse that meets or exceeds these standards, I suggest you keep it… replacement will be difficult and expensive! If you are in search of a traveling horse of this quality, I recommend you visit us at Smokey Valley. We can show you numerous examples of this extraordinary type of horse!” Dr. Bob Coleman

Simply said, our goal is to produce a horse that incorporates all of these attributes with each breeding we accomplish here at Smokey Valley … And we succeed almost every time!” Dr. Bob Coleman 


The Breed

The Smokey Valley Horses are elegantly, yet powerfully built with substantial bone and muscle. They are strongly coupled and have a short back, deep chest, and strong sloping shoulders. They display a refined head, well-formed curved ears, and a long elegant neck.

Smokey Valley Horses average 15.1 hands in height but range from 14.2 to 16.2 in height and weigh between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds. The breed appears in all colors, with many grays, roans, and splashed-up combinations. The breed has a remarkable stylish presence and a calm, people-pleasing demeanor.

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Smokey Valley Horses are known for their great endurance and smooth ground-covering gait. Their four-beat gait is performed with a significant overstride, either barefoot or on a light shoe. They may travel at a walk, running walk, or rack and are bred to have gaits centered between a running walk and rack. The horse coils up and collects on a light hand, reaches under himself with a lengthy overstride, and carries most of his weight on his hind quarters. The horse is balanced and reaches out with his front legs and lands his hooves lightly, floating his front end.

Smokey Valley Horses stay in gait through a dynamic range of speed….from four to six to well over twenty miles per hour. The horse is capable of maintaining speeds in the middle range for many hours.

Smokey Valley Horses are exceptional equine athletes. They are best appreciated as gaited, all-around horses that are competitive in many equine events. The comfort to his rider, the stamina, and the distance-covering ability of this equine athlete is unsurpassed. The Smokey Valley Horse is a rare and special animal; his gaits and athleticism deliver the full magic carpet ride effect to his rider. The Smokey Valley Horse is a re-creation of America’s Traveling horse.

The Horse

Smokey Valley Horses are selected based on their ability to perform their gaits. There are no color standards for the breed and a wide variety of colors and color patterns exist in the breed today.

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Smokey Valley Horses’ average height is 15.1 hands in height at the withers. The primary requirements for their gaits are that they exhibit significant overstride and perform either a smooth 4-beat gait (running walk or rack) barefooted or with a light shoe. The Smokey Valley Horse exhibits these gaits shortly after birth and no training methods or artificial devices are required or used to enhance their gaits.

Smokey Valley Horses are exceptional equine athletes. They are best viewed as gaited all-around horses that are exceptionally competitive in all equine events that involve running, jumping, endurance, working stock, and other demanding horse activities.

The Ride

Imagine you are riding down a country road on your horse. He is coiled up and collected on a light hand…wearing the bridle straight up and down. He is reaching under himself with a nice overstride and carrying most of his weight on his hindquarters. He is reaching and showing off with his front legs. His front feet are landing lightly and you barely feel (if at all) their front feet impacting the ground.

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Your horse is capable of performing this gait across a large dynamic range of speed… from 4 to 6 miles per hour to well over 20 miles per hour. Your horse is capable of maintaining speeds in the middle of this range for many hours. The comfort of his rider, stamina, and distance-covering ability is unsurpassed. He is a rare and special animal and his gaits and athleticism deliver the full magic carpet effect to his rider… You are riding a Smokey Valley Horse… a traveling horse of the finest kind!

The History

The Smokey Valley Horse has been developed over the past 40 years at Smokey Valley Farm in the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Kentucky. It all started with Reverend James Coleman in the mid-1700s.

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Reverend Coleman, a founding member of the Methodist Church in New England, rode an 800-mile circuit on smooth-gaited Narragansett and Canadian pacers. Generations of the Coleman family have pursued a passion for smooth-gaited traveling horses of the finest kind. Starting in 1979, Dr. Bob Coleman began the process of acquiring and breeding exceptional gaited traveling horses with the single-minded purpose of recreating the great traveling horses of the past.


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