The Farm

Smokey Valley Horse Selection Criteria

Posted on October 19, 2022 by Donna Spencer

We certainly hope you enjoy the information provided today!

So many are interested and inquiring about our selection criteria for the Smokey Valley Horse.  So, we decided to share what it takes for our horses to pass the tests and be included in our elegant yet powerful breed of gaited traveling horses.

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


Sound Minded

Seeking Forward




Smooth Gait Speed Range







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

SEEKING FORWARDA 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.

STRIDEThe 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 are preferred.  A racking horse that performs a smooth quality 4-6 mph slow gait, which extends to higher speedswill 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.


“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

“ 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, as we can show you numerous examples of this extraordinary type of horse!  ” Dr. Bob Coleman