The Farm

What is a Smokey Valley Horse?

Posted on November 19, 2019 by Donna Spencer

Imagine riding down a country road. Your horse is coiled up and collected on a light hand…proudly wearing the bridle straight up and down. He is reaching under himself with a lengthy over stride and carrying most of his weight on his hindquarters. The horse is stretching out and showing off with his front legs. His front feet are landing lightly and you barely feel them impacting the ground. Your mount is capable of performing this gait across a broad range of speed… from 4 to 6 to well over 20 miles per hour. The horse is capable of maintaining speeds in the middle of this range for many hours. The comfort to his rider, the stamina and distance covering ability of this equine athlete is unsurpassed. This is a rare and special animal and his gaits and athleticism deliver the full magic carpet ride effect to his rider. You are riding a Smokey Valley Horse…a traveling horse of the finest kind!
Generations of knowledgeable horsemen from all around the world have traveled to the hills of eastern Kentucky to find the finest gaited horses. The predecessors of the Smokey Valley Horse became a favored horse of Calvary men during the Civil War. Although Kentucky was thought of as a border state, the region in and around Smokey Valley strongly supported the Union and provided fine gaited Calvary horses that were shipped down the Ohio River to remount stations near Cincinnati.
These mountain family treasures were bred on small hillside farms for two centuries to be versatile, gaited, working horses able to smoothly traverse deep hollers and steep ridges. Much of what was once the frontier of eastern Kentucky remained isolated and without paved roads until the second half of the twentieth century. The family ownership of a well gaited traveling horse was more than a luxury and often the only reliable form of transportation. The distillation of this pure and treasured lineage of gaited working horses has resulted in the culmination of remarkable traits that have become the Smokey Valley Horse.
The Smokey Valley Horse has been developed over the past 40 years at Smokey Valley Farm in the Appalachian foothills of Northeast Kentucky. Generations of the Coleman family have pursued a passion for smooth gaited traveling horses of the finest kind. It began in the mid 1700’s with Reverend James Coleman, a founding member of the Methodist Church in New England, who rode an 800 mile circuit on smooth gaited Narragansett and Canadian pacers. Dr. Bob Coleman began the process in 1979 of acquiring and breeding exceptional gaited traveling horses with the single minded purpose of recreating the great traveling horses of his family’s past.
The Smokey Valley Horse is elegantly, yet powerfully built with substantial bone and muscling. They are strongly coupled, 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.
Smokey Valley Horses are known for their great endurance and smooth ground covering gait. Their four beat gait is performed with a significant over stride, either barefoot or on a light shoe. Smokey Valley Horses are exceptional equine athletes. They are best appreciated as gaited, all around horses that are competitive in many equine events. The breed made its’ national debut at Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio in the spring of 2018.
Smokey Valley Horses are now traveling across the nation and although most are found at Smokey Valley, they roam from the east coast through the Rockies and to the Pacific.