Spend a few minutes with Sharon Baggett, and it’s easy to see why her enthusiasm for the Missouri Fox Trotter and the Northwest Arkansas Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association is infectious.
The rhythmic beat of the hooves, along with the nodding action of the head, give the Missouri Fox Trotter an appearance of relaxation and poise that Sharon finds soothing as both rider and owner.
“My dad was an excellent horseman. I have so many good memories of what he taught me about horses and horse riding,” said Sharon, who grew up riding gaited horses.
While Sharon credits her father for instilling a love of horses in her, she “put horses on the back burner” when she left home to attend college. She purchased a registered Missouri Fox Trotter in 1995, which reignited her interest in the breed known for its gentle demeanor and signature diagonal four-beat fox trot.
“She was good but not great,” Sharon said of that first horse, Stormy. Her next mare, Legend’s Lady M, was a “natural” in the showmanship ring. Two years after purchase, Sharon and Legend’s Lady M took a world grand championship title at the 1997 show in Ava, Mo. She then sold that horse, as well as another mare that took the 1998 3-year-old futurity, and purchased the two horses that she has now: Jester’s Millie D, a jester mare, and Dustye, a buckskin mare.
“If I could have one horse in my life, it would be Dustye,” Sharon said. “You never know what a horse is going to do until you put a saddle on it, but that mare is all I ever wanted in a horse. There simply is no comparison as far as show quality, and you can do anything with that mare. She has natural common sense and is very smart.”
That love for the breed led Sharon, the Goshen, Ark., town recorder/treasurer, to the Northwest Arkansas Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association. The group formed in 1998 to educate area horse enthusiasts about the breed that got its start in Missouri. Early 19th-century pioneers there discovered that horses with a natural four-beat gait were ideal for surefootedness in the mountainous region, although today the breed is mostly used for pleasure, show or cross-country trail riding.
Sharon now serves as president of Northwest Arkansas Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association, which has about 80 members.
“It takes a lot of work, money, time and effort” to prepare a Missouri Fox Trotter for the showmanship ring, said Sharon, who recommends that new owners seek help from trainers as well as experienced owners to achieve show-worthy status. She encourages horse enthusiasts to revel in the resources and networking opportunities found among the association’s members.  
Participation in the organization and its activities teach horse enthusiasts the proper traits found among the Missouri Fox Trotter, which is acclaimed as a show horse because of its beauty and style in the ring, typically in western-style performance classes. Most, though, are ridden for pleasure or on trails. While Sharon no longer shows, she and her husband, Larry, continue to take their horses out on weekend trail rides, where the couple can mingle with other breed owners. It’s on that trail that Sharon notes most new owners are unfamiliar with what the breed’s true gait should be.
The breed has three natural, basically diagonal, gaits: a long, easy-going flat-foot walk; a smooth, comfortable fox-trot; and a free-flowing canter. A good fox trot, she noted, is smooth and not an over stride. This gait gives the horse the appearance of walking with the front feet while trotting with the hind, causing the rider little discomfort as the horse’s hind feet come into place. The trot is a rhythmic gait that the horse can maintain for extended periods with very little fatigue, Sharon said.
Physically, the breed itself has a smooth-shaped head; an elevated neck, head and tail; well-shaped, pointed ears; a tapered muzzle; sloping shoulders; a short back with a rounded croup; a slender body with a deep chest; and muscular hindquarters and legs. The breed comes in most solid coat colors as well as pinto-spotting patterns.
Sharon said, “Most people find that (Fox Trotters) are so easy to ride and that you don’t hurt when you get off them. As long as I am able to have horses, I will have them. To ride one is to own one.”


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