Couple raising rare breed of horses in Alberton

FORT FRANCES—The horses have been called Kentucky’s best-kept secret.
And this rare breed, known as Rocky Mountain Horses, are being raised by Gayle Arpin, along with her husband, Chuck, on their farm just west of Fort Frances.
“They were featured in ‘Horse Illustrated’ [magazine] in October, 2001,” Arpin recalled. “I read about them and showed my husband and said, ‘This is too good to be true—this is like the horse of my dreams.’”
The reason she believes the horses are so special is because of their gentle disposition and smooth ride.
“A Rocky has one or more hoofs on the ground at all times, with no moment of suspension of all four hoofs, unlike the trot or pace,” she explained.
“Therefore, the rider is held steady in the saddle rather than going up and down as you would in a trot or pace . . . The gait is incredibly natural.”
And Arpin said they also are very easy to train.
“Several times now we have found that you can just get on and ride them without any bucking—they are so willing to please,” she enthused. “We have put a young horse under harness pulling a cart within a couple of hours.
“Last July 1, we rode a three-year-old, who had only been ridden a dozen times, in the parade with feathers on her head and a Canadian flag flapping around her.
“She was perfectly calm.”
The Arpins went looking for this breed nearly five years ago, bought a mare, and now their hobby has snowballed into maintaining a farm of 17 Rocky Mountain Horses, including eight more they purchased just last month.
“When they came, they had never been handled, they’d just been out in the field,” she indicated. “They had never been touched by people. But we’ve taken them for walks down the highway already—that’s how easy they are.”
The horses originated in the Appalachian Mountains about 200 years ago. Although classified as a rare breed, they still are common in Kentucky, where the Arpins have gone several times in the past two years to buy and learn about the breed.
“We have gotten to know some people there and one older man said to me, ‘I don’t know what all the kerfuffle is about. These are just our horses that have been around for a long time,’” she recalled.
One of Arpin’s favourite horses (although they are all special to her) is “The General,” which they brought home from Kentucky back in September.
“We went to Grand Rapids the following week to a benefit ride obstacle course for a friend,” Arpin noted. “There were 27 horses and 15 obstacles that you had to ride through and General won the ‘Perfect Horse’ award.
“I had only ridden him once before, so I was very proud of him,” she added, saying the breed is perfect for those looking for safe, comfortable horses to ride.
“They’re just becoming so popular,” Arpin stressed, adding there’s another feature on the breed in this month’s “Horse Illustrated” magazine.
“I think what’s making them explode is all us ‘baby boomers’ who have now reached an older age, want safety and smoothness because they’ve had back surgeries, knee surgeries, or whatnot,” she noted.
“We are very passionate about them—I just love them.”
Stephanie Kozlowski of Fort Frances also owns Rocky Mountain Horses (although they board at the Arpins) and she can attest to the smooth ride.
“I was in a competition where the rider holds a glass of water and at the end they measure how much is still in the cup,” she remarked. “And we didn’t spill a drop—it was unbelievable.”
Arpin noted people are pretty interested in the Rocky Mountain Horses. In fact, several friends have talked her into selling them and she always gets another.
But she doesn’t want to get too many more because she wants to be able to give them each the attention they deserve.
She added there only are a few breeders in Canada, but she isn’t sure whether or not they will start their own breeding here in Rainy River District.
Arpin stressed breeding Rocky Mountain Horses is strict. A Rocky born to two registered, certified parents may be registered at birth.
But she explained in order to breed, every Rocky once under saddle must pass a panel of three judges, either in person or by videotape, showing that the horse has a four-beat gait without the use of any aids, a gentle temperament, and fall within the height and colour specifications.
The signature colour is chocolate brown with a white mane and tail, but they can be any solid colour.
“Although it seems tedious, it assures that every breeding horse meets the high standards of the Rocky Mountain Horse Association,” Arpin remarked.
“I wouldn’t want it to be a business. I’ve never really advertised,” she added. It’s just word of mouth. We do this as a hobby—it’s just my passion.
“I just love raising them and giving them a good start,” she stressed.
Editors note: Rocky Mountain Horses are said to have gotten their name when a gaited colt was brought from the Rocky Mountain region of the United States to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in eastern Kentucky around 1890.
He was referred to as “the Rocky Mountain Horse.”
He bred with the local Appalachian saddle mares and is the horse credited for the start of the Rocky Mountain Horse breed.
(Fort Frances Times)