One of the most amazing breeds in the United States is actually not a registered horse with a member organization.
This particular breed is the result of decades of careful breeding efforts on a single Idaho property.
On that ranch, horse breeding has a rich history that spans many generations of riders from the same family, but also the Mormon westward migration, and a fortunate happenstance.
If you’re interested in owning a Moyle horse, or just want to learn more about them, keep reading – this post will cover everything you need to know about these beautiful and interesting animals.
Moyle Horse Breed Info
Here are some of the key things you need to know about the Moyle horse:
|Height (size)||14.3 – 15.2 hands high|
|Colors||Most commonly bay or brown, but other solid coat colors are also seen|
|Country of Origin||United States of America (Idaho)|
|Common Uses||Ranch work, trail riding, endurance riding|
Moyle Horse Facts & Information (Breed Profile)
Early Beginnings of the Breed
Bodyguard for both Joseph Smith (theLatter Day Saint movement founder) and his successor Brigham Young, Porter Rockwell (1813 – 1878), had a passion for horses and appeared to feel it was his duty to find and train the finest ones for usage by Mormons.
Throughout the course of human history, high-quality horses have consistently rewarded their owners not just with status but also with a clear strategic advantage in any kind of battle.
That advantage was something Rockwell planned to use extensively.
He purchased the finest horses that could be found in the area, and he also imported and subsequently bred unique horses that were to be owned and used only by Mormons.
The first horses he bought came from overseas.
The Mormons were very possessive of their valuable equines and would not part with any of their breedable horses to anybody who did not practice their religion.
The exceptional stamina of their horses was known across the American West.
In 1856 the Mormons were contracted to transport mail between Salt Lake City and St. Louis for a short time, and it is reasonable to assume that they chose mounts from among their own herds.
In the end, the Mormons lost their postal contract soon after the service began due to deteriorating ties with the U.S. government.
However, the Pony Express, which operated briefly from 1860 to 1861, was able to acquire at least some of the Mormon postal animals not long after.
At a period when the greatest horse available might have been purchased for $25, the purchase paperwork reveals that Mr. Kimball got $250 per head for Mormon horses.
There is a good chance that this individual was Hiram Kimball, the person who had initially held the Mormon mail contract.
During the time of Porter Rockwell and the Mormon migration, a rancher called Chris Hansen took advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
He just so happened to reside in close proximity to the path taken by a Mormon messenger one day.
After 28 miles (45 km) of a full gallop, the mare the messenger was riding started to stumble.
The courier was taken aback by this since he had previously ridden the horse for far longer distances without incident.
The hopeless messenger, upon realizing that he would soon have to go on foot, made an emergency stop at the Hansen ranch and begged to borrow a horse, assuring the Hansens that he would return the horse and collect the mare at a later time.
Because Hansen was aware of the possibility of acquiring one of the unique horses, he didn’t want to loan his horse, but insisted on a trade instead.
The mare had collapsed by that point, and was gasping for air, so the messenger had good reason to believe that the trade was a good idea.
By trading the mare for the gelding, he broke the rule of never selling or trading a special Mormon horse.
Hansen could see right away that the mare was considerably out of breath due to her advanced pregnancy stage.
After resting for a month, she gave birth to a healthy filly, which was later given to Chris Hansen’s 16-year-old daughter.
This girl married into the Moyle family some two years later, and it was Rex Moyle, one of her sons, who created the modern-day Moyle Horses.
Eventually, the filly proved to be a top-notch broodmare, and her 16 offspring constituted the backbone of the Moyle family’s herd.
The Moyles relied heavily on their ranch horses.
A string of eight or 10 horses was common for cowboys working on ranches in that region.
The cowboys on the Moyle ranch only had one horse, yet they routinely outworked their neighbors.
This endurance became a distinctive and enviable characteristic of the breed.
Division and Revival of the Breed
Around 1900, Utah passed a law that made it a felony to keep a stallion that was not a registered purebred.
As a result by the 1930s, barely any horses of the original Mormon horses bred by Porter Rockwell existed and fewer still remained after his death.
Rex Moyle traveled to the mountains near Salt Lake, where the Mormons of Rockwell’s day had grazed some of their finest horses, in the hopes of reviving the ranch’s breeding stock.
He examined a large number of captured Mustangs and discovered a few mares that were similar to the kind that his family had always used.
He brought them back to the property and began carefully breeding them to increase the herd size.
It was Rex Moyle’s tireless efforts that revitalized his ranch breeding stock and eventually saved the Moyle horse breed itself.
He avoided excessive inbreeding, and did some crossing with Cleveland Bay horses and was eventually successful in producing a big line of strong Moyle horses.
Moyle Family Endurance Horses
Moyles started competing in endurance rides in the 1960s.
An 11 year old mare was one of their first competition horses, and she was broken to ride in August.
On Labor Day of the same year, a Moyle boy, then twelve, took her on an 83-mile ride (133 km), which she ultimately won.
The other competitor from Moyle placed sixth.
A Moyle Horse competed in the 100-mile Tevis Cup (160 km) in 1962 and placed sixth.
In 1964, the family competed in the Tevis Cup with three horses, two of which were not trained for endurance riding but had been continuously used for ranch work.
Two months before the tournament, the third had just recently been broken to ride.
The Tevis Cup that year was so challenging due to the intense heat that half of the competitors did not finish the race, but the Moyle family finished in second, third, and fourth place.
Just a week after the Tevis Cup, the Moyles transported one of their horses, Sweet Pea, 3,000 miles (4,830 km) to Pennsylvania.
Less than a month after that, she won the Vermont 100-mile (160 km) trail ride.
A week later, she won first place in all divisions in a 50-mile (80 km), seven-hour race in Maryland.
Throughout it all, she managed to gain condition on decent hay and less than three quarts of grain each day.
In 1983, Marge Moyle rode 250 miles (400 km) over the course of five days, and her horse Hawk, then fifteen years old, earned the best-condition prize.
Hawk is a member of the Endurance Horse Hall of Fame after accumulating more than 5,000 competitive endurance miles (8,000 km) over the course of five years.
The Moyle is a rare breed of horse, and it is interesting to note that no breed association or registry exists at this time.
DNA tests conducted in the 1990s on horses of the Moyle breed revealed markers indicative of shared ancestry with Colonial Spanish Horses.
If you’re interested in learning more about this fascinating breed, keep reading!
Their temperament varies, but generally they are self-reliant, brave, curious and independent, but they are not always tolerant of people they don’t know – tribute, perhaps, to their Mustang ancestry
Above their eyes on their forehead, they have two protrusions that resemble horns.
Another characteristic that sets them apart is a remarkable range of shoulder motion.
They are extremely hardy and possess extraordinary endurance.
They are good for riding because of their robust coat and long back muscles.
They don’t have a lot of width, but their chests are rather deep.
Moyle horses are known for their strong shoulders and powerful forelegs.
They have extraordinarily lengthy walking strides and big, sturdy feet.
Because of their very big livers and spleens, they are ideal for endurance rides and ranch work.
They are exceptionally powerful, with a particularly big rib cage and internal organs.
The frontal bosses on the heads of these horses are a distinguishing feature.
There are just two other horse breeds in the world that are renowned for having frontal bosses, and those are the Datong of China and a strain of Andalusian horses.
Most commonly bay or brown, but other solid coat colors are also seen
14.3 – 15.2 hands high
Ranch work, trail riding, endurance riding
They often have frontal bosses or horns, and possess exceptional endurance
Country of Origin
United States of America (Idaho)
Imported European horses, most probably of Spanish origin, Mustang, Cleveland Bay