Fox trotting horse show boosts small town business in the Ozarks

By  | 

AVA, Mo. (KY3) - Every September, the Missouri state horse is celebrated at an annual horse show in southwest Missouri.

The world headquarters for the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Breed Association is in Ava, Mo. During the first week of September, for more than 60 years, the MFTHBA has held the World Show and Celebration.

Fox Trotter fans are greeted across town with signs on gazebos or at businesses that read, "Welcome Fox Trotters." Katie Isaacs, a small business owner in Ava, said her hometown doesn't look quite the same when fox trotter owners are visiting.

"A lot of stuff changes in Ava when the fox trotters are here," Isaacs said.

That especially applies to Isaacs' restaurant, Archie's. She said, being one of the town's only sit-down eateries, she's always busy. That changes to extremely busy during the first week of September.

"It's almost like a holiday for us to get all the business and all the new people in, it's great," Isaacs said.

She said her revenue nearly doubles this week, every year.

According to the MFTHBA, the fox trotter originated in the Ozark mountains, when settlers needed strong but gentle horses to help them plant their roots.

Mackie said the fox trotter is a cross between the Tennessee Walking Horse and the Saddlebred. He said the breed is known for having a smooth gait. Fox trotters are used for trail riding, versatility competitions and gait performance.

At the World Show and Celebration, Mackie said, the best horses in the breed become champions. They're honored for their display of the three main gaits: walk, foxtrot and canter.

"The foxtrot is a gait that the horse is walking with the front end, a trot with the back, and a lot of rhythm from the nose to the end of the tail," Mackie said.

Mackie said the fox trotting horse is known all over the world for being easy to ride and fun to compete with. That's why, he said, people travel great distances for the show.

"We have people here from almost all the 50 states, as well as Germany, Australia," he said.

As a lifetime member and the president of the association, Mackie said he is impressed there are so many new people in Ava for the show this year.

Ava has a population of nearly 3,000 people. Mayor Burrley Loftin said, this week, every year, with the influx of visitors, the town's population nearly doubles.

That means a boost in business for owners like Isaacs.

Rep. Karla Eslinger (R-Wasola) represents Douglas County in the Missouri House of Representatives. She has announced she will introduce a bill next spring that would make the first week of September the "Week of the Fox Trotter." The goal is to promote tourism and revenue for the state as a whole.