A sound breed that is bred for riding purposes has a conformation that enhances a strong back suited to carry a rider. When a horse with good conformation is ridden in the right form it finds its balance so that the weight is carried primarily by the strong hindquarters and hind legs which spares the spine and the forehand. With the weight on the hindquarters the horse can easily make any maneuver with little or no resistance.
To make this possible the horse must for one thing be well muscled and therefore well trained. It is also important that the horse has the right conformation. Horse conformation is a complicated science and what is good and what is bad depends not only on what purpose the horse is for, but also to whom you refer.
One basic rule is that the croup should be about as high as the withers. Young horses normally have a high croup, it’s the way they grow. Some say that if the croup is too high it may cause back problems to a horse and all kinds of disadvantages, it might be correct for some European breeds with long spines and poor back muscles, but within reason that does not apply to a well muscled horse with a short spine, like the Nokota, that is ridden with a saddle fit to the horse.
Nokota horses and Quarter horses share some characteristics; They often have prominent fine withers and they both tend to have a steep relatively high croup, a deep hip and well built hindquarter muscles which makes the hindquarters look big altogether. Also the forehand muscles are well developed even for a relatively untrained horse.
To judge a horse by a photo is not a very certain way. We have many photos of our Bluebell that look very different depending on how she is standing, if she is relaxed or tensed, the angle of the camera and the camera lenses etc so you really must see a horse live and moving to be able to judge its conformation. Young growing horses can also look funny at times because they are often growing unevenly, it’s better to judge them by their parents.
A wild bred horse like the Nokota and the Spanish Mustang gained a perfect conformation for the life it lived and the environment it called home. In the wild only the healthiest and strongest could carry their genes and characteristics to the next generation. It’s was an unforgiving way to breed horses and only nature itself had a license for it, so to speak.
At this point it is wise to state that; So far so good, but when you put a rider on the wild bred horse it adds weight and changes the weight distribution and the way the horse moves. Compare that to a horse that is bred for the very purpose of horseback riding!
Yes, well if you look at a Traditional Nokota horse and compare it’s conformation to a Quarter horse (note that there is great differences between single individuals) the differences are mainly the larger size and the muscle mass of the Quarter horse and the stronger looking legs and hooves of the Nokota.
A wild horse needs to be versatile so it developed both flexibility and strength. (A Nokota horse can easily scrath the back of his/her ears with a hindleg just like a dog.) It gets more compact, since a large body loses more heat and needs more food, which is a disadvantage in the wild. A more compact horse means a more compact weight distribution and less tension on weak links in the horse’s physiology. The Nokota developed in the rugged landscape of the Little Missouri Badlands and needed to be sure footed and also to be able to jump and climb, so the whole body had to be extremely athletic. With proper and careful training of a horse that gets started under saddle, the back muscles will grow to support the rider and the top line of the back will enhance. To put a rider on a horse like the Nokota horse is quite safe.
Besides, with the prominent withers and the strong hindquarters of the Nokota horses, they have a natural inbuilt saddle so it is the most excellent horse there is for bareback riding.
But everything is not about conformation. The overall most important plus for the Nokota horse is what you can’t see. The Nokota has the intelligence of a dog and the most polite, friendly, alert, brave and sensitive mindset you can imagine. That alone is a good reason to spend time with Nokota horses.
Nokota is a relatively new name for horses, but the breed is not new at all. It is The Wild Horse of the northern plains, the origin is not absolutely certain but Spanish Mustang and Canadian Percheron is the main ingredients. The Traditional Nokota type is less Percheron and the Ranch type more. Riders use their Nokota horses for riding every day for recreation, ranch work and sport as well, just like any other Quarter horse, or you name it.
The Kuntz brothers used the Nokota horses to compete in, and win, the All American Horse Race numerous times often with the same horses. An almost suicidal horse test that proves what a Nokota horse is able to achieve, given the right guidance.
The Traditional Nokota is the descendant in a direct line of horses that was confiscated from Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull) and his people when they surrendered in1881, the same horses their warriors relied upon at the battle of Little Big Horn when they defeated the fifth cavalry under General Custer. Their horse culture involved the horse in every part of their daily life. Their lives depended upon their riding skills and their ability to communicate with their horses. To achieve this they regarded their horses literally as family members, some even brought their favorite horse inside their crowded teepee during hazardous weather, kicking out other family members to go and sleep elsewhere.
They relied upon their horses’ sharp senses to warn them for enemies approaching the camp. The rider must be able to make the horse stand absolutely silent and still in an ambush at hunting and in war. They must be able to ride their horses with total control, bareback without reins, while riding along a stampeding herd of a thousand buffaloes with a bow in one hand and the arrow in the other.
You can’t say all this about any other horse breed. So, yes a Nokota horse can be ridden!