Montana Travler' is a new saddle horse breed developed by Tom Eaton. He has been developing the Montana Travler breed for almost 50 years with intensive interbreeding of Tennessee Walker, American Saddlebred, Morgan, Thoroughbred, and Hamiltonian bloodlines. The result is the foundation stallion named, "Montana Travler (A1)", a flashy ground-covering 16.1 hh chestnut stallion, who could, in fact, walk flat-footed at a rate of 8 miles an hour and whose colts have an over-reach of 8 inches or more. In the beginning he did not intend to establish a new horse breed. It began as a search for the "perfect" horse. The following is Tom Eaton’s account of the development of the Montana Travler.
In the early 30's, I was given a 1/2 Thoroughbred, 1/2 Hamilton mare by A.W. Johnson, Billings. The first foals from this fine mare were sired by Muggs, a Hamiltonian owned by Ray Barnett, Beehive. In 1939, Bill Parkhill brought to the Beehive P Lazy B Ranch an American Saddler, Forced Melody, from Illinois, who was used on the original mare and several of her foals.
In 1940, I purchased a 1/2 Saddler, 1/2 Morgan stallion from Miller’s of Billings. The stallion was used from 1942 to 1946. This great horse put remarkable saddlebacks and withers on foals. When I returned from World War II in 1946, there were 45 head of horses to break. Not one of the young horses bucked.
In 1946, I purchased a Morgan stallion, Highland Star, from the Staffords at Limestone. He sired foals for the next six years. Ed Turley of Musselshell took his Thoroughbred to the Beehive ranch as a sire for one season. In 1960, a Tennessee Walker stallion was purchased from the Atoffs of Pompeys Pillar. He was used for two seasons.
In 1973, two mares were bred to Jerry Coldwell’s Tennessee Walker stallion of Jordan. One of the two foals was a horse colt. From the very first, this colt caught the eye of every horseman who saw him. Many agreed with me that this colt would become a good prospect as a stallion. As a two-year-old he sired four foals in 1977, and nine in 1978. All showed excellent quality.
During the winter of 1977-1978, the three-year-old stallion was trained by Don McClurg of Absarokee. The stallion showed a real promise as a "using horse." He was bright, responded to discipline, and traveled exceptionally well. To McClurg, an American Quarter Horse man, the young stallion showed a great deal of "cow sense."
From the encouragement received from many horseman friends, I have established the Montana Travler Breed and a Montana Travler Horse Association for the registration. Justin Morgan established a great breed from one outstanding stallion. The Montana Travler is the result of not only a great stallion, but selective breeding over a period of many years. -Tom Eaton
Senator John Melcher congratulated Eaton for his efforts on behalf of the horse industry in the State of Montana in 1984. Melcher said, "The many patient years of breeding have certainly paid off. Producing the first unique breed of horse developed in the State of Montana is certainly a worthwhile accomplishment and I wish you the best of luck."
The Montana Travler Horse Association was formed in 1979. The breed was also selected as the official Montana Centennial breed of 1989.
The Travler has been bred to produce his own distinctive confirmation. To preserve this breed, only horses carrying genes from Montana Travler (A1) and quality mares are eligible for registration. The horse must also be at least three years of age, broke to ride, able to exhibit conformation and disposition, and travel consistent with the foundation sire. Registration is not official until signed by three directors of the Montana Travler Horse Association.
The Montana Travler Horse has stepped forward in versatility, from show ring, endurance rides, jumping events, ranch work, and pleasure. With the Travler’s willingness and heart he provides a companion for all.