The established characteristics of the breed are:
- The horse must be of medium height from 14.2 to 16 hands. It must have a wide chest sloping 45 degrees on the shoulder with bold eyes and well shaped ears. The breed is best-known for its characteristic coloration: chocolate-brown body color and flaxen mane and tail, an expression of the uncommon silver dapple gene. But Rocky Mountain Horses can be any solid coat color.
- The horse must have a natural ambling four-beat gait (single foot or rack) with no evidence of pacing. When the horse moves you can count four distinct hoof beats which produce a cadence of equal rhythm, just like a walk: left hind, left fore, right hind, right fore. Each individual horse has its own speed and natural way of going, travelling 7 to 20 miles per hour. This is a naturally occurring gait, present from birth, that does not require any training aids or action devices.
- The horse must be of good temperament and must be easy to manage.
- All Rocky Mountain Horses have a solid body color. Facial markings are acceptable so long as they are not excessive. There may not be any white above the knee or hock.
- The breed is best known for its gentleness, often being compared to the Golden Retriever dog as a means of describing their unusual enjoyment of human company. It is an easy keeper and a wonderful riding horse with a strong heart and lots of endurance. Today the Rocky Mountain Horse is being used as a pleasure horse, for trail riding, in the show ring and for endurance riding.