Saturday, January 3, 2015

Saving The Sand Horses: Part 4

I attended my first BLM mustang auction as ignorant as the vast majority of participants there were. Very few of us had ever seen wild western mustangs. I was concerned when Daddy told me that very few of the horses that I would see there were as big as my mother's horse, Cracker Jack. Cracker Jack had been about 14 hands. I never saw him measured but everyone said that he was 14.2. Those two nonexistent inches became one of my first contacts with society's preference for appearance over reality and it was the first time that I remember resenting that dishonesty.

If an animal was at least 14.2 then it was classified as a horse. Less than that made it a pony. Adults were supposed to ride horses. Ponies were supposed to be only able to carry children. Cracker Jack was Arabian/mustang cross and carried adults with no problem.

Therefore he must have been a horse.

I doubt that anyone ever made the conscious decision to lie about his height. The lie just seemed both self propagating and self authenticating. He must be 14.2 because he must be a horse because he carried adults so he must not be a pony.

My weight was under two hundred pounds, but I wondered if a pony, smaller than Cracker Jack could possibly carry me. I was very concerned.

Daddy told me not to worry, that as long as I did not get one of those little Spanish looking mustangs I would be fine.

White people had been hating the little Spanish looking horse/pony for hundreds of years. English kings had ordered the slaughter of ponies and at times had banned the importation of the of the fleet horses of Iberia and the Middle East. The small horses were ridden by Mediterraneans, Africans, Asians, and American Indians. The proper Englishman need no more proof of the inferiority of these horses than the fact that they were ridden by people that were considered so profoundly inferior to the English.

To make matters even worse, the Irish often rode ponies. Enough to give a proper Englishman a case of the vapors.

The same applied to loudly colored horses. People of color often prized horses of color. The English responded by deciding that only solid colored horses of significant size were  fitting for a gentleman. Throughout history the ruling classes have accorded the same social status to breeds and strains of equines that they accorded to the owners of those horses.

Such bigotry proved lethal to the wild Spanish mustang. In the early 1900's up until the late 1940's the United States government implemented the Remount Program, which was designed to insure a ready source of Cavalry horses should America or our allies need them. Agents were hired to go out into the untamed lands of the west and shoot the small Spanish stallions that lead bands of beautiful wild mares and foals. When the stallions were killed the Army released Morgan and Thoroughbred stallions into the bands. The result was a larger  horse much more likely to be of ordinary, bland color.

The army had a secret about these horses that it did not want to get out. The reality was that extermination of the buffalo, European epidemics, and superior weaponry lead the the relatively quick defeat and subjugation of the natives. However, had the tall, bland colored horses of the whites actually been superior to the little Spanish ponies of the Indians, that subjugation would have come much quicker.

The little Indian pony was superior to the Army horses in ever regard but two, they could not jump as high or pull wagons as heavy as could the big ordinary looking horses of the mounted trooper. But this simply could not be. This was the Victorian Era, the beginning of the development of the Scientific Racism movement, it simply could not be that those believed to be genetically inferior could possess something superior to that owned and developed by those who were certain of their genetic and moral superiority over all other races.

It has been said that white people did not invent racism but that they perfected it.

When a tribe was captured it was de rigor for the horses to be confiscated and generally promptly slaughtered. Custer killed many more Indian ponies than he killed Indians.

One of the themes of the hate mail that our program receives is that it is so horrible that we ride these little Spanish ponies. These critics have no science on their side. They have no equestrian knowledge on their side. They have no experience actually riding these horses.

But, like Custer, they have history on their side.

And for a while I was ignorant enough of the ability of these horses to be concerned that they were correct. As has happened so often the horses provided the answer.

Under what conditions could a 12.2 wild Corolla stallion possibly  carry a man who weighed over 200 pounds fifty miles in a day without showing the slightest wear for the effort?

Admittedly certain factors have to exist before this could be done. It is necessary for there to be oxygen in the atmosphere for this to be done.

 If there is oxygen it can be done.

(In the picture above one sees three adopted BLM mustangs from Nevada watching as a storm rolls in).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is without a doubt the aspect of the horse world that aggravates me the most.
Snow on Her is a pony. Ok fine...she is a pony. Get over it. I am fortunate indeed to have such a relationship with such a majestic animal.
If the name for what she is was "Grizzly Bear" "they" would not want to ride her either. Their loss.
Problem is...this costs the horses...unfairly, and it deprives many people who would otherwise be capable of having a horse to...well...have a horse.
Gentle, easliy teachable, healthy..and easy to keep.
I have found a great love for a horse in our herd named Jasmyn...Jazzy is a big boned rangy Arab cross that Steve has asked me to get set for pretty much any rider of approaching intermediate skill to be able to ride. This horse has muxh to teach a rider..she will make them fly right...and she will make them think. She is a spirited animal, incedibly intelligent and very powerful. She eats as much as two Corrollas...and I would estimate that she eats about a third again as much as Snow on Her. She is right about 15 hands...Snow is right at 14 hands. I love them both dearly, but it is quite clear that the economics favor the mustang...especially for the person who must stretch things to have a horse.
What is written above about the Army slaughtering Indian ponies is brutally true...and beyond that.
What is unsaid is that in the absence of guile and trickery...the Army Cavalry was no match for these fleet footed ponies and their wily mounts.
Bring that 1200 lb montster, and I'll race through the woods...I pick the course. Right through . No....not the big hole...the little one. See you on the other side. -Lloyd