Friday, December 18, 2015

Historic Horses: The Colonial Spanish Horse of The Southeast

Initially it was a matter of convenience. It simply was much easier to purchase horses in the Caribbean to bring to early colonial America than it was to ship them from Europe. Then it was a matter of preference. In every regard, and for every use that a settler in the Southeastern part of our nation in the earliest years of settlement would have for a horse, the little horses of Spain were vastly superior to the plodding stock of northern Europe. More endurance, smoother gaits, better hooves, more resilient, more self reliant--the perfect horse to carry one through miles of single rut paths or no path at all.

Some became wild. Others were bred by English and Spanish settlers. They produced the Bankers, Marsh Tackys, and Cracker horses. Indian tribes of the southeast produced great strains of Colonial Spanish horses like the Choctaw horse, Cherokee pony, and Seminole pony.

But with expanded colonization came roads and roads lead to a loss of popularity for the Colonial Spanish horses. They were superior to the northern European horse in every regard but one--they were not the best horses to haul wagons on the new roads of the new world.

Eventually they became the horse of poor people. Horses have always been accorded the same status as their owners. The little horse of Spain with his flashy gaits and flashy colors simply went out of style. The English did not invent racism but they pretty much perfected it. The fact that the little horse was the horse of the Spanish, freed slaves and Indians was all the proof of their inferiority that the planter class of the Southeast needed.

The irony is that these same horses became part of the root stock of the breeds that replaced them--every gaited breed developed in America and the Quarter Horse, the most common breed of horse today. There are many strains of Colonial Spanish horse still around but they are so rare that, all told, there are likely less than four thousand of these horses in the entire nation. A large proportion of those horses are not trained to saddle

The end result is that only a handful of horse people have ever seen one of these horses, much less had the privilege of riding one. Without having any idea of the historical root of their ignorance, most horse people write off the idea of 13 hand horse being able to carry an adult fifty miles in a day without the slightest difficulty as easily as they write off the idea that a Spanish mustang can be easier to train and a safer mount for children than most modern horses.

Ignorance, bigotry, and elitism nearly blotted out all of these horses in the 20th century. We can't change history but we can learn from it. There are a handful of breeders out there who work tirelessly to prevent the extinction of the remnant of Americas most historic horses.

We need more of these breeders. I have a stunning Corolla colt ready to be placed with a breeder who will participate in the Corolla off site breeding program.

You can be a great part of the horse worlds future by saving the greatest part of its past. Contact us if you want to become a preservation breeder.

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