Wednesday, January 20, 2016

ColoniaL Spanish Horse Strains of the Southeast

Bankers, Tackies, and Crackers

That  is a list of the three primary strains of Colonial Spanish Horses that were developed in the southeast by European Americans.I am often asked how the three are related.

DNA is a precise science. Understanding history is an art. In my entire wardrobe there is not one lab coat. I am not a scientist. My unscientific impression is as follows.

The Bankers are, of course, the strain of Spanish mustang that was bred and used on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. They are small, sturdy, gaited,(though their gaitedness is not as obvious as, say, a Paso Fino), super calm and tractable, with levels of endurance that dwarf that of modern breeds. They seem to have very few non-Spanish bloodlines, perhaps among the fewest of all Colonial Spanish strains. Recent research by Bonnie Gruenberg for her spectacular book, " Wild Horse Dilemma" shows that in the late 1700's and earl 1800's it was common for Colonial Spanish horses developed b the tribes of the southeast such as the Seminole, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Cherokee to be bred into the Banker strain.
These horses remain wild only on the Island of Shackleford and at Corolla.

The Marsh Tackies are wonderful horses that are likely to be very closely related to the Bankers. They share the Banker's temperament and are so calm that they are used to jump shoot deer in the marshes while carrying shotgun bearing riders. My hunch is that from perhaps as early as the 18th century they carry the lines of the now extinct English Hobby. The Tackies are endangered but thanks to a group of dedicated breeders and the American Livestock Breed Conservancy there is reason to be optimistic about the breed's long term survival.

The Florida Cracker Horse was once the horse of working cattlemen all across Florida. This strain of Colonial Spanish horse has been selectively bred for many generations. They are more pronounced in their gaitedness and have a more refined look than do the Bankers. They are sturdy and border on being elegant. From my very limited exposure to the strain it appears that they are not as calm natured as are the Bankers.

All of these great lines of historic horses are endangered, but it is the Bankers that are most at risk. Without passage of legislation pending in Congress there is no hope of maintaining a wild Corolla herd.

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