2012 - Volume #36, Issue #6, Page #24[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
"America's First Horse" Is One Tough Pony
“We include 17 different strains identified and approved by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,” says Vickie Ives, a founding member of Horse of the Americas and a leading breeder. “All of them were preserved by small groups of breeders or survived in isolation in the wild.”
The different strains are native to locales from Florida and the Carolinas to Montana and Wyoming and the American Southwest. All share basic physical similarities, stand 13.2 to 15 hands (54 to 60 in.) at the withers and weigh 700 to 900 lbs. Short coupled, deep bodied and narrow from the front, the horses have broad foreheads and narrow faces. They have an unusually long stride, and many are gaited.
“They are especially intelligent about verbal commands and learning tricks or new behaviors,” says Ives. “They don’t do well with constant repetition, as they are so intelligent that they get bored. They can’t provide the fast starts needed for barrel racing or cutting contests, but on pasture, they’ll work a quarter horse to death.”
Three distinct types have developed over time, explains Ives. “The Northern Rancher was challenged by difficult winters, stores fat and tends to be broad and smaller than the other types,” she says. “The Southwest type tends to be leaner, does not store fat as well, has less body mass, and is narrow and longer so as to radiate heat. The median type is the Barb. It has retained more traits from the old Spanish Andalusian horses first introduced to the New World.”
Most strains are rare. Some, such as the Corolla, are found on a single island. There are only 130 head, and they have never been polluted by cross breeding. Others are well-known locally, such as the Florida Cracker, used by cowboys in that state. Two western wild horse herds could be registered, as well as some herds on the islands off the Carolinas.
Ives says the breed is long lived. She has a breeding stallion that is 25 years old. One of her horses is 33 years old and still used under saddle. She maintains that even the smaller-sized animals can carry full-size adults, recalling a 6 ft., 2 in. visitor who teased her about her small Corollas.
“I saddled a 13.2 hand for him and went for a ride,” she says. “The horse came in at a trot even though he was big enough to nearly touch the ground if he leaned to one side.”
She describes the breed as great cattle horses, really good for light harness, long distance and endurance riding. “They rarely need shoes as they have a thicker hoof wall than modern horses,” says Ives. They also have one less lumbar vertebra and often one less set of ribs.”
Ives specializes in Spanish Mustangs at her ranch, Karma Farms. She also has some of the few Corollas ever removed from their island. (Once removed, they are not allowed back.) She says individual horses are priced according to age, training, color and bloodlines. However, the recent drought and the recession have affected prices.
“Normally they are fairly pricey, but right now it’s a buyer’s market,” says Ives. “Across the registry, foals start at $500 to $1,200, green-broke start at $750 to $1,500 and finished horses are almost impossible to price as they rarely sell.”
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Karma Farms, 7925 U.S. Hwy. 59 N., Marshall, Texas 75670 (ph 903 935-9980; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.karmafarms.com). Other breeders and information can be found at Horse of the Americas Registry, 2295 E. 1230 N., Attica, Ind. 47918 (www.horseoftheamericas.com).
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