Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Learn Something New Every Day

YONGES ISLAND, S.C. (AP) -- During centuries of isolation on the Carolina sea islands, the short-legged, sway-backed marsh tacky horses became perfectly suited for toiling long hours in the swamps and oppressive humidity.

But their wild looks and workhorse reputation - their name comes from the old English word meaning "common" - didn't exactly make them prized among horse lovers. Today, only about 150 of them remain.

Now, breeders are coming together to save the tacky, whose ancestors were left by colonial Spanish explorers.

Those who know the tackies say there's plenty to love about them.

They can take hunters into woods and marshes that can't be reached by foot or four-wheelers. They don't flinch when a rider fires a gun from the saddle. Their deep, narrow chests give them more stamina than quarterhorses over long distances, and their hind ends slope downward, allowing tight turns in cane breaks and woods where other horses might have to back out.

Intelligent and superbly adapted to the Southern humidity and coastal marshes, tackies can be broken quickly and prove docile for even the youngest riders. They can survive on marsh grass and forage other horses won't eat - farmers and owners simply kept them tied up in their yards over the years.

"We haven't found anything they are not good at," said Jeanette Beranger, a program manager with the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. "They jump like rabbits, have a lot of endurance and can thrive on nothing."

The tackies' colonial Spanish strain comes from the same ancestors as cracker horses in Florida and bankers from the Outer Banks of North Carolina. But DNA testing has found that the tackies are a separate breed, with unique characteristics thanks to their relative isolation.

I knew about the Outer Banks ponies, but this is the first time I've ever heard of Tackies or even Cracker Horses, and that last embarrasses me as a Florida native.


John A said...

Interesting. Thanks.

John A said...