A reader named Corujalinda made an interesting comment on the post about the Campolina horse. She said that technically they don't call the distinctive nose of the Campolina a "Roman nose."
A reader named Corujalinda made an interesting comment on the post about the Campolina horse. She said that technically they don't call the distinctive nose of the Campolina a "Roman nose."
The Puerto Rican Criollo is a gaited breed of mixed ancestry* (that's what "criollo" means) with a variety of gaits. The slowest gait is a short-stepping fast walk, called the paso fino (which can be seen in this video). The paso largo is a lengthened, faster running walk. Like the speed rackers of the United States and the Icelandic Horse, some Puerto Rican Criollos can do a singlefoot gait (called andadura) at tremendous speeds. Some may pace at high speeds. Racers, called Caballos de Andadura, are often raced drag-race style in short sprint heats, two-by-two.
This is a short video of a gaited mule on a country road in Brazil, in São Paulo state. This is a show-quality mule, out for a training ride. Mules are quite popular in Brazil, and this one is bred from a Mangalarga Marchador horse (one of the most popular breeds in Brazil).
Christiane Yeardsley, of Narrawin Stud in Australia, has an interesting and diverse collection of saddles. The one pictured, for example, is a Maremma saddle from Italy. It is treeless - instead the leather is heavily stuffed with padding. The quilted floral pattern on the seat adds a decorative touch.
Since Narrawin Stud specializes in easy-gaited horse breeds, from the Paso Fino to the Icelandic, Christiane has many saddles specifically designed for these horses. Christiane says, "My goal was always to acquire functional equipment, and everything I own, I use."
I asked Christiane how she started collecting. She said:
"I acquired the first few interesting ones in about 2002. I've always had an interest in the horse breeds, riding cultures and equipment of other countries. I'm from a German background. When I first started riding in the Seventies, every self-respecting person there still had a Warmblood. The Icelandic horse and the lifestyle that it brought with it was just getting off to a roll. Equitana in Essen was just starting to feature exotic breeds, and I remember seeing Peruvian horses and gear; Spanish, Western and Camargue horses and saddlery for the first time. Ever since then, I was hooked.
"We had Haflingers when in Germany, and soon I was experimenting with fancy costumes and bridles but didn't have enough pocket money for fancy saddles. But the acquisition of an old and only partially intact German army saddle led to hours of fun in returning it [to useable condition]. I was also lucky to have friends who had lived in Afghanistan for several years and had brought back with them a selection of saddlery. I spent hours looking at their gear and used every opportunity to borrow and try things out.
"After coming to Australia in 1982, I spent several years just competing in various disciplines. I found Australia to be a land of horses, but no breadth of horse culture. Knowledge of 'other ways' of riding, horse breeds and gear was, and still is, very limited. I was thrilled to discover the Australian stock saddle when I came, and I still regard this type of saddle highly, using it daily when I start young horses. However, when I started working with gaited horse breeds (American Saddlebreds, Pasos and later on Icelandic Horses), I really became interested in alternative methods and equipment again."
I asked Christiane what's still missing from her collection. She said, "I'm particularly fond of Spanish/Portuguese saddlery, but love the variety of the South American gear that can be found. I would like to add a Camargue saddle to my collection. And then there is Asia! [...] I'm fascinated by the saddles of Japan and the stirrup design. My books about Samurai show several such, but frustratingly, never in enough detail to determine the rigging and other attachments. So much more to learn!"
Photos from www.narrawin.com, used with permission. Thanks, Christiane!
So having concluded that we cannot know for sure the origins of the Galloway or Narragansett Pacer, we return to Erica's story of her quest for the perfect horse, and her discovery of the Rocky Mountain Horse, and the possible origins of the Rocky Mountain Horse in the gaited breeds now long-lost in Britain. Because in return for her original question, I had one of my own, which was how on earth a British woman ended up finding Rocky Mountain Horses, let alone importing them to the UK.
She tells her story:
I grew up in Africa where I was mad for horses. My father died in my infancy (he always had horses) and I was forever moving about with my mother for her work. I begged my mother – ‘when can I have my own horse?’ and although she probably didn’t put it so harshly, the answer I recall was ‘never’. When I was eleven I lived for a year in Cape Town with my uncle, and my cousin had a beautiful thoroughbred called ‘Flyaway’; Sue (18) was under strict instructions never to put me on him, but I pestered her until she relented, whereupon he bucked me off so high I broke an arm and an ankle when I came down. I probably hit my head because I remember nothing. Anyway it didn’t teach me any sense.
I came to England when I was nearly fifteen and after that years would go by in which I did not ride. I lived in cities and no-one I knew went riding. When I found a riding school, I hated the way you had to ride on the road or on muddy bridle paths that never went anywhere. I longed for the open spaces of my childhood and the feeling of being free and away from it all. I felt sorry for the riding ponies and the whole thing was quite depressing. I wanted to feel at one with my horse. In my mind I was ageless and my horse and I were cantering off into the landscape of my childhood dreams.
And then, in the new millennium, aged nearly fifty, things transpired in my life to lead me to live on the southern edge of Dartmoor. Up behind me was 365 square miles of open moorland, one for each day of the year.... and then my children grew up and I saved a little money and then... I went back to Cape Town for the first time since I was twelve years old to visit that South African cousin who let me ride her horse. Our parents were long dead and the whole world changed about, our children grown and husbands gone too, but we both still loved horses and she still kept them. She told me all about how her ideas of keeping horses had changed. She taught me some of the things she had learned, about keeping them barefoot, about saddles and bridles, about nutrition. She rode bitless and she was into holistic horse management. I was fascinated. When I got home I started reading up about hoof-trimming methods. Sue did the Strasser method and many people here were prejudiced against it. I surfed the internet and read all about the hoof-trimming wars (I decided that all the barefoot methods were converging with time and the wars were stupid, but also that the barefoot advocates were right about the health needs of the horse’s hoof). In the course of this reading I was led, as will not surprise you, to learn about the American mustangs and how the research into the ‘natural hoof’ had led pioneers of the new methods to go study mustangs in the wild.
This was spring last year and we are beginning to home in on how I made my choice of horse...! So. I found websites about Spanish mustangs. One of these sites in particular appealed to me. It had beautiful photos of mustangs running free in 2,000 acres in New Mexico. My African heart began singing at the sight. Idly, I sent an email saying – could I come on a working holiday on your ranch and learn about your horses? And they replied by return – ‘sure!’ and they didn’t want any money and offered to welcome me into their lives. I was overwhelmed. (I work hard in child protection for little money amongst deprived families; I wanted out from domestic and work responsibilities for two weeks and just watch horses in the sage brush.... and be hot.... ). They said they’d find me a horse to ride as well! I was trying to book my flight – which cost a whole lot more than I had budgeted – when I got another email saying they’d have to postpone because of family problems that had cropped up suddenly. Thank heavens I had not paid the flight yet.
I was very disappointed. I kept on googling and because I had sites come up to do with ‘Rocky Mountains’ I hit on ‘Rocky Mountain Horse’, which as it turned out, had nothing to do with the big wild west, but was to do with gaited horses in Kentucky, a breed that developed in the Appalachians amongst hill farmers. These horses had all the attributes that I favoured – hardiness, strong legs and feet, intelligence and survival of the fittest, versatility; and they were ‘smooth to ride’ (what was that?) and they were sweet and loved people! They were the horse of choice for ‘baby boomers’ who had sore knees (I was now fifty-six and my knees got sore when I rode; I’d been riding locally with a friend). To cut a long story short, I decided this was it, this was the perfect horse for me. I wanted one.
I reckon that you should choose a horse to fit the place you want to keep it, and the way you want to keep it – for me that meant living out on Dartmoor, which has a harsh climate in the winter. When they garden, people make the mistake of choosing exotic plants and then planting them in the wrong place and watch them fail instead of thrive. I reckoned, I’ll choose a horse that will thrive being out, being barefoot, that’ll be safe to trail ride, and that’ll be responsive to the love I want to give. Moreover, it turned out that Rockies were not, after all, an ‘exotic’ horse. They carried the genes of old British breeds, now extinct, that were ambling ponies and horses that were exported to the colonies back in the days of empire. I found out that hundreds of years ago, English horses were ‘gaited’ (amblers), but now that folk memory has been lost. People here don’t value that history and have never heard of gaited horses. They think I’m crazy to want one. But to me it made perfect sense – this is the ‘natural horse’ that the ‘natural horsemanship’ people should want – a horse that is bred for comfort and safety to ride, that has a good ‘work ethic’, and has been selected for hardiness. A horse that doesn’t go lame, that breeds into its thirties, that is an easy keeper, that is loyal, that loves to go, that doesn’t need the vet. A horse that hasn’t been bred for competition without regard for temperament and soundness, but which the mountain families cherished for its ability to work with people in a harsh environment, surviving hardship and poverty and giving of its best.
So, I started figuring out how much it would cost me to get one if I used the holiday money and the money I’d saved for a new car. It was a bit more expensive than that to buy one from the very few European breeders. It shocked me how much: Rockies are a ‘rare breed’ and although not endangered any more, there are only a few thousand of them in the world. Then I looked at importing one myself. I read all the bloodlines and did months of research, trawling the internet. I saw one on a website at a ranch in Kentucky. I asked the breeders to send me a video. She was a queen! She was better than all the others – she moved like a dancer. I was enraptured. I realised if I ran the risk of the import myself, I’d get a better horse than buying in Europe. Also, I could have her bred into the bargain to a first-rate stallion and import another one in her tummy – two for one! Then I could sell the foal and get part of my money back. So I went for it.
When she arrived, my friend led her out of the stable where the transport had dropped her off in Devon – I was too overwhelmed to do anything but watch, and I’d never loaded a horse into a trailer – I’d never done anything with a horse except ride it (I had a lot to learn!). Angel walked out into my world and into my heart – she was even lovelier than I’d imagined (see photo below). I felt I was going to cry – I was speechless. My dream come true.
Of course, there’ve been plenty of problems! She was only four and I knew nothing of caring for horses and working them on the ground. We’ve spent the last nine months getting to know each other and sorting things out. But I’ve never regretted it. Her foal is due in six weeks and I am full of anticipation and nerves, trying to be strong for my horse and trust her, but give her support and keep her and the baby safe. I can’t even think of selling the baby..... If it’s a boy, I fantasize about standing it as a stallion.....
And guess what – now I want another one! Another mare to be her friend and life companion and to bring another foal of this wonderful breed into Britain. I’ve gone horse mad, mad.
But what happens next is another story....
Many thanks to Erica for her correspondence and contributions! I will return to this question again, some day, should I discover any new information.
So having focused on the Galloway in Part 1, we turn to the Narragansett Pacer.
The Narragansett Pacer was an important breed in the United States, and influential in the development of many modern breeds, including many of the Eastern gaited breeds, such as the Rocky Mountain Horse. This excerpt from 1847, clearly shows the significance of this now-extinct breed:
My grandfather, Gov. Robinson, introduced the famous saddle horse the 'Narragansett Pacer,' known in the last century over all the civilized part of North America and the West Indies, from when they have lately been introduced into England as a ladies saddle horse, under the name of Spanish Jannette. Governor Robinson imported the original from Andalusia, in Spain, and the raising of them for the West India market, was one of the objects of the early planters of this country. My grandfather, Robert Hazard, raised about one hundred annually, and often loaded two vessels a year with them...which sailed direct from the South Ferry to the West Indies, where they were in great demand. One of the causes of the loss of that famous breed here, was the great demand for them in Cuba.... This, and the fact that they were not so well adapted to draft as other horses, was the cause of their being neglected, and I believe the breed is now extinct in this section.
My father described the motion of this horse as differing from others, in that its back bone moved through the air in a straight line, without inclining the rider from side to side, as the common racker or pacer of the present day. Hence it was very easy, and being of great power and endurance, they would perform a journey of one hundred miles a day, without injury to themselves or rider. (from "History of the Episcopal Church, in Narrangansett, Rhode Island," by Wilkins Updike, pp 515-516.)
However, Mr. Herbert, cited previously, argues against this account, saying:
In England, notwithstanding what Mr. Hazard states...concerning the importance of these pacers, under the name of Spanish jennets, I never saw or heard tell, having been among horses and horsemen since my earliest childhood, of any such race of ladies' riding horses; nor have I ever read, to the best of my memory, of pacers, in sature, poem, or romance, as a feature of feminine luxury.
In Andalusia and Spain generally, I have no knowledge of a breed of horses to which that gait is native and characteristic; and if it were so, all the English military and many of my own friends and relations, in my youngers days, being thoroughly familiarized to all the Spanish provinces during the course of the Penisular campaigns, I could hardly have been ignorant of the fact. (Herbert, pp 72-73)
Another writer also disputes the Spanish links to the Narragansett Pacer, saying in there is no record of horses imported to Rhode Island from Spain, and that:
Her people were largely made up of refugees from the religious intolerance of the other New England colonies, and they brought their families and effects, including their horses, with them. The blood of the Narragansett pacer, therefore, was not different from the blood of the pacers of the other colonies, but the development of his speed by the establishment of a pacing course and the offering of valuable prizes, naturally brought the best and the fastest horses to this colony... ("The Horse of America in His Derivation, History and Development" by John Hankins Wallace, p 175)
All of this makes me wonder whether "Spanish" was used in the past as a way to indicate that something was glamorous or trendy, in the same way that fine goods now are sometimes branded as if they are French, to convey a sense of luxury. Barring further research, I cannot conclude that the Narragansett Pacer was or was not related to the Spanish horses or to the Galloway, nor can I be sure that the Galloway was or was not imported to the United States, nor whether the Galloway had Spanish ancestry.
to be continued...
A reader, Erica, from the UK, has imported several Rocky Mountain Horses from the United States, and asks an interesting question:
In the States, 'easy' gait is discussed solely with reference to the colonial Spanish influence. However, there must have been British influence to the East coast, where the Naragansett Pacer was developed. There were breeds in the British Isles (now extinct) like Irish hobbies and Scottish Galloways that may have been exported to the colonies in the seventeenth century or earlier, which may have contributed to the Mountain horses of Eastern Kentucky.... however, I can find nothing about this.
Do you know of anyone who has done research on the import of horses to the American colonies from Britain? I want to know if I am bringing the genes back home, so to speak, or not. Why is the Spanish influence discussed so much and not the British? Did the silver dapple gene not come from the UK?
Her question led to an extensive exchange of emails and research, and Erica's own engaging tale of her life with horses. I did not initially know the answer to her question, and I am not sure even now, after further research, that I know the answer. However, here is what we found:
Both the Hobby and Galloway were small riding horses, known for their speed and endurance. Numerous citations of their speed and distance ability have been recorded. This excerpt, from 1856, describes the Galloway in detail:
There was an excellent breed of little horses, varying from thirteen to fourteen hands high, existing in the district of Galloway.... But it is now nearly extinct.
"There is a tradition," according to Mr. Youatt, "that the breed is of Spanish extraction, some horses having escaped from one of the vessels of the Grand Armada, which was wrecked on the neighboring coast. This district, however, so early as the time of Edward I., supplied that monarch with a great number of horses."
It is much to be lamented, that this admirable race of animals is almost lost...owing to the non-perception and non-appreciation of its peculiar excellences as a roadster and hackney, either to drive or ride; and to its unsuitability to ordinary farm work from want of power and size.
(...)I am disposed to dwell on this animal a little more fully than I should otherwise do, not that it exists in these States, or has ever - so far as we know or suspect - been imported to them; but because it is closely analogous to a kindred animal [GHC: he is referring to the Narragansett Pacer], of, I believe, the same stock...which has in the same manner become extinct....
(...)I proceed, however, to Mr. Youatt's description of the true Galloway...
"The pure Galloway," says he, "was said to be nearly fourteen hands high, and sometimes more, of a bright bay or brown, with black legs, and small head and neck, and peculiarly deep clean legs. Its qualities were speed, stoutness, and surefootedness, over a very rugged and mountainous country.
"Dr. Anderson thus describes the Galloway. 'There was once a breed of small elegant horses in Scotland, similar to those of Iceland and Sweden, which were known by the name of Galloways.... One of this description I possessed.... In point of elegance of shape, it was a perfect picture; and in disposition it was gentle and compliant. It moved almost to a wish, and never tired. I rode this little creature for twenty-five years, and twice in that time I rode a hundred and fifty miles at a stretch, without stopping, except to bait, and that not for above an hour at a time. It came in at the last stage with as much ease and alacrity as it travelled the first...."
In my own youth, I recollect to have seen two Galloways of the true Scottish blood....
...they had long, thin manes; rather spare than shaggy tails; small, lean, bony heads; one of them with the broad brow and basin face of the Arab; thin necks, particularly fine toward the throat, and setting on of the head; soft silky coats; large eyes, and all the particular indications of thorough blood.
Their paces were generally the walk or the canter; and neither of the two was a particularly handsome or fast trotter, going along at a good rate, indeed, but in a shuffling style, neither clearly a trot nor a canter. One of them, which I often road, ambled, as it was called then and there, so fast as to keep up with the hand gallop of a thoroughbred lady's mare....
This Galloway, so far as I can remember it, was in fact neither more nor less than a natural pacer....
Whether this was or was not a characteristic of the race, I am unable to say; but I know that the animals seemed to me, then perfect beaux ideals of Andalusian jennets, and were regarded as such, by persons more competent to pronounce than myself.
Taken into consideration with reference to the tradition, as to their origin, and comparing this with the like story in regard to the Narraganset [sic] pacers, I am of opinion that these two now nearly extinct races, were nearly, if not altogether identical, both in characteristics and descent....("Frank Forester's Horse and Horsemanship of the United States and British Provinces of North America," by Henry William Herbert, pp 29-33)
Herbert's descriptions seem conflicted, as he says the Galloway seems like the Icelandic or Swedish horse (not Spanish) and also mentions legends of it having Spanish heritage or being like a Spanish Jennet. He says the Narragansett Pacer is related, but also says the Galloway was never imported to the US.
Erica, better versed in British history than I, also points out the political contribution to the demise of the Galloway:
...the aristocracy (and royalty) actively suppressed the smaller horses of the commoners to prevent breeding in the areas that were not enclosed - it is a political story in which horses were 'improved' and breeding controlled in a kind of horse 'racism' that was linked to the class system. Henry the Eighth ordered the castration of small stallions and Charles the Second seems to have finished this off in the late seventeenth century when these horse died out in Britain. However, some of them had already gone to the colonies by then where they seem to have survived and been adapted to particular environments like the Appalachian mountains.
Politics and fashion have changed most breeds, whether selecting for a certain color or size, or promoting wholesale changes to a breed, so much so that the original type is lost forever.
to be continued...
Dr. Sponenberg, a professor at Virginia Tech University, is an influential expert in the genetics of domestic animals. He is well known for his studies of the genetics of coat color, and has also worked extensively on the identification and preservation of the Colonial Spanish Horse in the United States. The Colonial Spanish Horse is a horse descended from the Iberian horses brought to the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese, unadulterated by more recent mixing with draft horses, Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Quarter Horses or other breeds.
At one time (about 1700 AD) the purely Spanish horse occurred in an arch that stretched from the Carolinas to Florida, west through Tennessee, and then throughout all of the western mountains and great plains. In the northeast and central east the colonists were from northwestern Europe, and their type of European horses were more common than the Colonial Spanish type. (see article here)
Colonial Spanish Horses - and there are several dozen sub-types or breeds, based in various regions of the USA where they survived - are visually identified by specific conformation and show distinctive DNA markers in common with Iberian horses, such as the Andalusian and Sorraia.
I emailed Dr. Sponenberg about his work recently:
GHC: At what point in your life did you develop an interest in horses?
Dr. Sponenberg: [I] became interested in horses pretty young, but didn't grow up riding or anything like that. Was always just interested in why they looked like they did, and why they did like they did.
GHC: When did you first become aware of the Colonial Spanish Horse?
Dr. Sponenberg: I became aware of Colonial Spanish horses in about 1971, after reading Hope Ryden's "America's Last Wild Horses." I also visited with Leanna and Buddy Rideout, and through them became acquainted with the Spanish Mustang Registry. From there things snowballed to the present!
GHC: Do you think the awareness of CSH and the efforts of the ALBC to conserve the CSH have been effective?
Dr. Sponenberg: I think we can claim modest success. The frustration for me is that in South America the Colonial Spanish horse is what people think of when they think "horse," while up here this is not the case. These remain outside the mainstream of horses and horse use, which is frustrating to me.
GHC: Has the increased attention to conserving the CSH had any negative effects (such as breeders promoting horses as CSH that don't really fit the criteria...)?
Dr. Sponenberg: I am not sure on this one. I do think that folks need to think "type" when picking matings and future directions. This cannot be stressed enough, as it is possible to drift from a good type pretty quickly.
GHC: The US has a bit of a "free-for-all" going with registries. Besides the Spanish Mustang Registry there are broad registries like the Horse of the Americas registry, and very specific registries like the Steens Kiger registry. Does it matter that some breeders are mixing lines, some are isolating lines? Is it more important to preserve the CSH in general, or is it vital to maintain the specific sub-types?
Dr. Sponenberg: I think there are some 20 registries at this point. [They] do serve to keep the strains out there as pure entities, which has some advantages. That said, the umbrella registries serve well to keep strains as well as the composite. I do think in general that joining together would make most sense.
GHC: I have not seen anyone address the socio-economic side of the CSH. My impression has been that the CSH has survived in rural and poor areas, because the wealthy were able to "improve" their horses with Thoroughbreds and other European imports, which were high-status horses. Any thoughts on this socio-economic element in the conservation of the CSH in the US?
Dr. Sponenberg: Well, this sort of situation is likely to persist unless and until these CS horses become synonymous with "really good and highly desired horse" in lots of people's minds. This is the challenge. I think we are making some progress, though.
GHC: If funding were no object, what specific projects would you love to undertake (or see others undertake) to promote the CSH?
Dr. Sponenberg: Promotion is tricky. The best would be horses being used and being successful.
GHC: I do have to add, when I rode in Costa Rica recently I was completely sold on the Criollo horses.
Dr. Sponenberg: I hope that the Central American countries get together to save their Criollo horses - not a whole lot has been done there yet!
Many thanks to Dr. Sponenberg for taking time from his busy schedule to answer my questions. For more about Colonial Spanish Horses, see this post.
The Paso Costarricense, or Costa Rican Paso, is derived from the Criollo stock improved with additions of Andalusian and Peruvian Paso blood. Some horses show more of one influence or the other in their conformation and gait. Many show the flicking of the leg - called termino - that is characteristic of the Peruvian Paso. A thick arched neck and naturally high-stepping action are typical. A variety of solid colors, including dun, as shown here, are common. Sabino markings are quite common. Tobiano is growing in popularity. The Costa Rican Paso is more of a show, pleasure and parade horse than a working man's horse, if only because his finer breeding makes him more expensive, and thus out of reach of the rural cowboy.
This dun stallion is at Rancho Casagua, in the northwest of Costa Rica.