Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Florida's Offical State Horse-The Cracker Horse

(Yes, this is me taking a picture of the horses, and enjoying the entire two day event)
A few weeks ago, I received an invitation to attend the Florida Cattlemen’s Cracker Cow and Horse Gathering. Being a fourth generation native Floridian, a former avid horsewoman and a cow-hunter, I am excited and pleased that Florida has adopted the ‘Cracker’ horse as their official state horse of Florida.

The Florida Cracker Horse Association was organized in 1989, and tasked with searching the remnant herds of Cracker Horses. A registry was established and foundation animals were registered based on their history and external type: 31 Cracker Horses were registered and blood typed for the foundation stock. A stringent application of rules has resulted in a very consistent breed. Today, the Florida Cracker Horse is promoted as a valuable and vital part of Florida’s heritage and is still considered quite rare. Today over 800 horses have been registered.

The ancestors of today’s Cracker Horses were introduced into what is now Florida as early as 1521 when the Spaniard, Ponce de Leon, on his second trip to Florida, brought horses, cattle and other livestock. By mid-1600 cattle ranching and horse breeding was well established.

First the Indians and later the pioneers began using the Spanish horses. These animals were hardy, had adapted well to the Florida climate and environment and excelled as work cow ponies. Although best know for their talents at working cattle, Cracker horses were frequently pressed into service as buggy horses, workstock, and in many instances, were the only horse power for many family farms well into the twentieth century. They are indeed a vital part of Florida’s agricultural heritage and are very deserving of a place in Florida’s future.

The genetic heritage of the Cracker Horse is derived from the Iberian horse of early sixteenth century Spain and includes blood of the North African Barb, Spanish Sorraia, Jennet and the Andalusian. Its genetic base is generally the same as that of the Spanish Mustang, Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso, Criollo and other breeds developed from horses originally introduced by the Spanish into the Caribbean Islands, Cuba and North, Central and South America. The free roaming Cracker Horse evolved over a long period of time through natural selection. It was molded and tempered by nature and a challenging environment into the horse that ultimately was to play a large part in the emergence of Florida as a ranching and general agriculture.

Cracker Horses are from 13.2 to 15 hands (or 54-60 inches) in height and weight from seven hundred fifty to over nine hundred pounds. They are known for their unusual strength and endurance, herding instinct, quickness and fast walking gait. A good percentage of them have a running walk and some have another lateral single-foot gait which, in true Cracker dialect, is often referred to as a “Coon Rack.” Cracker Horse colors are any color common to the horse, however, solid colors, roans and grays are predominant.

Over the years Cracker Horse have been know by a variety of names: Chicksaw Pony, Seminole Pony, Prairie Pony, Florida Horse, Florida Cow Pony, Grass Gut and others.
I came away from the event with a renewed sense of my ancestral roots; and while sitting around the campfire listening to real cowmen and women tell their tales, I collected a fodder of ideas for new stories. Yee-Haw!


Donna MacQuigg said...

Very interesting. Thank you for sharing. I have had and raised horses for 30 years and never heard of this name, so I learned something. Thanks, Donna

Eliza March Writes Red Hot Romance said...

Your Florida historical facts are always so interesting. Thank you for keeping me informed about my adopted homeland.

Eliza March

Melinda said...

Thanks for sharing such an intersting post. I love horses


Celia Yeary said...

LORETTA--Cool! I love the term Cracker horse. I've never heard of one, nor many of those you listed. Now I've learned something new! Celia

Tanya Hanson said...

Hi Loretta, cool information! I adore horses but am definitely not a horsewoman or very knowledgeable. I always love learning new things. Cracker horse is such an intersting name.

Mary Ricksen said...

How interesting and me living in Florida and loving horses, learned all about a breed I knew nothing about!

Paty Jager said...

Loretta, What a fun and interesting post!

Jeanmarie Hamilton said...

My grandparents and great grandparents own and raised horses. I've always loved horses, but never had my own, and instead studied all about them, sketched and painted them.

This is fascinating about the Cracker Horse and it's origins. A beautiful horse. I can see it's bloodlines from Spain in it's conformation.
Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience and photos, which I'll add to my list of information on horses. :-)


Lorelei Confer said...

I love horses and love reading about them and all the different breeds. Really appreciate staying up to date and the pictures were great too.

Elaine Cantrell said...

Great post. I love horses, but I've never heard of this breed before. Thanks for sharing.

Loretta C. Rogers said...

This was such a fun article to write and too share. Many thanks to all of you who stopped by and shared your comments.

P.L. Parker said...

That was so interesting. Loved it. Never heard of a Florida Cracker Horse before.