Monday, September 28, 2015

Horse Breeds: Miniature Horse

Back in the 17th century, when oddities and strange animals were irresistible to the nobility, horses that were smaller than the norm were set aside and used in breeding programs across Europe. When crossed with the Shetland Pony, these smaller horses produced even smaller offspring. Those offspring with a less refined appearance were inevitably used in the mines as pit ponies, hauling carts of supplies and materials. Those more attractive ponies found their way into circuses and shows throughout the continent.

Over time, other breeds were added to the mix. The Hackney brought a little more refinement. Horses with pinto coloring were used to introduce new colors. Eventually, with selective breeding, horses that resembled smaller versions of Arabians, American Quarter Horses, and others came about, especially as the Miniature Horse spread throughout Europe and North America.

Unlike other breeds, Miniature Horses are measured in inches, not hands. They should stand no more than 34 inches at the base of the mane at the withers. That's under 3 feet, so these guys are a little small. For this reason, they are not ridden, not even by children. Despite this, they are vastly popular and available in practically every color, including palomino, pinto, and a strange pattern called Pintaloosa, which is really a cross between a pinto and an Appaloosa.

Though they cannot be ridden, Miniature Horses are used today for driving and in-hand classes such as obstacle courses and halter. For more information about this adorable breed, contact the American Miniature Horse Association.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Horse Breeds: Marwari

Though it's generally agreed that the Marwari originates in India, there's not much more known about the ancient history of this magnificent breed. We do know that horses with similar features, specifically the curved ears, appear in cave paintings that were in existence in 2000 BCE in the Rajasthan region of India. Indian warriors, usually referred to as Rajputs, used these horses as cavalry mounts. They have also been used as ceremonial mounts in various parts of the world.

Standing between 14.2 and 16 hands high, the Marwari is an average size horse. Its most amazing feature is clearly the curved ears, though no one really knows why the ears developed this curve. Some horses have ears that actually touch or cross, giving them an even more exotic appearance. But the ears aren't the only impressive feature. They also have gracefully arched necks and are sometimes born with a pacing gait called either the apchal or the revall.

The Marwari is a true desert horse, but it's not exactly like other desert horses. Though not exactly stocky, this breed is certainly heavier than you might expect, almost as heavy as the Spanish horses. They have a similar build to the Kathiawari, though we don't exactly know much about that breed either.

Available in just about any color (except chestnut), the Marwari is used today to pull tourist carts and is also frequently ridden by police and for ceremonial events such as weddings and festivals. For more information on this special breed, visit Horse Marwari.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Horse Breeds: Marsh Tacky

South Carolina can be boggy and hot and humid and generally unpleasant for people and horses alike. But there is one horse that is uniquely suited to the climate, and that is the Marsh Tacky. Descended from Spanish horses brought to the region in the 1500s, the Marsh Tacky's environment kept it isolated during the breed's formative years. This isolation resulted in a hardy horse well suited to traversing the marshes, swamps, and bogs while withstanding the ever-present heat and humidity.

Its versatility meant it could be used for plowing fields or hunting, ranching or transportation, or anything in between. Later it became a choice mount for soldiers in the area, especially during the American Revolution and the American Civil War. It was even used to patrol the beaches of South Carolina during World War II (WWII). Then, as happened to several other breeds of horse, numbers declined as the automobile and mechanized farm equipment became more popular. By the 1980s, the Marsh Tacky was feared extinct.

Luckily, they weren't, and with the help of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) and the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association (CMTA) the breed has slowly come back from the brink if extinction. But with less than 300 horses left in the world, it is still considered critically endangered.

There are a lot of wonderful things that can be said about the Marsh Tacky. It is gentle, sweet, and calm. It has great stamina, is incredibly strong, and is highly trainable. It's also a lovely companion horse. But probably its most distinctive trait is the Swamp Fox Trot. This is a unique gait that makes traveling over rough terrain a comfortable ride. It's also a gait no other breed has mastered.

The Marsh Tacky has a distinct appearance. With a wide forehead and a flat or slightly convex profile, the Marsh Tacky has a distinguished face. Its ears have a notch or inward point at the tips, the neck is wide, and the withers are pronounced. Not a tall horse, it stands between 13.5 and 15 hands high. Typical colors include bay, black, blue roan, chestnut, dun, grullo, red roan, and sorrel.

Used today for trail and pleasure riding, the Marsh Tacky is also suitable for endurance and competitive trail riding. If you want to get a good look at this breed, consider attending the annual Marsh Tacky races held at Hilton Head in South Carolina.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Horse Breeds: Mangalarga Marchador

Bred from horses originally from the Iberian Peninsula, the Mangalarga Marchador is the national horse of Brazil. If there is a foundation stallion of this noble breed, it would have to be Sublime, who himself was a product of horses brought over from Portugal in the early 1800s. Sublime was eventually put to mares from several different breeds already present in Brazil, including Andalusians, Barbs, Criollos, and Spanish Jennets. The resulting offspring, and their offspring, were referred to as Sublime horses, but the name was eventually changed to Mangalarga Marchador. This name was not chosen randomly, but was picked to honor the first hacienda to embrace the breed in Brazil.

In Sao Paolo, the Mangalarga Marchador was crossed with American Saddlebreds, Arabians, and Thoroughbreds to achieve a slightly different look. These horses and their descendants are not Mangalarga Marchadors but rather Mangalarga Paulistas. The original Mangalarga Marchador is still pity and unchanged, and has remained so since the 1800s.

Standing between 14.2 and 16 hands high, the Mangalarga Marchador has a lot in common with a well-bred Barb. They are very upright horses with strong hindquarters and a highly arched neck. The head should have a noble appearance and the ears should have an alert set to them. Being a gaited horse (hence the term 'Marchador'), this breed has two specific gaits. Both gaits are natural and fairly smooth, the marcha picada being a lateral gain and the marcha batida being a more diagonal gait. Picada is usually just a tad smoother, but it can be hard to tell the difference for the inexperienced.

Though this interesting breed can be found in all solid colors, chestnut, gray, and pinto are the most common. Today they can be found participating in many sports, including polo, endurance riding, and jumping. They are also popular for leisure pursuits and can be fun on a trail ride, especially because their gaits are natural ones, meaning all Mangalarga Marchadors can move in at least one of the recognized gaits without having to be taught to do so.

In the US, the US Mangalarga Marchador Association is one of the few associations to truly preserve, regulate, and register these beautiful horses. They work closely with their Brazilian counterparts to ensure the same standards are imposed regardless of where the horse is bred.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Horse Breeds: Lusitano

As breeds go, the Lusitano is actually quite new. It was officially created in the 1960s when Portuguese breeders decided to set their Andalusians apart from the Spanish Andalusians. To accomplish this, a studbook that included both Spanish and Portuguese horses was opened. Though it initially included both types of horses, the goal was to create a completely unique breed. The official name of the Lusitano is Puro Sangue Lusitano, which is Latin for 'Portugal'.

Standing between 15 and 15.3 hands high, the Lusitano has much in common with the Andalusian. So much in common that sometimes the only differences are lineage and usage. If you put the two breeds beside each other, however, you might notice that the Lusitano has a slightly more traditional convex profile. Sometimes you have to look closely to see the difference, but it is there.

Like the Andalusian, the Lusitano comes in a variety of colors. The most popular colors are bay and gray, but black, brown, chestnut, dun, and even palomino are also common. Other solid colors can show up occasionally as well.

Nimble, sweet, and hearty, the Lusitano is a quick-footed horse often used in Portuguese bull fighting (where the bull is not killed, by the way). They can also be seen frequently competing in dressage as well as traditional western pursuits. In fact, this versatile breed can do most things well, making it good for just about any equine activity.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Horse Breeds: Lippitt Morgan

All true Lippitt Morgan horses today share a common ancestor. They are descended from Figure, a bay stallion owned by Justin Morgan of Vermont. Figure was foaled in the late 1700s and used as a stud horse until his death in 1821. Figure's unique body was compact, muscular, and stylish. These traits are still present in his descendants.

Initially, this horse was simply referred to as the Morgan. In the early 1900s, the industrial age made working breeds like the Morgan obsolete. Many breeds actually died out during this time simply for lack of interest. This might have been the Morgan's fate if horse owners hadn't decided to use this stunning breed for recreational activities such as harness racing, dressage, and pleasure riding. Unfortunately, this meant that owners desired a horse with more speed and refinement, so the original traits of Figure were being washed out.

Preservation efforts began in earnest. Fullerton Phillips of Pennsylvania was determined to breed his own Morgan horses and collected quite a herd, but a storm stuck and killed many of his prized equines. Five years later, in 1927, Phillips died and his remaining horses were separated for sale.

Lucky for the Morgan, Phillips wasn't the only man who took an interest in this unique breed. Robert Lippitt Knight bought several of Phillips horses with the hope of truly restoring the Morgan breed. He basically succeeded, but when he passed away in 1962, his horses were slated to be sold at auction. Because many horse enthusiasts knew of Knight's work, most of the horses were bought by those who wanted to continue the breed.

In 1971, less than a decade after his death, those still working to preserve the breed added 'Lippitt' to the name, creating the Lippitt Morgan to recognize Knight's contribution to the breed's survival. Since then, there have been no outcrosses, so most Lippitt Morgans exhibit many of the traits so prized in Figure back in the 1700s.

Standing between 14.1 and 15.1 hands high, the Lippitt Morgan has a short head, medium-length neck, and an impressive, pronounced chest. The back is quite short when compared to other breeds, but the croup is relatively long. The legs of this interesting breed are long in the thighs, gaskins, and forearms, but short in the cannon bones. Though the Lippitt Morgan comes in many dark colors, bay, brown, black, and chestnut are most common.

Though once a popular workhorse, today the Lippitt Morgan is seen in a variety of disciplines. They are most common in driving competitions, but they can also be seen under the saddle. For more information, visit the Lippitt Morgan Breeders Association.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Horse Breeds: Lipizzan

Some breeds have a more aristocratic beginning than others. The Lipizzan is one of them. Sometimes called the Lipizzaner, this elegant breed has its roots in the time when Spanish-bred horses were considered perfect cavalry mount, especially in Austria. Because just about any Spanish-bred horse was prized, several came together to form the Lipizzan as the breed emerged. Let us not forget, however, that there is certainly some Arabian blood in this brilliant mount.

In 1562, Maximillian II brought several Spanish horses to the Austrian court and founded a stud at Kladrub. All were lovely. His brother, Archduke Charles II, created a similar studfarm at Lipizza in 1580. It was at Lipizza, which lies near the Adriatic Sea, where the breed finally started to flourish, mostly because of the introduction of the native Karst horses to the Lipizza and Kladrub bloodlines. So it should come as no surprise that the Lipizzan was named after this picturesque location.

Though the Lipizzan was named after Lipizza, Kladrub produced two of the foundation sires for the Lipizzan breed. Maestoso and Favory were Kladrub horses, while Conversano, Neapolitano, Pluto, and Siglavy all came from Lipizza. Today, these six horses are considered the foundation for the entire Lipizzaner breed.

If there is one horse that was bred for grace and power, it is the Lipizzan. They are the very picture of the perfect dressage horse because they were specifically bred for it. This may seem odd, especially since the Lipizzan was originally a cavalry horse, but consider the history of dressage for a moment. Dressage began as a way to train cavalry mounts in the finer points of high movements and collection. Since this is what the Lipizzans were bred for, they are naturally better at it than most other breeds.

Standing from 14.3 to 15.3 hands high, the Lipizzan is not actually white. Instead they are genetically grey. They are all born a brown or dark grey, but this gradually lightens until they reach have their 'white' coat at between 5 and 10 years of age. The 'white' horse is the most common color in the breed, mostly because the Austrian nobility preferred white horses and so selectively bred for that color, but the occasional bay or black adult does appear. Two hundred years ago there were Lipizzans of all colors, but this is almost unheard of now.

An ancient but relatively rare breed, The Lipizzaner is agile, lovely, and sweet. Registries around the world, such as Lipizzan Association of North America, are engaged in protecting and promoting this elegant breed so that future generations will get to enjoy them.