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Horse Breeds at


Country of Origin: United States
Use today: Trail and pleasure riding; suitable for endurance and competitive trail riding
Color: Dun, bay, blue roan, dun roan, red roan, sorrel, chestnut, black and grullo
Height: 13.5 to 15 hands

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Profile: In the boggy lowlands of South Carolina, one equine reigns supreme among the avid trail rider: the Carolina Marsh Tacky. After several hundred years of being employed as a work and riding horse in the area, the breed is most proficient at withstanding the heat and humidity, and traversing the marshes and swamps characteristic to the region. The Marsh Tacky is believed to be descended from the horses brought overseas by the Spanish explorers in the 1500s. Furthermore, Spanish horses that had first arrived in what is now known as Florida were used as pack animals in the deerskin trade of the Chickasaw, Creek and Southeastern Choctaw Native American tribes, who followed a route from St. Augustine to Charleston. The horses were sold once in Charleston and contributed to the already present population of Spanish horses, becoming the foundation for the Marsh Tacky breed. Since then, the Marsh Tacky's environment has kept it isolated, preserving the hardiness of its Spanish ancestors.Because of its versatility, temperament and resilience, the Marsh Tacky was well-suited to just about anything its colonial owners needed, such as hunting, plowing fields, ranching, making deliveries and transportation. Later it became the mount of choice among American soldiers of coastal South Carolina and Georgia in the American Revolution and Civil War, and was used to patrol the beaches in South Carolina during World War II. Unfortunately, the Marsh Tacky's numbers dangerously declined in modern times with the creation of the automobile and mechanized farm equipment, and in the 1980s and 1990s, the breed was thought to be extinct. Today, with the help of the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), which maintains the official Marsh Tacky studbook, and the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association (CMTA), the breed's population has slowly increased to about 250 horses, but it is still considered to be critical on the ALBC's endangered list. To increase the public's awareness about the Marsh Tacky and develop support for the breed, the ALBC and the CMTA hold the annual Marsh Tacky races, in which mares, stallions and geldings race along the shore at Hilton Head in South Carolina. .

Characteristics: The Marsh Tacky is known for its calm, gentle nature as well as its stamina, strength and trainability. Perhaps their most acclaimed quality, however, is their ability to easily traverse the mucky bogs and swamps in the areas of South Carolina and Georgia known as the lowcountry. They have a distinctive gait called the “Swamp Fox Trot,” which allows for a comfortable ride in rough terrain. The Marsh Tacky has a wide forehead and flat or slightly convex profile, with short- to medium-length ears that have a distinctive notch or inward point at tips. The neck is wide and the withers pronounced. The breed's strong, short back gives way to a sloping croup and low-set tail. The hooves are strong, balanced and wear well. For more information: American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, Carolina Marsh Tacky Association

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