Some of the 'Official State Horses' for the United States

The Colonial Spanish Mustang, Tennessee Walking Horse, Florida Cracker and Nokota

The fifty States of the United States of America have a great array of icons and symbols which represent the essence of each state. But only a few States have an 'Official State Horse'. Some of these special horse breeds were discussed in another article. The rest can be read about below.

2010 - Colonial Spanish Mustang - Official State Horse - North Carolina
In 2010, North Carolina nominated the Colonial Spanish Mustang as its Official Horse. The Spanish Mustang is descended directly from the first horses brought over by Christopher Columbus. These made their way northwards by various methods and inevitably some were lost, stolen or strayed, becoming the forebears of the present-day Spanish Mustang. Like their ancestors, today's mustangs are intelligent, tough and hardy with stamina to burn.

They average about 14.2hh and are well-balanced and sturdy. The feet and legs in particular are strong and straight and rarely are there problems with lameness. They come in all colours with many having 'Indian pony' colouring which isn't often seen in other breeds. There are a lot of roans, duns, grullas and paints.

Spanish MustangCredit:

2000 - Tennessee Walking Horse - Official State Horse - Tennessee
The Tennessee Walking Horse was developed as a dependable and comfortable ride for plantation owners. Like the Morgan, the Tennessee Walking horse had a single foundation sire. Black Allen was a Standardbred, highly prepotent but with an unusual action which saw him rejected as a harness horse. Later, Narragansett Pacer, American Saddlebred, Thoroughbred and Canadian Pacer were added to the breed.

The Tennessee Walking Horse has an extra two gaits – a flat walk and a running walk. He is not as elegant as the American Saddlebred but remains popular because of his gentle disposition and comfortable paces. He makes an attractive harness horse and does well in endurance events.

On the show scene, the Tennessee Walker is flamboyant and eye-catching, with an extravagant action. However, there is much controversy about the methods used to create a prize-winner. To get the high tail carriage, the muscles under the dock are nicked and the tail 'set' in position. This is not as much of an issue as other factors.

The hooves are left excessively long and may be made more so by 'stacking'. Heavy shoes, training with chains, and blistering the legs with chemicals are some of the practices at present under scrutiny by animal protection agencies. The Tennessee Walking Horse was designated an Official State horse for Tennessee in 2000.

Running WalkCredit: flickr photo cc/ DanDee_Shots

2008 - Florida Cracker (Marsh Tacky) - Official State Horse - Florida
The Florida Cracker horse developed solely in the state of Florida. The Florida Cracker cattle and horse breeds both trace their ancestry to Spanish stock. Its main heritage is from the Iberian horse, a genetic base similar to that of the Paso Fino, Peruvian Paso and Criollo. The Florida Cracker is a gaited breed. Natural selection ensured a tough horse, well adapted to the harsh conditions of its native area.

The cowboys of the day were called 'crackers' because of their distinctive use of stockwhips. During 1930-1940 (the Dust Bowl era) the necessity for constant treatment for screwworm of the larger western cattle for screwworm saw the Florida Cracker gradually replaced by the Quarter horse. Soon the breed was almost extinct.

In 1989 the Florida Cracker Horse Association was formed with the mandate of seeking out any remaining representatives of the breed. Foundation stock were blood typed and stringent application of the rules has meant that the Florida Cracker today is a very consistent breed.

The breed ranges from 13.2hh to 15 hands and weighs between 750 to 1,000 pounds. The head is refined with a straight or slightly concave profile. The dark eyes have a white, blue or grey sclera. The Florida Cracker is a gaited horse and as well as the usual walk, trot and canter, they also exhibit the running walk and amble. Both these paces are fast and comfortable to ride.

This breed excels at trail and endurance riding. They have always been used for working cattle and are seen at rodeos in such competitions as team roping and penning. Today the population of the Florida Cracker horse is still at a critical level according to both the American Livestock Breed Conservancy and the Equus Survival Trust.

In 2008, the Florida Cracker was declared the official state horse of Florida.

Florida Cracker HorseCredit:

1977 - 'The Horse' - Official State Animal - New Jersey
New Jersey's State animal is 'simply' the horse and what a lovely way to honour an animal that brings such a generosity of spirit to all those connected with it. New Jersey made its decision in 1977. Although there is no particular breed endemic to the State, the horse is an important part of the life and culture of people from this area.

1993 - Nokota - Honorary State Equine - North Dakota
The final nomination in the 'Official horses' of the States, is the Nokota which has been appointed by North Dakota as its 'Honorary State Equine'. The wild horses of North Dakota are thought to descend from the Spanish Mustangs and associated Indian ponies. The Nokota has been harried and hassled since the last of them were enclosed in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The National Park Service spent years trying to exterminate all the horses in the Park. They then tried to 'improve' the native horses by introducing stallions of other breeds.

Brothers Frank and Leo Kuntz Jr. began purchasing horses which were auctioned off after NPS round-ups. The name Nokota was bestowed on the horses and, in 1993, they were designated as 'Honorary State Equine'. Six years later, the Nokota Horse Conservancy Inc was established. The main aim of the Conservancy is to acquire land for a sanctuary.

The Nokota is tough and hardy and, like the Spanish Mustang, can be almost any colour. Blue roans are common. They are intelligent and have great endurance and substantial bone.

Nokota FilliesCredit:

All these horse breeds are endemic to their local areas and it can only boost the reputation and recognition of these breeds to have them honoured by being designated 'State' horses.

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