Horses welcome visitors at the museum
by The Press and Standard | July 26, 2019 5:00 am
Last Updated: July 24, 2019 at 10:53 am
By JASON JONES
Four striking and strong Carolina Marsh Tacky horses made a well-received appearance at the Colleton Museum and Farmer’s Market last weekend.
With gentle disposition, they said hello to visitors at the meet and greet Saturday, amid an enthusiastic crowd teeming with questions for the gracious and knowledgeable Carolina Marsh Tacky Association (CMTA) team who were excited to share information about the loveable breed.
The Carolina Marsh Tacky is so named because of its original geographic environment in and around the marshes and beaches of South Carolina’s coastland. The horses were first brought here by Spanish explorers in the 1500s where they roamed wild and free on the Lowcountry’s sea islands. In the 1600s they were used as transportation for Native American hunters, and were later known to have been seen with the Gullah population.
Marsh Tackies were used as laborers because of their strong build, solid hooves, thick hide and willingness to tread through arduous terrain that, many times, consisted of marsh. Caroline Mitchum Knight, owner of a Marsh Tacky named “Apache,” and former board member of the CMTA, explained that when the introduction of mechanical equipment, such as tractors and trucks became prevalent, the need for actual horsepower diminished to the point that the breed began to lose population and eventually became critically endangered.
In 2007, the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association was formed to rescue the breed from extinction. Michelle Grimes, secretary of CMTA, said that because of the diligent efforts and work of love by breeders and volunteers, the number of the horses has since doubled to over 400. This has been due to breeders primarily here in the Lowcountry, but also as far north as Maryland and west as Mississippi. Grimes — donning a white cowboy hat, an inviting smile and standing next to “Darling,” a six-year-old mare with a grey coat and unique black markings — proudly stated that “in 2010 the Marsh Tacky received the historical and significant designation of South Carolina State Heritage Horse.”
Tammy Warren, Marsh Tacky breeder and treasurer of the 501(c)3 non-profit organization, said this particular meet and greet was important because public exposure to the animal is vital to rescuing the horses from endangerment. She also commented that the CMTA’s annual beach races for Marsh Tackies in Hilton Head and other coastland locations in the Lowcountry, further promote awareness — along with some fun for owners, audiences, and the horses.
Successful efforts to build the Carolina Marsh Tackies’ numbers include being on the Livestock Conservancy breed registry where the lineage is acknowledged, monitored and accounted for. Also important to the survival of the horses is DNA. “It was only through DNA testing that found they were unique enough to be identified as a breed,” Knight said.
Though the stated goal of a 1,000-horse population to get them off the endangered list is possible, Grimes and Warren said that it might yet be in the distant future. However, through their motto “Preserve, Promote, Protect,” and with the help of enthusiasts, members and volunteers, there is excitement for the future of the Carolina Marsh Tacky. The main, and most important, thing the public should know about how to aide in the effort of preservation, Grimes said, is “we need volunteers and the first step for anyone interested should be to visit our website.”
The website is marshtacky.org, and the Facebook page is under Carolina Marsh Tacky Association.