Tag Archives: horses

Six foals sired by a cream-colored stallion called DeSoto scamper across a pasture in southwest Mississippi — the first new blood in a century for a line of horses brought to America by Spanish conquistadors and bred by Choctaw Indians who were later forced out of their ancestral homelands.

Choctaw horses were thought to be long gone from this region, disappearing when their Native American owners were expelled from the U.S. Southeast by the government. But the surprise discovery of DeSoto on a farm in Poplarville 13 years ago led to a plan to help the dwindling strain survive.

“That really gives us a shot in the arm,” said Bryant Rickman, who has been working since 1980 near Antlers, Oklahoma, to restore the line. He estimates he has bred more than 300 of the horses from nine mares and three stallions. But having so few stallions led to a bottleneck, because the gene pool was so small.

Choctaws saw great power in horses. Ian Thompson, tribal historic preservation officer for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, said their word for horse, issoba, means “like a deer” — and the deer was the tribe’s most important animal, both economically and spiritually.

“So naming the horse after the deer was really saying something,” Thompson said.

Choctaw horses are descended from those brought to the United States in the 1500s and later by Spanish explorers and colonists, said Dr. D. Phillip Sponenberg of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech.

It’s one strain in a breed called Colonial Spanish horses, often referred to by the misleading term “Spanish mustang.” Colonial Spanish horses are among the world’s few genetically unique horse breeds, and are of great historic importance to this country, Sponenberg said.

The Choctaw nation lived in much of what are now Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Choctaws owned tens of thousands of horses by 1830, when Congress gave President Andrew Jackson the power to force Indians out of lands east of the Mississippi, Thompson said.

The relocation of Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Muscogee, and Seminole Indians to Oklahoma, which has come to be known as the “Trail of Tears,” took decades. Thompson said more than 12,000 Choctaw people made the journey but an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 died along the way. In Oklahoma, the Choctaw and their horses were part of the cattle-ranching economy.

The horses are small but tough and durable.

“They’re very people-oriented. They’re just as docile as your favorite dog,” said Rickman.

DeSoto was discovered in 2005 when Sponenberg visited Poplarville to check out small cattle descended from Spanish colonial stock. He was surprised to find Spanish colonial sheep, there, too. Then came the day’s biggest surprise.

“Out of the woods came this horse, single-footing,” he said, referring to a smooth gait between walking and galloping, rather than the bouncing trot common to most horses.

Bill Frank Brown was 14 when he inherited the Poplarville farm that Sponenberg visited in 2005. The farm had been in Brown’s family since 1881 and the livestock there, even longer. Brown had three stallions back then, including DeSoto. He called them pine tacky horses. The Texas A&M veterinary school tested samples of the stallions’ DNA, and they matched those of Rickman’s Choctaws.

Two of the stallions have since died, leaving only DeSoto. Sponenberg picked the mares that would be the best genetic matches for DeSoto, and they were brought to Mississippi last year. The Browns say some of the offspring will remain in Mississippi while others will go back to Oklahoma, along with pregnant mares.

On September 28, 2018, the Colorado Department of Agriculture’s, State Veterinarian’s Office, was notified that a second Colorado horse has tested positive for Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA). While both horses reside in Weld County, the two cases are unrelated.
“While the investigation is in its initial stages, it is clear the affected horse is unrelated to horses, locations or movements to the previous case in 2018. The affected horse and other horses on the second Weld County property are subject to a quarantine, which restricts movement of any horses on or off the property. The remaining horses on the facility will be observed, tested and then retested in 60 days,” said State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr. “It is important to note that the risk of disease transmission to other horses in Colorado at this time is low, due to the fact that there are not any horses housed on adjacent properties, which also lowers the risk of biting horse flies in the area.”
The positive test was conducted by CDA’s Rocky Mountain Regional Animal Health Laboratory. EIA information is available at http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/equine_infectious_anemia.pdf.
FAQs about Equine Infectious Anemia
What is Equine Infectious Anemia?
Equine Infectious Anemia is a viral disease spread by bloodsucking insects, inappropriate use of needles, or other equipment used between susceptible equine animals such as horses, mules and donkeys. Horses may not appear to have any symptoms of the disease, although it also can cause high fever, weakness, weight loss, an enlarged spleen, anemia, weak pulse and even death.
How is it spread?
It is spread most commonly through blood by biting flies such as horse flies and deer flies. It is important for horse owners use fly control methods to reduce disease transmission for EIA and other equine viruses.
What happens to an infected horse?
There is no cure for the disease, so infected animals must be quarantined for life or euthanized.
Is there a danger to people?
No. The disease can only be spread to horses, mules and donkeys.
Is the disease common?
No. There has only been a small number of cases in the United States, although the disease exists in other parts of the world. A map of cases from the year 2015 is available athttps://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/animal-disease-information/horse-disease-information/equine-infectious-anemia/ct_eia_distribution_maps.
How is the disease controlled?
Equine Infectious Anemia is a disease for which horses must be tested annually before they can be transported across state lines. The test for EIA is commonly called a Coggins Test. The horse at Arapahoe Park last tested negative in May of 2015.