Traditionally, our “Meet Our Breeds” series has been limited to the many, many breeds who help us model Two Horse Tack for our online shop. But after a recent tack giveaway via Endurance Granny, we encountered a breed that was new to us. Our contest winner told us she was the owner of a Florida Cracker Horse, which we’ve since learned has its roots in Spanish stock.
The Cracker Horse originated as the cattle breed of the same name–from Spanish stock brought over with the first explorers to Florida in the 1500s. According to the Florida Cracker Horse Association, the breed traces back to several influences from its time in Spain, including the North African Barb, Spanish Sorraia and Spanish Jennet (which is a gaited breed). That makes the Cracker Horse similar to the Peruvian Paso, Paso Fino, and Spanish Mustang.
When the first explorers left Florida to head back to Europe, they left some of their animals behind to make room for souvenirs in their ships, and the horses became feral in the area.
When they were retamed, it was by the cowboys in Florida working Spanish cattle. The Cracker Horse was quickly found to be a good size (between 13 and 15 hands) for cow work and had the advantage of a few extra gaits like the flatfoot walk and running walk along with the endurance needed to work cows all day. Their name came from the cracking sound that the cowboys’ whips made as they slung the whips through the air onto the ground, creating noise to chase cattle in the direction of their choice.
The breed suffered a big loss when the agricultural model in Florida changed; a parasite in the state’s cattle population in the 1930s caused many farmers to switch from the free-ranging model for raising their cows to a system of pens and fields, reducing the need for a horse to work the herd. Numbers dwindled and the breed almost vanished.
The Florida Cracker Horse Association was founded in 1989 to find the remaining Cracker Horses and preserve the breed. At that time, there were just about 30 of the Cracker Horses remaining; today there are over 800 horses registered with the Association.
Learn more about Cracker Horses here.
We were excited to meet Jai Jai and his human Aubrey. Like his ancestors, Jai Jai is hoping to put his stamina to good use–he is an aspiring endurance competitor. As the winner of our giveaway for an Australian barcoo bridle, we’re looking forward to seeing photos of Jai Jai carrying our lightweight tack into his first competition one day.