Without horses, we’d not have the America we all know right now.

This is by no means exaggeration. Without the horses, mules, and donkeys that first got here to North America, the early colonists wouldn’t have been in a position to survive the tough local weather, the West wouldn’t have been settled, farmers within the Midwest wouldn’t have been in a position to survive, and Native Americans wouldn’t have developed equestrian-based strategies of looking and warfare with out using the mighty horse.

The Cleveland Bay breed originated in England however almost grew to become extinct by 1960 with solely six stallions remaining. Pictured: Cleveland Bay stallion (and Breyer Horse mannequin) Tregoyd Journeyman. Photo courtesy Cleveland Bay Horse Society of North America/The Livestock Conservancy

The equines of early America had been hardy creatures that usually needed to fend for themselves. The rugged panorama and difficult climates, mixed with scarce meals and lack of veterinary care, formed these horses and donkeys into powerful, resilient breeds.

Hundreds of years later, the so-called “heritage” equine breeds are below menace.

Competition from the tractor and vehicle, together with two World Wars, helped wipe out equine populations all over the world early within the twentieth century. While quite a lot of them survived the economic age, some fared higher than others. The heritage breeds that stay are among the rarest and hardiest equines on this planet.

marsh tacky horseThe Marsh Tacky is a critically endangered breed, with solely about 400 people remaining. Pictured: David Grant ring jousting on his Marsh Tacky. Photo by Carolina Marsh Tacky Association/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

Today, a handful stay in North America, representing what’s left of the unique animals that labored alongside our ancestors, offering them with transportation, assistance on the farm, and even companionship.

Fight to Preserve

In 1978, a company known as The Conservancy was fashioned with the aim of preserving these as soon as frequent equines, together with different North American livestock. This nonprofit membership affiliation works to guard endangered livestock breeds from extinction and is at present attempting to save lots of 150 breeds of cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, rabbits, poultry, horses, and donkeys. Of these 150 breeds of livestock, 37 are equines.

In 2006, the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization estimated that a mean of two home animal breeds are misplaced worldwide every week. In the U.S., The Livestock Conservancy is preventing to stem this tide. One of those efforts spawned the creation of the Endangered Equine Alliance, which held its first summit in 2018.

endangered horse breedThe Canadian Horse has slowly rebounded from fewer than 400 people in 1976 to 2,000 right now. Pictured: Canadian Horse doing mounted archery. Photo by Kimberley Beldam, Heritage Stone Farm, courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

“The Endangered Equine Summit came about in response to a decades-long decline in horse breed registrations, not only for rare breeds, but also for more popular breeds, like Arabians and Saddlebreds,” says Charlene R. Couch, Ph.D., senior program supervisor for The Livestock Conservancy. “The economic challenges for all equine breeders are significant, but they are even more so for those who breed endangered horses and donkeys.”

According to Couch, historical breeds such because the Akhal-Teke and Caspian, which have been human companions for hundreds of years, are actually gravely endangered.

“Even the iconic Cleveland Bay, Clydesdale, and Lipizzan horses are rare,” she says. “And fewer than 100 traditional Morgans—horses whose pedigrees are absent of outcrosses after 1930—were registered in 2016. In our lifetime, we may bear witness to equine breed extinction.”

endangered horse breedThe Wilbur-Cruce is a pressure of the threatened Colonial Spanish horse breed. Pictured: Wilbur-Cruce horse Lorenzo in path class competitors. Photo by Alana Carden/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

If the historical past of those breeds isn’t sufficient to encourage their preservation, their skill to contribute to fashionable equine gene swimming pools ought to be.

“Heritage-breed horses are not just useful and beautiful—they are an irreplaceable reservoir of equine genetic diversity,” Couch says. “These animals offer valuable traits that were developed over centuries, such as stamina, unique gaits, hardiness, sound feet, and good skeletal structure. Many were important in the formation of America’s more popular breeds, like the American Quarter Horse. In many cases, the ancestral sources of these heritage breeds no longer exist, and that breed cannot be recreated. They are a true genetic treasure, and every loss could be significant for the future of the horse industry.”

The Endangered Equine Alliance

Shortly after the 2018 Summit, greater than 50 equine breed associations, plus scientists, sporting teams, and horse business representatives united to type the Endangered Equine Alliance. The Livestock Conservancy facilitates the alternate of knowledge amongst Alliance members and serves as a central outlet for academic assets that assist equine breed conservation.

gaited Mountain Pleasure HorseThe gaited Mountain Pleasure Horse was developed within the Appalachian Mountains for using and driving over rugged terrain. Photo by Robin Little/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

So far, the Alliance has completed some important targets, in keeping with Couch.

“We have created a germplasm bank for endangered horse breeds,” she says. “The collection is a sort of ‘doomsday’ vault of genetic materials for breed conservation emergencies. Through the Alliance’s network, we facilitated the banking of semen from Newfoundland Ponies, the Marsh Tacky, Akhal-Teke, and Caspian horses so far, with other breed collections on the horizon.”

Breeds Needing Conservation

The Livestock Conservancy has positioned the next horses on its checklist of important and threatened endangered breeds:

◆ Akhal-Teke
◆ American Cream Draft
◆ Baca-Chica
◆ Banker
◆ Canadian Horse
◆ Caspian
◆ Choctaw
◆ Cleveland Bay
◆ Clydesdale
◆ Colonial Spanish Mustang
◆ Dales Pony
◆ Dartmoor
◆ Fell Pony
◆ Florida Cracker
◆ Galiceño
◆ Hackney Horse
◆ Highland Pony
◆ Irish Draught
◆ Lipizzan
◆ Marsh Tacky
◆ Morgan (conventional)
◆ Newfoundland Pony
◆ Puerto Rican Paso Fino
◆ Rocky Mountain
◆ Santa Cruz
◆ Shire
◆ Suffolk Punch
◆ Sulphur
◆ Wilbur-Cruce

The Alliance has additionally labored to supply breeders with reductions from corporations for semen and tissue assortment of endangered equine breeds; revealed the Manual of Methods for Preservation of Valuable Equine Genetics, designed to assist homeowners be taught extra about new replica applied sciences and how one can use them to save lots of breeds and bloodlines; hosted webinars and question-and-answer classes with equine specialists on DNA testing, superior replica methods, and advertising; and developed an Endangered Equine Alliance web site for sharing articles and hyperlinks, and a Rare Equine Breeds Facebook group that now has greater than 2,000 followers worldwide.

rare donkeysThe Poitou is a French donkey breed valued for the manufacturing of mules for over 1,000 years. Poitou donkeys Babette and foal Kenny pictured. Photo by Patrick Archer, Texas Poitou Donkeys/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

“July has been designated as National Horse Month by The Livestock Conservancy, and throughout the month, we provide social media content and interviews with key individuals in the rare horse breed community,” Couch says. “Since 2018, The Livestock Conservancy has given out seven microgrants for rare horse and donkey-related projects.”

Help from Grants

The first National Endangered Equine Summit was made doable largely by a grant from the USA Equestrian Trust (www.trusthorses.org), which is affiliated with U.S. Equestrian, the nationwide governing physique for many equestrian sports activities within the United States.

“The grant enabled The Livestock Conservancy to bring together representatives of approximately 50 endangered horse breed groups for the first summit,” Couch says. “The delegates to the Summit represented thousands of horse owners, and included participants from the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. The group was tasked with identifying the leading causes of equine breed population declines, and deciding [upon] actions that could be taken to stabilize the loss of breeds.”

endangered horse breedThe Baca-Chica is a pressure of Colonial Spanish horses, which had been almost extinct by 1950. Baca-Chica mares pictured. Photo by Annette Garcia/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

Through the assist of the USA Equestrian Trust, specialists from the larger horse neighborhood, together with sporting teams, equine-assisted remedy suppliers, college scientists, and nationwide associations participated within the Summit. Panelists included companions on the American Horse Council, Texas A&M University, Virginia Tech, Uppsala University, the American Endurance Ride Conference, Natural Lifemanship Equine-Assisted Therapy, Rare Breeds Survival Trust/Stallion AI Services (U.Ok.), the Arabian Horse Association, the National Animal Interest Alliance, and the National Driving Society.

“The vision and support of the USA Equestrian Trust was crucial in bringing together such a wide representation of members of the equine industry,” Couch says. “Together, the participants saw the potential to accomplish great things by uniting in their efforts to conserve endangered equine breeds.”

endangered horseThe Irish Draught has roots way back to 500 B.C., numbering fewer than 8,400 purebreds globally in 2011. Pictured: Irish Draught stallion at Bellwether Farm. Jeannette Beranger/courtesy of The Livestock Conservancy

Ongoing Support

In addition to work by the Endangered Equine Alliance, The Livestock Conservancy conducts an annual census of horse and donkey breeds to observe their inhabitants progress and declines.

“We encourage registration of horses so that their numbers can be counted,” Couch says. “We maintain a large list of breeders and breed associations to help owners and enthusiasts connect with each other, share herd genetics, or collaborate on projects.”

The Conservancy additionally affords a aggressive microgrants program to all heritage livestock and poultry growers, together with horse and donkey breeders, to assist enhance their capability for breeding, elevating, and promoting animals. They additionally help homeowners in saving germplasm of worthwhile, uncommon bloodlines and people from breeds on the Conservation Priority List via reductions, networking, and different assets.

dartmoor ponyThe Dartmoor pony originates from southwestern England. They almost disappeared within the early 1900s however are actually estimated at 2,000-3,000 worldwide. Photo by Nicole Ciscato/Shutterstock

Some present analysis initiatives embody genetic research for Suffolk Punch, American Cream Draft horses, and Poitou donkeys, with the objective of uncovering genetic info that may assist information efforts to scale back the dangers of inbreeding and assist efficient conservation.

“The Livestock Conservancy is all about education, research, and networking of owners and breeders so that we can safeguard the future of important breeds,” Couch says. “Together with owners, breeders, and the equine community, we want to move the needle for each breed, and make a meaningful contribution to its long-term survival.”

A Word from the American Morgan Horse Association President

We need your readers to know America’s oldest breed, which started with the beginning of the colt referred to as Figure in 1789, is flourishing right now.

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Your article references the stock stored by The Livestock Conversancy when it states, “…fewer than 100 traditional Morgans—horses whose pedigrees are absent of outcrosses after 1930—were registered in 2016.” The accompanying desk additionally listed “Morgan (traditional)” amongst “Breeds Needing Conservation.” The time period “traditional” is a designation of the Livestock Conversancy, not of the Morgan Horse Registry. The time period “traditional” doesn’t describe a complete breed, it refers to particular bloodlines throughout the bigger breed. It is our expertise this statistic is commonly misconstrued by most people.

Last yr noticed 2,011 new registrations of purebred Morgans, up greater than 13 p.c from 2020. For comparability, this determine could be very near the variety of newly registered Arabians within the United States and considerably increased than new registrations of American Saddlebreds. More than 2,600 mares had been bred in 2021, a 9.4 p.c enhance from the earlier yr. There are as many as 70,000 residing Morgans. Breeding exercise is fueled by a wholesome demand for this versatile breed.

As the longtime recorder of purebred registrations, AMHA celebrates our distinctive breed, its bloodlines, colours, and the various disciplines wherein it performs. The Morgan horse is just not endangered.

C. A. “Tony” Lee III, President, American Morgan Horse Association


This article about saving endangered horse breeds appeared within the March 2022 concern of Horse Illustrated journal. Click right here to subscribe!

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