In the early 1500s, many Spaniards came over to explore the New World, taking horses with them. A man named Ponce de Leon brought African Barbs with some Spanish blood in them to what is now Florida, making several breeding stations throughout the state.
As their numbers grew, many of the horses escaped and formed large, wild herds across the state of Florida. The Seminole tribe, who lived in the area, captured some of these horses, but others were allowed to roaming free, natural selection choosing who would breed the next generation.
More settlers arrived in the 1700s, also capturing the horses, which they used in their cattle ranches, snapping bullwhips as they rode. Eventually, the breed was identified by the cracking sound of the whip, hence the name, "Florida Cracker Horse."
|Florida Cracker Horses are light and nimble.|
The first blow to the popularity of the Crackers happened in the early 1900s, when tractors and other machines started to appear, making farm work much easier. The Crackers took another blow in the '30s, when screwworms began infecting herds of cattle. In order to rope the cattle to administer medication, ranchers needed the stronger Quarter Horses.
In 1989, a group of people who loved the Cracker horse formed the Florida Cracker Horse Association. They planned to search for the remaining Crackers and create a herd and a registry. At first, only 31 horses were registered, but today, through the efforts of several families, who have bred them for their own use, that number has grown to 800.
On May 2, 2008, the Florida Cracker, also known as the Florida Marsh Tacky was voted Florida's state heritage horse.
Breed Description and Uses
Though the Cracker is not a pony, it stands a minimum of 13.2 hands and a maximum of 15 hands. The breed has wide-set, intelligent eyes; a nice neck, short back, sloping croup, and slender legs. Many Crackers are gaited and can do the flatfoot walk, running walk, and amble. They come in all solid colors, with greys being most common.
Today, Crackers are often used for endurance racing, pleasure, and ranching activities, such as cow sorting.