History of the Choctaw Horse
In the 16th century the finest horses in the world were the Spanish horses. They were a mixture of Barb, Arabian and Andalusian blood. These horses arrived in this hemisphere with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493 and were indispensable to the Spanish conquest. Cortes himself declared “We owe our victory to God and the Horses.”
The Spaniards established breeding farms in the Caribbean and then on the mainland with a string of missions. The demand for horses was so strong that Andalucian horses flooded into the Americas until the King of Spain was forced to limit and tax their exportation.
From the chain of missions the Spanish established across the southeast, they introduced horses as well as other livestock and plantation based agriculture. The Southeastern Indians who became known as the Five Civilized Tribes (Choctaw, Cherokee, Creek, Chickasaw, & Seminole) were excellent breeders and selected with attention and care. Each tribe developed its lines with care to their own interests and needs. The Choctaw had extensive trade networks with tribes located in western regions and acquired some horses from western lines as well. Choctaw horses were known for their high quality and were mentioned in travel journals, missionary writings and military reports of the era.
Though the dramatic images of Plains Indians on horses dominate the American imagination and the history of the southeast horses has been submerged, the horse was a significant factor in the spiritual, social, and economic life of the Southeastern Indians. At birth, a Choctaw child received a horse, a cow and a hog to ensure that upon adulthood they would have herds of their own. Children began to ride when they were too large for their mothers to carry and were secured onto the saddle of a Choctaw pony. Horsemanship was among the first lessons ever learned and the gentleness of the Choctaw horses was renowned.
During their forced removal from their homelands in the 1830’s the Choctaw were known to have taken several thousand horses west to what is now Oklahoma with them. What became known as the Trail of Tears was a test of endurance for both the Choctaw and Cherokee and for their horses. The horses that survived are stronger than ever because of the relentless demands of making that journey.
Choctaw and Cherokee families continued to breed their horses in Oklahoma and ran them on open range. The major families associated with the horses are the Lockes, Brame, Crisp, Self, Helms, Thurman and Carter Families. Their horses were known for their endurance, speed, gentleness and smooth gaits.
The Whitmire/ Corntassle family of Cherokee lineage also produced a line of horses with pedigrees that predate their removal from Georgia in 1835. The pedigrees were kept from the female line and occasionally outside stallions were introduced from Choctaw, Comanche or Huasteca breeding. Known for their flashy colors and patterns and kind dispositions, many are gaited.
In the late 19 century, the American government in an attempt to subdue the Indians slaughtered their horses. Many military reports suggest that their own horses were no match to those bred by the Indians. Yet pockets survived and were gathered together by breeders. Registries were started…