What was life like for the explorers who gave Florida its name? Horseback, for one. We take you back to Florida’s wild roots here at Forever Florida, and our horses are a big part of that tradition. When you sign up for our afternoon or overnight horseback adventures, you’re also signing up to create an unforgettable memory with one of our beautiful and historic Florida Cracker Horses. But what exactly is this breed, and why do these particular horses have such strong ties to Florida? Before you immerse yourself in our uniquely Floridian park, let’s learn a little more about the horses that call it home.
Here are some of our favorite facts about the Florida Cracker Horse, a small, lively breed that’s both beautiful and rare:
Hails from Herds of 16th Century Spanish Horses
The Florida Cracker Horse is the modern-day descendant of several Spanish breeds, and they all came to Florida’s shores in the 1500’s. That’s when Spanish explorers and colonists brought Iberian breeds like the Spanish Mustang, North African Barb, Spanish Jennet, Peruvian, Andalusian, and Paso Fino to the “New World”. Settlers used these horses, the first livestock in Florida, to establish colonies throughout our peninsula and the rest of the South.
Eventually, these horses were vastly outnumbered by larger breeds, but some rare Spanish horses survived into the 1800’s. After the horses spent centuries grazing alongside cows and riding with Native American tribes, ranchers began to help re-establish the breed by taming the wild horses to help on their cattle ranches. Today, breeders, ranchers, and conservationists are working to preserve the bloodline and keep the Cracker horse population alive and strong.
Known for Patience and Extreme Endurance
Our Florida Cracker Horses are magnificent for many reasons, but their endurance and hardiness are some of their most impressive traits. Though these smaller horses evolved to withstand the Florida climate and terrain, they can also endure Rocky Mountain hikes and last long days and nights without extra care. These horses, after all, were always valued for their toughness; they could handle unruly Spanish cattle, and help Seminole tribes travel through the hot wilderness.
Today, as ranchers turn to other ways to herd and contain cattle, the Florida Cracker Horses are still prized for their ability to withstand harsh weather and long workdays. A few ranching families continue to breed and use Florida Cracker Horses, keeping the breed and its long history alive for future generations.
They Go By Many Different Names
The Florida Cracker Horse has a long, rich history here in the South, so it’s no surprise that it’s gone through a few different names through the years. Its current name comes from the cracks that cattle ranchers whipped while riding these comfortable “ponies”. This endangered breed isn’t as well-known as other horses that are native to the state, but you may have heard a different version of its name without realizing it.
Here are a few of the horse breeds that are actually other names for the Florida Cracker Horse:
- The Seminole
- Grass Gut
- Seminole Pony
- Florida Horse
- Marsh Tacky
- Prairie Pony
- Florida Cow Pony
- Heritage Horse
- Chickasaw Pony
Have you heard of any of these horses? If so, you were familiar with Florida Cracker Horses all along. These small, agile horses go by many names, but many are related to the agility and small size that made them so useful to early Floridians.
Voted Florida’s Official State Heritage Horse
The Florida Cracker Horse is so rare and important, it’s actually the State of Florida’s official State Heritage Horse! In May of 2008, lawmakers agreed to give the breed this important designation, which shows how important it is to the history and heritage of our state. Settlers and ranchers have depended on the Florida Cracker Horse for centuries, first to establish Spanish colonies and then to establish ranches throughout the South, and it’s only natural that this endangered breed would receive this honor from the state.
Are you interested in meeting a Florida Cracker Horse and immersing yourself in other parts of central Florida’s wild history? At Forever Florida, it’s still possible to experience acres of untamed Florida fauna and flora, including historic and unspoiled lands that look a lot like they did in the 1500’s. Call us today to learn more about our authentic and adrenaline-pumping Floridian adventures.