One of South Carolina’s best kept secrets is the Marsh Tacky, but word is getting around about these sturdy little horses that have no quit in their anatomy. The critically endangered breed has received quite a bit of attention in the past seven years, including being named South Carolina’s State Heritage Horse.
The Marsh Tacky’s bloodlines can be traced back to the Spanish Colonial horses that arrived with the early settlers of America in the 1500s. Small bands of wild horses spawning from these early settlements survived for hundreds of years foraging on the coastal plains of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
Marsh Tackies played a significant role in South Carolina’s history as they were culled from these roaming herds and became the main workhorse for the people who lived in the coastal lowlands. They plowed the fields, carried the men on hunts and drove the family to town. Historical records from the American Revolutionary War have made note of the “Tacky” horse being used by the famous Revolutionary General Francis “Swampfox” Marion. His militia rode swift, sure-footed horses that easily eluded the British Calvary in the swamps and marshes of South Carolina. Notable naturalist John James Audobon in the 1800s mentioned Tackies in his field journals, describing them “tough as pine knots.”
Today, Tackies are still being used in the swamps for hog hunting, as well as deer hunting. They make great trail horses or can be refined for the show ring.
The average height for a Marsh Tacky is 14.2 hands, but what they lack in size they make up for with big hearts and sensible minds. Marsh Tackies exhibit strength and athleticism comparable to a well-bred Quarter Horse.
Thanks to long-time dedicated breeders and owners, this endangered breed has managed to survive and make a comeback. The breed’s numbers had dwindled down to less than 100, but there are now more than 300 listed in the Carolina Marsh Tacky Registry. As word spreads about this gritty little horse, more people are wanting to own a piece of South Carolina history and support this breed’s survival.
Learn more about the Marsh Tacky Association