Strong Breeding Colonial Spanish Horses

When I start thinking about how to register and document the offspring of a Baca-bred Spanish Colonial colt bred to the mares here in New Mexico, the options are such a confusing tangle that I am tempted to start a New Mexico-bred Colonial Spanish Horse Registry. Since the New Mexican State legislators gave Jyot Baca a commendation for his efforts to preserve Colonial Spanish horses, a NM-based registry might help bring greatly needed awareness and appreciation to the horse culture of Northern New Mexico.

My idea of a New Mexico based Colonial Spanish horse registry would basically encourage strong breeding of Colonial Spanish horses from New Mexico. Strong breeding is a term dog breeders are beginning to promote. Regardless of the breed, the percentage of purebred dogs that have a genetically determined disease has been escalating. Perhaps because dogs reproduce so quickly, the perils of inbreeding in general and inbreeding for specific traits in particular have become all too apparent among purebred dogs. So, much like the burgeoning Sport horse and Warm-blood registries, some dog breeders have set out to maintain open registries.

To most Colonial Spanish Horse fanciers, an open registry means just any old horse can be registered. But strong-breeding instead of pure-breeding boils down to allowing new blood to be integrated into a breeding population in order to minimize the long-term risk of genetic defects from inbreeding while making sure to recognize individuals that exemplify the desired type. Insisting on biomechanically Square and Rectangular horses would just add objective criteria to the three main requirements Colonial Spanish Horse fanciers already share.

  1. Genotype turns out not give simple yes/no answers. Looking at DNA and genetic markers often opens up more questions than it solves (click here). However, DNA testing can indicate if a horse herd has a consistent genetic footprint, and if so, what that genetic footprint might tell us about the people associated with those horses and how they came to be where they are.
  2. A breeding population of Colonial Spanish horses should have a history that relates to the movement of Colonial Spanish horses from Europe through the Americas. While the history of a group of horses may be the most straightforward characteristic, it is also unique to the particular location and people. Differing historical footprints of different bloodlines have been a major factor in the fragmentation of the Colonial Spanish horse registries in the past.
  3. Most Colonial Spanish horse registries generally expect their horses to be stocky, close-coupled clean-limbed sound-hooved horses of about 14hh with a full flowing mane and tail. Many of their horses show the 90o angle at the shoulder and hip, offering definitive evidence that there has not been any significant influence from trotters (harness or draft type) horses (click here).

Selecting for individuals with a distinctive and objective phenotype from all the available stock would allow breeders to maintain both sufficient genetic diversity and the unique phenotype of the Colonial Spanish horse. Breeding for consistency in biomechanics and ability under saddle means that breeders and horseman can do as horsemen have down thorough out the ages- seek out and perpetuate the best horses they can find, where ever they can find them.

I would even get carried away enough to note ‘square’ and ‘rectangular’ biomechanics on the registration papers. Colts with open angles at the hip and shoulder would have to be gelded in order to receive papers. Offspring from mares with open angles at the hip shoulder would not be eligible for registration. Hopefully that would inspire breeders to take care in their breeding programs without discouraging them from registering their horses.

Then a NMCSH registry could be open to horses from the Spanish Mustang Registry, since most of them show the 90o angle at the hip and shoulder. Their founding stallions include at least these Northern New Mexico bloodlines:

  • Monty from the horses Monty Holbrook captured in what is now the Bookcliff wilderness area in the Four Corners area.
  • Santo Domingo from the horses running near the pueblo of the same name ,
  • Scarface from the Romero/McKinley line that ran between Los Lunas and Grants for centuries, 
  • Cedro  from Jyot Baca’s stock who came off the Manzano Mountains

And a NMCSH registry could also be open to horses from the Spanish Barb Horse Registry, since most of them show the 90o angle at the hip and shoulder. Their founding bloodlines include offspring from:

  • Monty Holbrook’s horses captured in what is now the Bookcliff wilderness area in the Four Corners area.
  • Santo Domingo from the horses running near the pueblo of the same name ,
  • Scarface and a handful of mares from the Romero/McKinley line that ran between Los Lunas and Grants for centuries, 

And a NMSSH registry could also be open to horses from the Southwest Spanish Mustang Registry, since most of them show the 90o angle at the hip and shoulder. Gilbert Jones was based in Tijeras for a number of years and he ended up with at least these New Mexican bloodlines:

  • Cedro, a chestnut stallion Emmet Brislawn bought from Jyot Baca’s stock who came off the Manzano Mountains
  • Ute, from Monty Holbrook’s horses captured in what is now the Bookcliff wilderness area in the Four Corners area.
  • Sioux Chief, by Santo Domingo from the horses running near the pueblo of the same name

And a NMCSH registry could also be open to horses from the American Indian Horse Registry, as long as they descend from NNM bloodlines and they show the 90o angle at the hip and shoulder. While the American Indian Horse registry registers a broad group of horses, that policy allows individual breeders to focus on bloodlines that they admire.

  • That includes the Jyot Baca bred horses as well as all of the above

Personally, I owe a debt to the truly Square Horse. I would not be either the person or the rider that I am if it were not for the generosity and abilities of the Square Horse. Mine taught me how to ride with my horses not against them, and from there I learned to relate to the world constructively (click here).

So I consider Square horses of any bloodline to be rare jewels indeed. I am convinced that they should be recognized and treasured wherever they may be found. So I would have to include a Square Horse exemption.

Besides, when I was planning my breeding program in the 1970’s, I learned that it generally takes five to seven generations for a horse-breeding establishment to establish a distinct type. And, just about the time breeders can see that their type is established is exactly when they most need to be willing to bring in outside blood that exemplifies the qualities they value to reduce the risk of consolidating undesired recessive traits.

The small populations of Spanish Colonial horses are already suffering from inbreeding. And the free roaming Spanish Colonial horses on public lands are at risk. So an NMSCH registry would have to offer those horses as much refuge and support as possible.

As far as outcrosses go, the Portuguese Lusitano is the only breed I know of that includes the most salient and obvious characteristics of the Square horse in their breed descriptions. And while North African horses vary as much in type as horses on any continent, there are a few sources of Square Maghreb Barbs. Both breeds descend from the same horses as our Spanish Colonial horses.

Once there is an objective criteria for type and genetic diversity is a priority, it would make sense to register genuinely Square foals. As long as their offspring have the 90o angle at the hip and shoulder, they would be great additions to the Spanish Colonial breeding stock.

 If their offspring do not have the 90o angles, they will likely make someone a good riding horse. But they would not be appropriate breeding stock for the NMSCH registry. And that is the key point of contention in strong-breeding instead of pure-breeding programs. Maintaining sufficient genetic diversity means that some individuals will vary from the desired type. Conscientious breeders have to be willing to take that risk.

They need to be able and willing judge the value of each individual offspring to their breeding program. And they have to be able to think in terms of producing generations of horses. So registering Square horses and their offspring would have to be on a case-by-case basis.

My problems would be solved if there was a registry open to free-roaming Colonial Spanish type horses found in New Mexico as well as registered horses from recognized NNM Colonial Spanish bloodlines. Unfortunately, while I am great seeing the bigger picture, with problem solving and at hashing out the details of establishing a long-term plan, I am a terrible bureaucrat. And while I get along with horses fine, those skill do not necessarily translate to handling humans. In fact, sometime back one of my sisters informed me that what she hated most about me was that I treated everybody like they were horses.

Paperwork and people handling are two vital skills for any horse registry to succeed, so I have to admit that putting this whole plan into practice would require people with better bureaucratic and people skills than me.

2 thoughts on “Strong Breeding Colonial Spanish Horses

    • You might try Kay Hughes. She is up in Nebraska, but she and TR got a goodly number of their horses from Weldon McKinley. T. R. gave a number of his SC horses to the Cheyenne peoples, and other Plains Indian tribes. So there should be some running on Indian lands in the plains.

      There were also a number of people who took the remaining Romero/McKinley horses when Weldon’s son decided to clear them off and turn the ranch into a nuclear waste dump in the 90’s. Some of the horses that were taken off the White Sand Missile range some time in the 2000’s also came from the Romero/ McKinley stock Weldon had running on land near Carrizozo just north of the military preserve. Unfortunately most of those horses were not registered, and so tracking them down can be difficult. But if you can find any of them, I would do what I can to help you make sure they are recognized and appreciated.

      It is my and their misfortune that I was deathly ill in the 90’s and unable to fight for the horses the way they deserved. The horses from my breeding program are scattered through NNM. There was not a planned breeding program after I had to focus on my health, but many of the Spanish Colonial horses are line bred to the Romero/McKinley horses. But some were registered with the SMA, some with the SBHA and some were not registered at all, which makes it hard to track them down.

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