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Choctaw & Cherokee Horses at Blackjack Mountain

Bryant Rickman with white foalThe primary breeding herd of Choctaw, Cherokee, and Gilbert Jones strains of Colonial Spanish horses needs immediate help to ensure stable, long-term conservation. The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) is turning to you, our members, for help in this effort.

A combination of unique factors, including the loss of access to over a million acres of timberland and lack of alternate grazing lands has resulted in an immediate need to place horses. ALBC is working closely with Bryant and Darlene Rickman of Oklahoma. The Rickmans have been stewards of this important genetic treasure for decades.

Choctaw and Cherokee horses represent two unique strains of Colonial Spanish horses. The Rickman herd also includes the Gilbert Jones line of Colonial Spanish horses. The Choctaw and Cherokee horses are known for their mild temperaments and the Gilbert Jones line has made its mark as long-distance endurance horses. As with other Colonial Spanish horse strains, these horses are highly intelligent and delightfully people-oriented. They have excellent feet and are surefooted and hardy. The Jones strain is unique and important because the genetics of a number of now extinct strains were included in its development. It is founded on Choctaw breeding, and includes Cherokee, Kiowa, Chickasaw, Comanche, and Huasteca horses from the herd that produced the real-life “Hidalgo” as well as other horses.

Marjie Bender with Choctaw Horse ScottyGilbert Jones, the founder of the Jones line, was born in 1908 in Texas. By the 1950s he had put together a herd of what he considered to be the best Colonial Spanish horses. When he passed away in 2000, his herd, which ran free in the Kiamichi Mountains of Oklahoma, was passed to Bryant and Darlene Rickman.

ALBC staff members Marjorie Bender and Jeannette Beranger traveled to Oklahoma to identify, document, and pedigree over 300 of the horses. Board member Jamie McConnell and his wife, Mary, who are new Choctaw and Cherokee breeders, joined them. ALBC’s Technical Advisor, Phil Sponenberg, used the documentation to identify those animals of greatest genetic importance and recommended a breeding plan that would ensure genetic diversity is not lost. Phil has been working with the Rickmans on the conservation of this herd for approximately 30 years. The entire ALBC team is now working closely with the Rickmans to implement this plan.

Choctaw Paint ponyThe Choctaw and Cherokee strains are seriously endangered. There are fewer than 200 horses and less than a dozen breeders. The foundation herd is held by the Rickmans. Six to ten breeders are needed to take on specific breeding groups of three to five horses, including a stallion.

There are many Gilbert Jones line breeders so the situation for these horses is not as critical, but the number of horses on the Rickman's ranch must be reduced to save the valuable breeding animals that will remain in the Rickman's experienced hands.

ALBC is looking to its membership to find individuals who are interested in helping and willing to become long-term stewards for these horses. Commitment should not be entered into lightly – this is an important genetic treasure that needs to be maintained. Only committed individuals who are prepared to breed and promote these horses for decades should consider acquiring breeding herds. People able to commit to this level of support must also be willing to see that these horses are passed to the next generation of stewards when the time comes for dispersal.

In addition, many horses need homes. There are a number of extra stallions that can be gelded and trained immediately, and many yearlings whose genetics are well-represented within the herd that will make fine riding horses after a couple years of growth. These horses may go to individuals looking for saddle horses. This is still a significant commitment, as horses are known to live 20-30 years.

The horses are available at a reasonable cost, though you should also consider transportation costs in your planning.

ALBC’s work on this conservation effort is not finished. There are a number of support-related efforts ALBC will need to perform. For those unable to take on horses, ALBC welcomes your financial support for this and other rescue efforts.

If you are able and willing to help with this conservation effort, please contact the ALBC office as soon as possible at: ALBC, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312, (919) 542-5704, or email albc@albc-usa.org. For more information about the horses, contact Bryant & Darlene Rickman, (580) 326-6005; Byrant Rickman on his cell phone, (580) 743-1991 ; Sisty Monroe, sistymonroe@aol.com or (580) 326-8069.


More information about Choctaw and Cherokee Horses:

More information: :

The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, PO Box 477, Pittsboro, NC 27312, (919) 542-5704, albc@albc-usa.org, www.albc-usa.org

Horse of the Americas, 129 West Stage Coach Trail, Inverness, FL   34452, (352) 637-5775, email sacredhorseranch@yahoo.com, www.horseoftheamericas.com

Southwest Spanish Mustang Association, Bryant Rickman, PO Box 948, Antlers, OK 74523, (580) 326-8069, (580) 326-6005, sisty@arbuckleonline.com, sistymonroe@aol.com, www.southwestspanishmustangassociation.com