Saturday, June 12, 2021 (June’s full [“Strawberry”] moon rises in 12 days, on the 24th.)
The header photo, from the Oregon HIstorical Society Research Library, shows Nancy Wak Wak, a Nez Pierce, on an Appaloosa in 1937.
After visiting my friend Noell’s Appy babies this week, and hearing about her breeding program, I wanted to know more about Appaloosas. To my surprise, the breed is tied very closely to Oregon’s history.
The first documented reports of horses in Oregon are from Lewis and Clark, who recorded having seen spotted horses, similar to today’s Appaloosas, among the Nez Perce Tribe. The Nez Pierce, with winter quarters in Eastern Oregon’s Wallowa Valley, originally bred these horses in the mid-to-late eighteenth century, from varieties of Spanish horses traded into the Northwest. The Nez Perce valued equine intelligence, temperament, sure-footedness, endurance, and speed.
The Nez Perce area, at the time of Lewis and Clark, was approximately 17,000,000 acres, covering parts of Washington, Oregon, Montana and Idaho. Their tribal horses had to negotiate treacherous trails, from Oregon’s winter quarters, through the Rockies, to summer encampments on the Plains. The horses had to be fast enough for a hunter to catch a bison, and smooth-gaited enough in full-gallop for a hunter to fire accurately.
The original Nez Pierce Appys almost disappeared after the 1875 Nez Perce War, when the U.S. military confiscated the Tribe’s herds. A few of the breed survived, and in the 1930s, eastern Oregon horse breeders began working to revive the Nez Pierce Appaloosa.
The modern Appaloosa is a distinctive and valued American breed. Today’s Nez Perce Tribal members and non-tribal horse ranchers continue to re-develop the breed’s prized traits. It’s a history that makes more significant little Asher, Noell’s month-old colt.
He’s spoken for and after weaning will go to Texas. There he’ll become a foundation stallion in a young Appaloosa breeding program.
There’s an annual Chief Joseph Trail Ride that starts in Joseph, Oregon. It’s one of the longest-running historic rides (about one hundred miles) in the United States. The Appaloosa Horse Club began hosting it in 1965, it retraces the 1877 route of Chief Joseph and his people, fleeing capture by the U.S. Cavalry. Every rider participating in this annual event must be on an Appaloosa.
This powerful painting from 1982 is by Howard Terpning, entitled, “Chief Joseph Rides to Surrender”.
Dear Friends: In America’s cultural history, Appaloosas have been intertwined and essential. Diana