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Tiger Horse
North America

Breed Organization Information

Tiger Horse Association, Inc.
1604 Fescue Circle
Huddleston, VA 24104
Tel: (540) 297-2276
[email protected]

About the Breed

In 1991, two individuals, brought together by chance and the desire to learn of the origins of the four beat gait in their Appaloosas, began what turned into three years of intensive research into the real history behind their horses. Their research lead to information that directly contradicted the accepted Appaloosa history and suggested the past existence of a gaited horse with the color patterns today associated with the Appaloosa breed. The Spanish had referred to this horse type as Caballo Tigre or Tiger Horses because of their wild color patterns. The extinct Spanish Jennet was most likely the ancestor of this breed with its easy four-beat gait and tendency for elaborate coloring, which was quite popular for a time in Europe. By the time of the English colonization of the New World, however, the Tiger patterned horses had begun to lose favor in the face of the influence of the English Thoroughbred, and many Tiger Horses were exported to the Canadian colonies as trade goods.

The Native Americans tribes of North America quickly adapted to life with horses. For them the elaborately patterned horses became dearly loved and prized. Their devotion to these horse helped to preserve the Tiger type horse. The Ni Mee Poo (Nez Perce) Tribe of the Pacific Northwest has been singled out and erroneously credited with developing the spotted horses found so frequently in the Northwest.

The Ni Mee Poo themselves, however deny that they developed this breed, but they did love them and traded to acquire them whenever possible. Tigers figured strongly into their breeding programs, which were perhaps the finest of any of the Native American Tribes. Not only did they acquire Tiger horses from Canadian traders, but Tribal oral history also tells of special stallions bought from Russian traders, which were pushed off boats, and swum ashore by tribesmen. Some have felt that because these horses were obtained from Russian traders, they must have originated in Russia. Extensive research by historical experts has shown no evidence of Russian importation of any livestock. It is much more likely that these “Ghostwind” horses were pure Spanish, obtained by the Russians from the Spanish in California, where the Russians established farms. Thus, the breeding programs of the Ni Mee Poo were heavily influenced by the blood of the horse “Most worthy of being mounted by a Great King.”

The excellence of the Ni Mee Poo horses, due to the Spanish influence, is recorded in the journal of Merriweather Lewis, written during the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Lewis wrote: “Some of those horses are seen with large spots of white irregularly scattered and intermixed with the black, brown, bay or some other dark color, but much the larger portion are of a uniform color with stars, snips, and white feet, or in this respect marked much like our best blooded horses in Virginia, which they resemble as well in fleetness and bottom as in form and color.”

It must be remembered that at the time of the Lewis and Clark expedition, there was still a strong influence in the colonies of the British Hobby, and the Narragansett pacer was quite popular. Both these well known breeds had a strong Spanish Jennet influence, so it is no wonder that Lewis, himself a horse breeder, recognized the quality of the Ni Mee Poo herds.

One of the most notable traits retained by Tiger Horses was the ability to perform an intermediate four-beat gait, or, as it became known later, the “Indian Shuffle”. This comfortable riding gait was so much easier on horse, rider and equipment that cowboys would pay as much as $50.00 more for a “Shuffler”, and this at a time when a good broke cowpony would go for around $30.00.

In 1877, war between the Ni Mee Poo and the U.S Army brought the conquest and relocation of the Tribe, and the nearly total dispersal of their huge herds of horses. Many of the Tiger type horses were still to be found in the Pacific Northwest, due to the fact that they had been well distributed among the Native American Tribes by trade, and some ranchers either owned some, or held portions of the Ni Mee Poo herds against the eventual return of their rightful owners. In 1938, Claude Thompson, an Oregon farmer established a registry to preserve the spotted horses believed to have been developed by the Ni Mee Poo. While the credit for development of these horses was misplaced, the founding of the Appaloosa Horse Club did bring attention to these horses, and prevented their total extinction. Unfortunately, the ApHC embarked on crossbreeding programs, using Arabian, Thoroughbred, and Quarter Horse bloodlines, which have all but eliminated the original characteristics from the Tiger Horse. There have remained, however, pockets of the original type in Canada, remote areas of the Pacific Northwest, and in those herds held in trust by ranch families for the Ni Mee Poo. In addition there have always been breeders who adhered to “Foundation” breeding, and have regularly produced horses of the ancient Spanish type and four beat gaits.

In 1994, the Tiger Horse Association was launched to find, preserve and perpetuate what was left of the ancient Tiger type horses. The first four years were difficult, including many personal setbacks for the original Directors, and the breaking away of a former member who established the unaffiliated Tiger Horse Registry. Despite the setbacks, the dedication of Tiger Horse aficionados was firm. In 1998, the Tiger Horse Association incorporated and is now poised to launch an all out campaign to find and register as many horses that still resemble the ancient type as possible, to ensure their survival into the 21st century.

In order to understand exactly what should be looked for, a comprehensive breed standard was developed with the invaluable assistance of such experts as Dr. D. Phillip Sponenberg, Deb Bennet, Ph. D., as well as many members of the Ni Mee Poo Tribe who contributed oral history to the research. Dr. Gus Cothran and the University of Kentucky is doing the DNA. work for the association to assure the proper parentage records and the genetic health of the Tiger Horse Breed as well as charting the advances made toward the establishment of a true breed.

As base foundation stock, the Tiger Horse Association Inc., is actively seeking all horses which display the Tiger Horse characteristics of Leopard Complex (Appaloosa) color patterns, an even four beat intermediate gait, and at least some Spanish conformation characteristics. These horses can come from the Appaloosa breed, Spanish Mustang, any of the Paso Breeds, Native American herds, wild horse herds, or some of the less well known Spanish based breeds, such as the Florida Cracker Horse. In order to be considered for foundation registration, a video clearly showing the Tiger Horse characteristics and the four beat gait of the horse, and a completed registration application, must be submitted to the Tiger Horse Association Inc., for consideration by the board of directors and the advisers. All Foundation breeding stock must be blood typed. Once a horse is accepted for registration they are eligible to participate in the “Tiger in you Tack” awards program. A Tiger Horse may achieve a Certificate of Merit for accruing 100 points in a Category, and a horse which achieves 100 points in the Model Category, 100 points in the Road Gait Category and at least 100 points in any other Performance Categories, will earn a Permanent Championship. This system was put in place to assure that the Tiger Horse will always be what the Spanish and the Native Americans knew and loved, a superior, beautiful, working, travel horse!

All horses accepted for foundation registration will of course show the ideal combination of conformation, gait and color. The offspring of registered Tiger Horses may not all, however, show the color traits. These offspring are still fully registered Tiger Horses, but they will not be accepted in the Model Category, therefor they will not be eligible for a Permanent Championship. Thus, the Permanent Champion horses will be the ideal toward which all breeders can strive, after proving not only their color heritage, but their gaited working ability also. No horse, which does not clearly show an intermediate four beat gait, will be accepted for registration.

Due to the fact that the ability to gait has been actively bred out of the Leopard Complex horses, it is understood by the Tiger Horse Association Inc., that outside gaited blood must be brought in to strengthen the gaiting ability of Tiger Horses. The wholesale outcrossing which has been the downfall of so many other breeds, destroying the very characteristics the breed organizations were supposed to protect, will not be allowed by the Tiger Horse Association, Inc. All outcrossing will be one generation only. Foals from outcross breedings will have the letter O put at the end of their registration number. These O number horses must be bred back to a regular registered Tiger Horse or to another O number horse to produce a registered Tiger Horse. Any further outcrossing of O number horses will result in the offspring not being accepted for registration. Tiger Horse breeders who wish to use approved outcross horses, must submit an outcross approval form, and a video clearly showing the gait and color of the horse in question to the Tiger Horse Association Inc. for approval by the board of directors and advisors.

El Caballo Tigre has a long proud history which stretches back into the mists of antiquity in Spain, and, in the New World, changed the course of history for Native Americans. These smooth riding, colorful horses have come down to today in sheltered pockets almost unchanged, and the Tiger Horse Association Inc., exists to ensure that they will survive for future generations to enjoy.

Breed Characteristics
Official Breed Standard

General Impression: A colorful gaited light horse breed that is well balanced and sturdy with no extreme muscling.

Head: Ears of medium length, generally curved and notched, mobile and alert. Eyes, large and prominent with white sclera surrounding the iris which can give a surprised expression. Viewed from the front, the head should look lean, with no cheekiness. A broad flat forehead between widely spaced eyes should taper to a fine muzzle with large sensitive nostrils. Profile can be straight to slightly convex. The ideal profile should be an undulating Nato profile, in which the convex curve does not extend up between the eyes. Concave or dish profile is not typical or desirable, nor is an extremely Roman nose.

Neck: Should be set high, moderate to long, well balanced and blending smoothly into the wither. The neck of both sexes should be well arched with a clean throatlatch. Ewe neck, short straight neck or a neck set or carried too low to be properly raised and arched are serious faults. A jowly throatlatch is to be faulted.

Forehand: Withers should be well defined with a sloping shoulder. The ideal shoulder angle is 45 degrees. There should be a good depth of heartgirth and legs should be straight with a long, strong upper arm. The knees, set low, should be large, flat and shield shaped. Cannons should be short and dense. Viewed from the front, the chest is of medium width, frequently with a well defined V between the forelegs. Muscling of the forehand should be long and flat. Heavy, bunchy muscling of the chest, shoulder and upper arm is not acceptable. Extremely wide or narrow chest, “A frame” front, upright shoulder, buck or calf knees and toeing in or out are serious faults. Long cannons should be faulted.

Back: Short coupled and strong with a well muscled loin. Long weak back, insufficient muscling to the loin or any crookedness of the back are serious faults.

Hindquarters: Sloping croup should be level with the withers and the tail set low. Thigh is medium to long, with a well developed stifle, and gaskin of equal length. Hocks should be well let down with short dense cannons. Hocks in some individuals will have slightly more angle, and some will have a slight tendency to toe out in the rear. Extreme sickle hocks or cow hocks are serious faults. Viewed from behind, the horse’s thighs should be fairly flat and the hips should tend toward the “rafter” build. The hindquarters should be strongly muscled but it should be long, flat muscle. Heavy, bunchy muscling giving the appearance of the “apple” or “heart shaped” rear is not acceptable. Croup higher than withers, poorly muscled rear, weak stifles or hocks are serious faults. Long cannons should be faulted.

Legs: should be sturdy with dense substantial bone, clean with strong dry tendons and moderate, strong, flexible pasterns. Hooves dense, resilient, substantial and usually striped. Front hooves should roundish, rear ones are slightly smaller and more oval. Neither toes nor heels should be particularly long. Legs and hooves should not appear clumsy or drafty. Very fine or fragile legs and feet are not desirable. Extremely long and low pasterns or extremely short and upright pasterns are a serious fault.

Size: Ranges from 13 to 16 hands with 14 to 15.2 being most typical and desirable.

Weight: Can range from 700 to 1500 pounds.

Mane & Tail: Hair can range from nearly non-existent to extremely long and full, but should always be completely natural. Any artificial or surgical methods used to alter the natural set, carriage or movement of the tail is strictly forbidden. Tail docking is forbidden. While braiding, roaching, pulling and trimming of mane and tail hair is tolerated in horses which are being actively exhibited indisciplines which require such alterations, the practices are NOT encouraged, and will not be called for in Tiger Horse showing, including Model Category.

Temperament: Affectionate, gentle sensible with excellent learning capacity, and a great deal of heart. A controlled spirit and great sense of pride, often referred to by the Spanish as Brio, is common.

Gait: The Tiger Horse is primarily a gaited, working saddle horse which in addition to a walk and canter, must perform an even, natural intermediate four-beat gait. Evenness of gait and the ability to hold gait are very important. The athleticism, soundness and smoothness of the gaits are or great importance. All gaits should have good fluid movement with excellent reach and drive. Termino, while allowed, is not a sought-after characteristic, and when present must be carefully evaluated for soundness. All gaits must be totally natural. Any attempt to alter the horse’s natural way of going by altering the length and angles of the hooves, padding the hooves, weighting the feet in any manner, or inflicting deliberate pain on the horse is strictly forbidden. A horse which can only perform a trot or two-beat pace is not acceptable for registration.

Color: The Tiger Horse is a gaited breed with a color preference. Any base coat color (black, bay etc.) is acceptable. In the ideal Tiger Horse visible Tiger characteristics and coat pattern should be present. Characteristics include prominent white sclera around the iris of the eye, striped hooves, and parti-colored, or mottled skin. Common coat patterns include Leopard, Blanket, with or without spots, Roan, with or without spots, and Snowflake. A horse which does not exhibit any of the Tiger characteristics is not acceptable for foundation registration. No horse with the graying gene or pintado markings is acceptable for registration. Offspring of registered Tiger Horses which do not exhibit any of the Tiger characteristics, while fully registered for any performance or breeding purposes, are to be disqualified from the Model Categories.

Breed Organization
The Tiger Horse Association, Inc. exists to provide an organization to find whatever remnants are left of the type of horse known as a Tiger Horse, as described in the Official Breed Standard. To register and protect these individuals. To promote the Tiger Horse breed through whatever means available. To encourage the perpetuation of the breed. To offer an award program designed to recognize outstanding horses and to promote the versatility of Tiger Horses. To act as an information source for Tiger Horse Association members, and the general public to improve knowledge of the Tiger Horse Breed. The Tiger Horse Association Inc., is a not for profit organization.