Opinion

A horse with history

Pardon us if we had never heard of the Marsh Tacky before learning that it might become the official state horse.

But now that we've learned more about this plucky little horse and about state Rep. Gary Simrill's attempt to make it the official horse of South Carolina, we're all excited. While the horse is small, it looms large in South Carolina history.

Simrill, R-Rock Hill, is no stranger to a campaign like this. Last year, he was almost single-handedly responsible for convincing his legislative colleagues to name the boiled peanut the official state snack.

It was such an obvious choice, it makes us wonder why the state didn't honor the boiled peanut long ago. The same might be said about the Marsh Tacky.

The name "Tacky" derives from the English word for "cheap" or "common." And, by all accounts, Marsh Tackies were exceptionally common in the swampy, marshy Lowcountry regions of the state.

They also played a significant role in two wars. Gen. Francis Marion, the legendary "Swamp Fox" of the Revolutionary War, and his men rode Marsh Tackies on their raids against the British. Equine historians say the nimble, sure-footed horses gave the rebels a big advantage in the marshy areas.

Marsh Tackies were still numerous when the Civil War began, and many Confederate soldiers, who often brought their horses from home, were mounted on Marsh Tackies when they rode into battle.

Fanciers of the breed, which arrived on the continent during Spanish colonial days, say the horses have been here for 500 years. Unfortunately, their numbers have dwindled over time. Few pure Marsh Tackies still exist, and only one known herd is being carefully preserved.

While supporters of other breeds might fight giving the Marsh Tackie the designation of "official state horse," those championing the idea make a good case for it. After all, if it's endorsed by the Swamp Fox, what more do you need?

Simrill no doubt faced opposition from those who questioned whether the boiled peanut deserved to be the state snack, who might even have suggested that the much-vaunted snack tastes a lot like salty beans. But Simrill prevailed in that quest, and we salute him.

We wish him equal success in his battle to designate the Marsh Tacky as the state horse. A horse that carried South Carolinians into battle in two wars -- and a lot of other places between wars -- deserves a position of honor in the state's pantheon.

And, of course, we eagerly await Simrill's next battle to get something labeled the official state ... whatever.

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