The European Norman-Icelandic-Spanish (Gaited) American
by Doug Hamilton
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            Some time ago I took a load of my Icelandic horses over to my farrier?s place to get them shod.  When I walked into the farrier's shed, a horse was already there being shod who was a spitting copy of my own Icelandic stallion, Sorli fra Bulandi.  I just stood there blinking and I walked around and around that horse. This horse being shod was also a stallion and it was the the carbon copy of my own stallion which I had in my horse trailer outside.  Then too, they both are replicas of the, ;"Charlemagne" Bronze Horse Statue of the yr. ca. 870 AD.
            I sat down and looked at this horse for a while.  The owners  were real horsemen and it turned out they were not at all going to part with that horse.  Well actually, that horse is currently the four years in a row National High Mileage Champion endurance race horse of North America.  It is a Spanish Mustang of old breeding. 
            I just knew from looking that this horse was gaited like my own.  In talking with the owners, they confirmed that this horse did break over into a 'different' gait.  At that point I was nearly fit to be tied.  I was dying to ride this horse but then we went in different directions and that was about as much as I thought about it...
            Until I thought back to an autobiography of General US Grant, written in the 19th Century.    
From the Personal Memoirs of U.S.Grant :
            "Between the Rio Grande and the Nueces there was at that time a large band of wild horses feeding: as numerous, probably , as the band of buffalo roaming further North was before its rapid extermination commenced.  The Mexicans used to capture these in large numbers and bring them into the American settlements and sell them.  A picked animal could be purchased at from eight to twelve dollars, but taken at wholesale, they could be bought for thirty-six dollars a dozen.  Some of these were purchased for the army, and answered a most useful purpose.  The horses were generally very strong, formed much like the Norman horse, and with very heavy manes and tails.  A number of officers supplied themselves with these, and they generally rendered as useful service as the northern animal; in fact they were much better when grazing was the only means of supplying forage."
( Doug writing: Like, 'the Norman horse'?  Wow, does this horse sound like a race of horse we know?  Of: European Norman-Icelandic-Spanish ancestry??)
Grant Continuing:     ";A few days out from Corpus Christi, the immense herd of wild horses that ranged at that time between the Nueces and the Rio Grande was seen directly in advance of the head of the column and but a few miles off.  It was the very band from which the horse I was riding had been captured but a few weeks before.  The column was halted for a rest, and a number of officers, myself among them, rode out two or three miles to the right to see the extent of the herd.  The country was a rolling prairie, and , from the higher ground, the vision was obstructed only by the earth?s curvature.  As far as the eye could reach to our right, the herd extended.  To the left, it extended equally.  There was no estimating the number of animals in it: I have no idea that they could all have been corralled in the State of Rhode   Island, or Delaware, at one time.  If they had been, they would have been so thick the pasturage would have given out the first day.  People who saw the Southern herd of buffalo, fifteen or twenty years ago, can appreciate the size of the Texas band of wild horses in 1846."
            Grant: All the officers of foot regiments who had horses were permitted to ride them on the march when it did not interfere with their military duties...
            My company commander... was quite anxious to know whether I did not intend to get me another horse before the march began.  ...  ?There, Grant, is a horse for you?  He had found a mustang, a three-year-old colt only recently captured, which had been purchased by one of the colaored servants with the regiment for the sum of three dollars.  It was probably the only horse at Corpus Christi that could have been purchased just then for any reasonable price.  ...  I saw the Captain?s earnestness in the matter, and accepted the horse for the trip.  The day we started was the first time the horse had ever been under saddle.  I had, however, but little difficulty in breaking him, though for the first day there were frequent disagreements between us as to which way we should go, and sometimes whether we should go at all.  At no time during the day could I choose exactly the part of the column I would march with: but after that, I had a tractable a horse as any with the army, and there was none that stood the trip better.  He never ate a mouthful of food on the journey except the grass he could pick within the length of his picket rope.  >>
            Doug writing:  These passages excerpted are from the chapters in his memoirs chronicling the movement of the US national army through Texas down into Mexico during the US Mexican war of the 1840 period. 
            Years later during the Civil War (US war of the rebellion), US Grant rode a small gaited horse as the horse he really used to commute about as General of the national troops.  Grant acquired during the war years several really splendid horses, big chargers, but the horse that was his real 'utility ride' was a little gaited horse that his troops had captured during the Vicksburg campaign and presented to him.
             During that campaign of hard movements and marching, Grant had developed a boil on his leg which pained him a lot to ride with.  The troops when they discovered this particular small gaited horse turned it over to him for his use to move around his armies instead of his big war chargers.  This gaited horse stayed with him for the duration of the war and was kept by Grant in his retirement afterwards. 
See picture of US Grant's gaited horse, Jeff Davis:
            In ways the Icelandic horse is a living artifact of the medieval horse, as a family.  Now, while the gaited horse of US Grant's was not directly of Icelandic blood, but by example it does make one wonder generally about the more direct Norman-Spanish influence on the American horse back only in the 19th Century, if not in the 18th, 17th or 16th.
            However, by way, the Icelandic branch of the connection we can simply see in the Charlamegne statue of the 9th Century today.  Welcome to America!
Kind regards,
Doug Hamilton
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