- HEIGHT: 14.2–16 hands
- PLACE OF ORIGIN: Alabama
- SPECIAL QUALITIES: A gaited horse, specializing in the “McCurdy Lick,” a four-beat, single-footing gait; other gaits are the flat walk, the running walk, the natural rack, and the stepping pace
- BEST SUITED FOR: Trail and pleasure riding, following hunts, and field trials
Just after the Civil War, the McCurdy brothers of central Alabama operated a Standardbred breeding and racing farm. Their most famous trotting stallion was McCurdy’s Hambletonian (see Standardbred), but they owned several other top horses as well. In addition to racing horses, they needed dependable, durable, and comfortable horses for overseeing and working their land and for riding long distances. The two brothers and their father had adjoining plantations, and they frequently traveled back and forth between them. They used horses to plow, to pull buggies, to herd livestock, and to transport children to school. In their leisure time, the McCurdys liked to bird and fox-hunt on horseback. With generations of family experience breeding top horses, they knew how to select and cross horses to achieve their goal: extremely versatile horses that were easy to handle and willing and able to do whatever was asked of them.
The two brothers purchased a horse from Dr. Jim McClain, a gray stallion that came to be known as McCurdy’s Doctor. The McCurdy brothers crossed Doctor on some of the best plantation mares in central Alabama but never on any of their fine Standardbreds, which were trotters. The results were exactly what they were after: smooth-gaited, tractable, durable, versatile horses. Many were reported to have natural “cow sense.”
The McCurdy Plantation Horse is often used to view bird-dog field trials and for hill topping at foxhunts.
Gray is the most common color but bay, roan, and palomino also occur.
Kinship with Tennessee Walkers
When Tennessee Walking Horses were first developed in the late nineteenth century, they were known as a breed of light horses that could also perform plowing and heavy farmwork. It was widely believed that experience with farmwork made them better riding horses. Because this type of horse was extremely popular for riding and for working on plantations throughout the South, it meant there were good, smooth-gaited horses with plenty of substance available in central Alabama, which was a hub of horse interest and expertise.
There are three types of registration in the McCurdy breed.
1. Foundation mares and stallions have been inspected, videotaped, and ridden by at least one registry director before being approved by the registry board.
2. Pedigree registered horses are the result of a cross between two foundation horses.
3. Appendix registered horses are the result of crossing a foundation McCurdy on one of the other approved breeds of gaited horses.
By the early 1900s, plantation walking horses were well established and were the favored type in the area, although there was no breed registry for many years. When the Tennessee Walking Horse Registry was established in the 1930s, it was the only registry available, so the McCurdy Plantation registered its own horses as Tennessee Walkers. The association gave McCurdy’s Doctor the designation F- (for foundation) 79. Several other McCurdy horses also appear in the foundation registry of the Tennessee Walker. The most renowned horses sired by Doctor F-79 were John McCurdy and McCurdy’s Fox.
Over the years, the McCurdy horses gained fame of their own, and people began breeding specifically to them. Although the lines are closely intertwined with those of Tennessee Walkers, a separate breed was ultimately established from the McCurdy bloodlines.
McCurdys are generally refined in appearance but with rounded hips and powerful hindquarters.
McCurdys are naturally gaited. Their gait is known as the McCurdy Lick, an exceptionally smooth, lateral, four-beat, single-footing gait that is not nearly as exaggerated as the “Big Lick” of the Tennessee Walker show horses. McCurdys also perform the flat walk, the running walk, and, unlike Tennessee Walkers, the natural rack and the stepping pace. Many will also fox trot. McCurdy Horses are known for giving a safe, secure, smooth ride over any terrain or condition. Fanciers of the breed emphasize that the horses are born naturally gaited and that they do not require artificial means such as exotic shoeing, bits, and training to bring out their talents.
McCurdy Horses can range from 14.2 to 16 hands but the average is 15 hands. They are generally refined in appearance, with rounded hips and a broad chest, short back, and good bone. They usually have a heavy mane and tail.
Many of the horses are gray, but there are also chestnut, sorrel, bay, and black horses, as well as both red and bay roans. White markings on the face and below the knees are common.
BREED ASSOCIATION FACTS AND FIGURES
According to the McCurdy Plantation Horse Registry and Association (founded in 1993):
• Today, 368 horses are registered.
• Twenty-five to 30 new foals are registered each year.
• The largest populations of McCurdys are in Alabama, Texas, Oregon, and South Carolina, but there are some in California, Minnesota, and England.