Many Native American tribes and families held
certain horses in high regard as Spirit or Medicine horses. The designation was
made for horses with unusual markings. These horses could range from appaloosas
with a 'bearpaw' or ‘handprint' marking in its spotting to paints or pintos
with an unusually shaped spot or spots (Medicine Hat or War Bonnet markings were
highly prized) to the solid colored animal with an unusual facial marking. Many
so-called Spirit or Medicine horses also had blue eyes which were often called
Sky-eyes or Heaven-eyes and added to the mystique which surrounded them.
The term Spirit or Medicine horse could also be
placed on a more 'normally' marked horse who had shown its owner some unusual
talent or power, such as alerting its rider to danger that the rider/owner
hadn't discerned or being able to find game.
and Shamans as well as other members of the tribe or family valued these Spirit
or Medicine horses very highly and believed that the good fortune of their
people depended in some part on keeping these animals in their possession. Since
horse stealing was considered an honored profession among early Native
Americans, it was these particular horses that an enemy warrior or tribe might
go after. If they could get away undetected with the valued horse, they were
considered to have good medicine' and the theft earned the respect of both their
tribes and the enemy from whom the animal had been stolen. Of course, it was
then the former owner's turn to try and regain his stolen property.
Today Spirit or Medicine marked horses still appear
in the various color breeds, as well as the solid colored breeds, and they occur
with some frequency in the. American Indian Horse Registry as AIHR welcomes
these unusually colored horses without discrimination. They may be a combination
of appaloosa and paint or pinto or an outcrop from a solid colored breed.
Some Indian Horse breeders work very hard to breed these features into their
lines, but nature is still the boss and most deliberate breeding programs fail
due to the very nature of the elusive coloration.
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