There are 5 horses
Acamar, Strawberry roan, 15 years, daughter Alnitak
Alnitak, Strawberry roan,12 years, mother is Acamar
Nunki, Bay with white socks, 15 years
Hadar, Chestnut, currently outside preserve, over 20 years
Capella, pinto, currently outside preserve, about 15 years
The horses are between 13 and 13 and a half hands tall and weigh from 850 to 1000 lbs.
The three mares roam freely in 600 acres of pine forest that grows on gentle petrified sand dune hills. Due to the influx of poisonous, invasive plants which have killed three horses the horses have been restricted from the pastures. They are being fed grain until the Department of Agriculture prepares new, clean pastures.
There are at least a dozen water holes in the fenced area.
The horses eat: Shepherds needle, cow grass, various other grasses, Thatch Palms (dried leaves, green leaves and blossoms), Poison Wood after a fire when the oil has been burned away from it, small portions of Senna, at least one leguminous vine, briar, thistle, Amaranth and other plants not yet identified.
The mares have not foaled since Hurricane Floyd (1999) when the forest was so badly damaged they spent full time on a nearby citrus farm where they were exposed to a broad range of chemicals (pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers). They grazed full time on over rich feed, became obese and developed hoof problems. It is not known (and probably never will be) if the foot problems were the result of the obesity, the over rich diet, or the chemicals. Likely a combination of all factors produced the deadly results.
Similarly, the lack of reproduction is likely a result of several factors; the horses foaled successfully and consistently before their extended time on the farm. While they had other problems before they were brought into the Preserve, when they were able to commute between forest and farm (before the hurricane) they had no reproductive problems.
Two deaths during the summer of 2009, Mare Bellatrix II and Stallion Mimosa, have been attributed to accidental ingestion of poisonous Lantana Sage. The death of Ahernar in 2010 had some similaritites but no neropsy was possible. The nearby farm was clear cut and left fallow and has been invaded by Brazilian Pepper and the sage. The horses know to not eat the sage but it became so thick in the pastures that we have assumed they ate it by accident and we have closed the pastures.
The horses origins are open to debate, with few facts available but since horses were imported from cuba for logging work, and columbus once had two horse farms in cuba, and sicne the horses' DNA very specifically indicates spanish Colonial, there leneage seesm fairly certain.. When the horses were slaughtered nearly to extinction in the late 60s, the gene pool became so small that they now are all genetically very similar
The horses in Cuba today in no way resemble ours. DNA work is not available for Cuban horses.
Barbs? Colonial Spanish? Initially, we were quite certain that we had Barbs. However, the terminology is not clear and definitions are open to debate. It was thought that when the Moors invaded Spain they upgraded the Spanish Horse with their Barb horses. Recent research and thought indicate that the reverse may be true: The Moors found the Spanish horse superior and upgraded their Barbs. Whatever, our horses show Spanish Colonial, and at least one expert says they are much closer to the Colonial than the derivative Paso Fino.
What is WHOA, What is Arkwild?
Arkwild is a 501 (c) 3 charity in the US that raises funds for the horses. US citizens can make donations to Arkwild and receive tax benefits.
WHOA (Wild Horses Of Abaco Preservation Society) is the local charity based on Abaco that is the fund raising unit for the horses in the Bahamas.
Why do we call them wild?
When most people think of wild horses they think of flying manes and tails and pounding hooves. These are signs of panic, not wildness. Many of our visitors have said they have more trouble being close enough to their own horses in pasture to take pictures than they do with ours. Our horses are wild because even without the protective fence and our presence, they would still survive (once the reproductive problems are solved). They don't need us, they are in no way domesticated. They are feral, the preferable word.
Because they are wild they are used to their diet, but it is not rich and they need a lot of it (20 lbs. a day) to stay healthy.We've had to add grain supplement. Still, they remain independent. When they are not eating they are dozing or going for water. Their lives are tranquil and generally predictable.
We have about five miles of electric fence around the Preserve and it takes constant maintenance to keep it weed free. We would like to fence in more area, but at this time are limited to two workmen.
Power on the Preserve is from a solar array (except for a small propane stove and refrigerator). A composting toilet deals with waste and cannot contaminate the water supply. Our supplies and facilities are in 20 steel shipping containers. We use VHF radios for on Preserve communications and cell phones for emergencies.
We have learned that fire is Not necessary for the health of the forest. At least, not when the fires are deliberately set annually by humans. Pine cones fall to the ground and respond to humidity, opening on dry days, closing on damp days, until the seeds are released. Fire is not needed to make the cones open. Brush can and does build up, bracken grows rampant. New growth can be choked off. Burns every five or ten years would be more normal. At this time, orchids once seen in the forest on the Preserve have been completely burned out. In the spring of 2007 a fire raged around and through the Preserve for five weeks. We lost a great deal of fence. Every winter, if fronts do not bring rain, fires set by humans burn all over the island.
We receive NO financial assistance from the Government of the Bahamas. We survive solely on the funds we raise through this web site, visits from tourists, and occasional grants and donations. All funds go directly to pay the two men who maintain the Preserve, to buy gas for the truck, diesel for the tractor, and to pay for all repairs and new equipment when we can afford it.