|GREAT ABACO, BAHAMAS . . . Once, they were a mighty herd, perhaps 200 strong: pinto, bay and roan horses rippling through thousands of acres of pine forest. They were as free as the sea winds that blew across the island they had conquered.
Their origins remained unclear until 1998, when it was recognized, by a few individuals, that the horses probably were Spanish. In August of 2002, based on three separate DNA analyses and photo and video records, the horses were accepted by the Horse of The Americas Registry as the Abaco Barbs, descendents of horses brought over at the time of Columbus's explorations.
Further DNA work has shown that the horses are more accurately described as Spanish Colonials, so they have become the Abaco Spanish Colonials. Throughout the world horses of pure Colonial descent are becoming more and more critically endangered. The Abaco horses nearly went extinct in the early 1970's. Today they are once again fighting for survival as attempts are being made to solve reproductive problems brought on fairly recently by over exposure to a wide array of toxic chemicals. Their history, as we know it today, follows.