By Aileen Goldstein
D.P. Lowther walks up to the gate of a pasture on his land in Walterboro and starts calling. “Come on, come on,” he says in an almost yodel.
A herd of horses in the distance perk up and start heading toward him.
As the horses come up to the gate, Lowther puts his hand out. He points out detail with ease, like which colt belongs to which mare, which mares that are soon to give birth and which horse is healing from an injury.
He has loved these horses so much over the years that he is known for almost single-handedly saving this unique breed. Now, however, he is auctioning off much of his herd Saturday, July 2, in Ridgeland.
The horses are a rare breed specific to South Carolina called Marsh Tackys. They are descendents of the Spanish colonial horses, along with the Florida Cracker horse and the Banker horse of North Carolina, brought to the new world by Christopher Columbus over 500 years ago. Although many of the first human settlers did not survive, the horses thrived. At one time, hundreds of Marsh Tacky horses lived in the islands and Lowcountry of South Carolina, surviving the marshes and elements.
The horses became of way of life for the people who lived on the islands of Hilton Head and Daufuskie.
“They made a living with them, farming, pulling a wagon and hauling wood. They were a vehicle of transportation,” said Lowther.
Eventually, industry and development took over and the numbers dwindled. There are now less than 400 of the horses in existence.
Back in the day, Lowther’s father used mules to haul cypress logs out of the swamps near Ridgeland. He eventually traded mules for a couple of Marsh Tacky horses that had to be brought over by flat-bottomed bateau boats since a bridge to Hilton Head Island had not yet been built.
As a youth, Lowther’s father made him responsible for driving the family’s cows out to pasture in the mornings and bringing them home in the evenings.
He used two Marsh Tacky horses to round up the cows, one for the morning trip and the other for the daily evening trip. Thus began Lowther’s love for the breed.
In fact, Lowther has been a leader in the preservation of the breed. In 2010, the Marsh Tacky was named South Carolina State Heritage Horse, with the help of Lowther.
“When I was young, I wanted to own 100 horses. I did it,” he said with a laugh. In fact, Lowther owns the largest herd of Marsh Tacky horses in the world.
After a century of family history with this breed, Lowther is auctioning off a large portion of his herd.
“I have too many horses and I want to spread the breed,” he said.
According to Lowther, “The disposition is easy to get along with, to bond with. They are very friendly and very tough.” Lowther then points out one of his horse as an example of good composition, adding, “These horses have been my life for many, many years.”
The auction will take place at 12:30 p.m. at Folly Moon Farm, located at 1824 Smiths Crossing in Ridgeland. The sale will include yearlings, 2-year-olds, mares with colts and several mature stallions.
For more information, call 843-726-1274 or 843-726-8845.
Top photo: D.P. Lowther looks out over the horses that been his lifelong passion