The McCurdy Plantation Horse is a gaited breed of horse developed by the McCurdy family of Lowndes County in the late nineteenth century. They are also known as McCurdys and McCurdy Walkers. Originally bred to serve as a hardy working breed for plantation and ranch work, the McCurdy horse is now a popular pleasure and trail animal. It is still valued in cattle ranching for its natural ability in working with livestock. The McCurdy horse has become known throughout the South, and its enthusiasts are represented by the McCurdy Plantation Horse Registry and Association. The McCurdy family continues to raise these horses on its farm in Lowndesboro.
The McCurdy ranges from 14.2 to 16 hands in height, with most being about 15 hands. (A hand is equal to 4 inches, or the measurement across the average person's hand, so the average McCurdy is about 5 feet high at the shoulder.) The horses are solid and stocky and are known for their endurance under saddle. The typical McCurdy is gray, but they also can be chestnut, sorrel, bay, and black. They typically have full manes and tails.
The McCurdy Plantation Horse is one of a class of horses known as gaited horses. These breeds of horses, which include the Tennessee Walking Horse, the Missouri Foxtrotter, and Alabama's official horse breed, the Racking Horse, possess naturally occurring varieties of movements, known as gaits, that make them especially smooth to ride for long periods. Many of the most popular gaited breeds were developed in the South by plantation owners who wanted horses that could carry them comfortably over the many acres of their land and over the hilly and often rocky terrain of much of north Alabama, Tennessee, and other areas. McCurdy horses are known for their own distinctive gait, "the McCurdy lick," which is a lively movement in which the horse moves forward rapidly, raising its front legs high with each stride, with only one foot striking the ground at any given time. The McCurdy and several other breeds of gaited horses are, for this reason, known as single-footing horses. Their other natural gaits include the flat walk and running walk, the natural rack, and an ambling stepping pace. All of these gaits are extremely smooth for the rider.
The origins of the McCurdy Plantation Horse lie in the horse-breeding efforts of Lewis and W. D. McCurdy, who in the 1860s trained and raced American Standardbreds, which are still popularly used in harness racing. The brothers owned adjacent plantations near Lowndesboro, and Lewis had constructed a regulation race track and horse-breeding facility on his property. The McCurdy brothers raised renowned trotters, but the foundation horse of the McCurdy line was a gray Tennessee Walking Horse stallion named Doctor F-79, which was bred with several mares from other plantations in central Alabama. The McCurdy brothers at first focused on breeding Tennessee Walkers, but as their reputation for breeding quality animals spread, they began focusing on raising horses with Doctor F-79, slowly producing the distinct breed that is now known as the McCurdy.
Today, McCurdy's are popular with trail riders, people who show gaited horses, and working ranchers. The breed is represented by the McCurdy Plantation Horse Registry and Association, based in Selma, Dallas County; approximately 600 McCurdy horses are registered worldwide, with more than a dozen recognized breeders in the United States. The association sponsors group trail rides throughout the year, promotes the breed, and participates in statewide and regional events relating to gaited horses.
Claire M. Wilson
Published June 14, 2009
Last updated March 30, 2010