Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors (CMTO) brings together a dynamic group of individuals with many different talents and one common passion: the Marsh Tacky horse.
Founder of CMTO, David Grant was among the new fanciers and long-time owners of the breed who came together in 2007 to create the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, a non-profit organization charged with the preservation and conservation of the Marsh Tacky. CMTO supported the association's effort to establish a breed registry and to gain state recognition for this critically endangered breed of horse that was part of South Carolina's history. In 2010, the Marsh Tacky was named South Carolina's State Heritage Horse.
As the journey continued for CMTO, so did the evolution of Team Marsh Tacky. Please meet the original team:
I am the Pee Dee Cowboy, owner and president of Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors, and host of the television show, "Horse Tales." But first and foremost, I am a husband, a father and a grandfather to the most beautiful baby girl who stole my heart from the moment she entered this world. I am a business owner, an avid hunter, a horseman, a history enthusiast, a newspaper columnist and now a TV personality. Growing up in the Pee Dee - Carolina born and raised, I had a boyhood passion for horses, but athletics were a bigger draw during my teenage years. However, horses never lost that mystical allure for me.
As years passed, raising a family and working hard took precedence in my life. After a brief stint as a self-proclaimed duck-aholic, followed by and even briefer stint as a deer-aholic, I told my wife of 30 years, "Saint Lynda" (she can attest to all the reasons why I must give her heavenly status), that I want a horse. And if I was going to have a horse, it would be one I could deer hunt off.
I owned many different horses and harvested many a deer before I was introduced to the royal sport of chasing wild boar on horseback. It was a new adventure that brought new people into my life, one person being Ed Ravenel of Charleston. I joined him on a hunt in the Lowcountry, and Ed showed up with six Marsh Tacky horses that had been saddled only a few times. What a rodeo that day was, but my journey with the Marsh Tacky horse had begun!
I now own anywhere from 15 to 20 Marsh Tackies, depending on how many babies are on the ground. It is a privilege to own and ride this breed of horse. For me, I feel a kinship with their tough, gritty constitution and big hearts. Just an ordinary horse, you might say - until it is called on to perform. Then you will see what has enabled this breed to survive for hundreds of years: grit, grace and resolve in trials. The feeling of riding a Tacky in the river bottoms of our great state of South Carolina, places where Gen. Francis Marion, "the Swampfox," rode on the backs of the ancestors of our Marsh Tackies is, for the lack of better terms, a very spiritual and humbling experience.
Because of the horse, my life has truly stayed on course. The adrenaline junky of yesteryear is still alive and well, but that energy has been channeled into becoming a better person, a better friend, a better Christian. I have been blessed with many gifts, but my salvation is the biggest gift of all. One of my favorite things to say is, "It's not how you start. It's how you finish." I plan to finish strong now that I fully understand that the Good Lord has given me these gifts to praise His Glory as we continue on our journey with the magnificent animal we call the horse.
David calls me "Wrangler Jones" because I'm always in the mix of it, wrangling a hog, a dog, or a horse. I've been a farrier for nine years, trimming about 300 head of horses every six weeks on a regularly scheduled route, so I'm used to long hours and back-breaking work. I look forward to days that I can spend on my horse chasing wild boar through hell and high water. Because of an incident I had with "high waters" on one particular hunt, I always carry a life preserver tied to the back of my saddle in case I have to swim for a hog, which happens more often than you would think.
I met David through one of my customers who told me about the Pee Dee Cowboy and his Marsh Tackies. While I had grown up on a farm and could always sit a horse, I really started riding when I began hunting with David. After a few hunts together, David paired me up with one of his more eager Tackies named Postel. David said we would make a good "hot-headed" pair.
I now own Postel. He is one of the grittiest animals I've ever seen. He will do anything you ask of him whether it's busting up briars or swimming across a slough. His character and spirit, however, will keep you on your toes.
Besides Postel, I own several other Marsh Tackies, including a gelding named Warhorse, a filly named M&M, a mare named Mercy and a stud colt named Cotton, who will be at the center of my breeding program in Pamplico, S.C.
Besides my farrier business, I am also a full-time firefighter for the City of Florence and part-time firefighter for Hannah-Salem Friendfield Volunteer Fire Department.
Richard is "the Camera Man." With more than 27 years in broadcasting and a longtime friend of the Grant family, Richard is the producer of "Horse Tales." He has followed David into many swamps, some as far away as Arkansas, and onto a remote island off the coast of South Carolina to capture the adventures of Team Marsh Tacky. Richard embodies the saying, "Work hard, play hard," and is always a welcome addition with these cowboys.
A former mechanic on the NASCAR circuit, Jon has rekindled his love of horses by riding with Team Marsh Tacky. He is dependable in a tight spot and is always ready to saddle up for a hunt or trail ride.
Behind every good cowboy is a lady, and that's Lynda Grant. Even though Lynda is not an equestrian, her business savvy has helped David with important decisions in regards to the growth and future of CMTO. David and Lynda have been married for more than 35 years, and he thanks the Good Lord daily for the woman he married and the mother she is.
Leighton was dubbed "Wylie's Husband" on the set of "Horse Tales," and he sports the nickname with pride. While having no background in horses or riding, he has supported Wylie's love of horses and learned to ride so he could join her Team Marsh Tacky adventures from time to time. Leighton's horse is Sweet Home Alabama, and he would more than likely get rid of Wylie before "Bama."
Owner of Mark Hausman Training Center in Waxhaw, N.C., Mark is a cowboy through and through. He sports a handlebar mustache, his hat never comes off, and he can shoot the nose off a gnat. Oh, and he also sits a horse pretty good.
Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors:
Where The Adventure Never Ends!
Brian has been David's sidekick in the woods for many years, having a mutual love for adventure and the outdoors. A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Brian was hooked from the first time he raced through the swamp on the back of a Marsh Tacky.
Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors
I am a digital image artist, business owner and website designer. Born in Munich, Germany, I came to the United States in 1989. Dwain and I met in 1997 and married a year later. Sharing a mutual love of animals and photography, we started our photography venture "Equestrian Images" in 2003 to document animal cruelty and neglect, both in the horse world and at local animal shelters. We soon began taking photos for various animal rescue groups and also started fostering unwanted dogs. Since we both have full-time jobs, we never intended to turn our photography into a business, but that is how it has evolved.
Growing up in the world of classical dressage, I have always had a deep love for horses and riding, but unfortunately, after a number of serious riding accidents, my confidence as a rider was shaken. Meeting David and seeing his Marsh Tackies in action in the swamps was a cultural shock for someone like me who was used to show ring riding. He and his Marsh Tackies barreled through some of the most challenging and dangerous terrain imaginable for a horse. It was a hair raising and heart stopping experience (and still is to this day). I was intrigued to learn more about these horses and the fascinating history surrounding them. A few photo shoots, history books and long conversations later and I was completely hooked on what has since become one of my biggest passions in life. I have learned a great deal about American History, its heroes and horses. Just like the Tackies, Southerners are a unique bunch with a culture all their own.
Following David's passion and being a part of Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors has opened many doors to help Equestrian Images grow and has pushed me to expand my creative skills. It's also made me a better rider and horsewoman. Working with David and Team Marsh Tacky has been an inspiration to always think big, be brave and remain true to the cause.
"Wylie really likes the horses." That is the note my mom wrote in my baby book next to a picture of me with the neighbor's horse. I grew up riding horses and reading every book Walter Farley ever wrote, but I never got involved with showing or learning a particular discipline. I retired my horse to a friend's farm when I went to college and figured that chapter of my life had come to an end.
Fifteen years later with an established career in journalism, I showed up at David Grant's farm to write a story for the newspaper about his growing herd of Marsh Tackies, several of which he would be racing in the Marsh Tacky Beach Races, a Lowcountry tradition that had been revived on Hilton Head Island in 2009. I wore cowboy boots and jeans to the interview so I'd look the part, but little did I know that he would actually let me "cowgirl up."
That was my first experience riding a Marsh Tacky, and I was impressed with how easy going yet responsive the horses were. They were all very young but had the confidence of an old trail horse. David invited me to come back and ride some more, and before I knew it, I was living my childhood dream of riding a "racehorse"! I rode one of his geldings in the beach races that year and have competed every year that the races have been held.
Because of many years riding as a youth, I thought I knew how to ride, but riding a Marsh Tacky at break-neck speed through the wilds of the Pee Dee River bottoms will test your courage and your trust in your mount. Tackies aren't flashy horses. They're small with shaggy body hair that will never glisten over heavy muscles. But as one cowboy described them, they are the Army Jeep of horses and there is no more reliable, unflappable mount to have under you.
Thanks to David, I have become a better horsewoman. He has entrusted me with the training of many of his 2-year-olds, allowing me to develop my abilities as a trainer and rider. He has gifted me two of the best Tackies I've ever ridden, and my husband and I are eagerly expecting our first Marsh Tacky foal at Bell Broke Stables in Bennettsville, S.C.
While I have a full-time job at a community college and have teamed up with David as his co-host on his television show "Horse Tales," my favorite place to be is on the back of a horse. The note my mom wrote beside my baby picture all those years ago was actually wrong. I don't just like horses; I'm horse crazy!
My wife Sandy and I were long-time owners of Doug's Harley Davidson in Florence, S.C. Riding and selling "hogs" was our life, but when I began chasing real-life hogs through the swamps on the back of a Marsh Tacky, we found a new passion.
I met David Grant on a hog hunt at Colonel Kolb Hunting Club in Society Hill, S.C. and witnessed first hand the amazing athleticism and mental toughness of the Marsh Tacky. I knew I had to have one. However, my first horse purchase was a Quarter Horse named Blue. He did well in the swamps and is a very fine horse, but he was no Tacky.
After some arm twisting, I got David to sell me his point horse at the time, Toogoodoo. He is an excellent hunting mount with a smooth gait and relentless go power. It wasn't long before I was twisting David's arm again for another Tacky and then another, a black filly named Southern Belle that Sandy just had to have. Sandy doesn't ride, but she has fallen in love with the beauty and the history of the Tackies and loves watching them romp in the pasture. We are now the proud owners of Heritage Stables in Timmonsville, which includes several Marsh Tackies born on our farm and some donkeys and mules. At stud for our breeding program is Barrier Island Daylight, barn name "Bird." Belle and Swampfox, barn name "Foxy," are our core broodmares. Heritage Stables has been designated a certified site of the Eastern South Carolina Heritage region.
We've all heard people say, "If I have to explain it, you wouldn't understand." That is what I tell people when they ask what makes a Marsh Tacky so special. The only way to fully appreciate these rugged little horses is to cowboy up and experience the ride. Since I started hunting and riding with David, many new friendships have been sealed in the swamps along the Pee Dee River as we enjoy the adventures that are always bound to happen with Team Marsh Tacky!
My wife Daniela and I have had a life-long passion for animals, art and photography. In 2003, we decided to combine our talents and our equine photography business "Equestrian Images" was born. Initially, we just wanted to help horses in need and we began doing a lot of volunteer work for many non-profit organizations. When the Equus Survival Trust asked me to photograph Marsh Tacky horses to help raise awareness for this endangered breed, my journey took me to no other than David Grant's farm in Florence, S.C.
Little did I know that this was no ordinary farm call. David was a hunter and he wanted his horses to be captured doing their job: chasing wild hogs through the swamps with a pack of Pee Dee game dogs at their heels. After my first hunt along the swampy river banks of the Great Pee Dee River, I looked like I had been through a meat grinder climbing through briars and brush trying to keep up with the action of the hunt. A few Lowcountry extreme shoots later and I was hooked! I fell in love with the breed's courage and spirit. I have since had the great fortune to photograph some amazing horses, but the Marsh Tacky has and will always be one of the toughest and most fascinating horses I've ever met.
When I first began photographing Marsh Tackies in 2005, there were very few photos of these Spanish Colonial horses and the breed wasn't widely known. Thanks to our partnership with David and the uniqueness of the images, Daniela and I were able to get our photos published worldwide and in many notable publications. I have been on many adventures with Team Marsh Tacky and each one has been very different and brought on different sets of challenges. I often wonder if myself and the camera will survive the next trip, but the Native American side of me feels right at home in this type of wilderness. There have been many times when I simply couldn't follow the horses and missed photographing some of the best moments I've ever witnessed - like when one of the Tackies got stuck in a mud hole and just rolled over on his side to get himself back out. It is unlike anything I have ever seen and you can't help but marvel about the ingenious ways in which these horses manage to maneuver in the swamps.
When people recognize not only the beauty but the rugged spirit of the Tackies in my photos, then I know I have done my job.