Rare horse pays visit to Gregg Middle School

  • Thursday, June 5, 2014

Monica Kreber/Journal Scene Smokey the Carolina Marsh Tacky, being handled by Elizabeth Warner, got some attention from Gregg Middle School students on May 28. Eighth graders Tayler Perry, left, and Elise Bonner, far right, came to greet the horse.

A surprise visitor came to say “hi” to band students at Gregg Middle School on May 28.

The visitor’s name was Smokey, a tall brown horse of the breed known as the Carolina Marsh Tacky – and his breed just happens to be South Carolina’s state Heritage Horse.

On May 16 the advanced seventh and eighth grade band students performed “The Tacky from Snow Island” for their spring concert. The band piece was on the subject of the state Heritage Horse.

Gregg Band Director Barry Montoya said the spring concert went really well. In order to show his students what the piece’s focal point really looks like, he had Smokey come to Gregg Middle School for a brief meet and greet. Students got to line up to take turns stroking Smokey’s neck and feed him treats – though he spent a lot of time grazing on mouthfuls of grass.

“It’s fun to do a commission because it bring a new music piece into the band world,” Montoya said.

There was also a big learning aspect to the performance piece. Smokey’s breeder Rickey Warren, with the Marsh Tacky Association in Hollywood, S.C., said Smokey is a 10-year-old gelding, and “tacky” means “like a common horse.” His breed comes from the barrier islands along South Carolina – particularly Hilton Head Island. The breed is a member of the Colonial Spanish group of horse breeds, and the Gullah used them for working farms.

The horse was also used during the American Revolution by Francis Marion. Warren said there are fewer than 300 Carolina Marsh Tackies in the world, so the breed is considered endangered. There are only about seven breeders in South Carolina, Warren said. D.P. Lowther is president of the Marsh Tacky Association and has over 100 horses and is considered the primary breeder.

Warren said he grew up around horses.

“I’ve been around horses all my life,” he said. “I’m trying to bring the breed back up.”

The band students’ performance piece was composed by Josh Hinkle, outgoing band director at Ashley Ridge High School, who also came to check out the horse.

Montoya said the composition of the song was done with Francis Marion in mind – they wanted to incorporate the idea of Marion riding his horses into an attack and then back into the swamps to disappear.

The music sounds like a horse – wood pieces were used to resemble a horse trotting and then more “mysterious” music would be played to reflect the horse venturing through the swamps – only to pick up more energy as the horse went running out into he fields again.

“They (the students) learned a lot,” he said. “I was always discussing it as we were learning it.”

Hinkle said when Montoya told him the story of the Marsh Tacky the horse sounded very similar to Gregg Middle School’s own mascot – the mustang. Hinkle has composed close to 10 band pieces and this was his first one with Gregg Middle. “Most of the compositions have an educational aspect,” he said. “I felt like I learned a lot of parts of South Carolina history I didn’t know about. It was a very interesting project and fun-filled as well.”

Gregg Middle School Principal Lori Estep also came to observe the horse and praise Montoya on commissioning an educational band piece.

“I really appreciate Mr. Montoya’s giving the students this opportunity,” she said. “They are excited.”

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