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ASH—Scott Spencer strides into the ring, releasing his hold on his latest equine student who proceeds to trot circles around him.
The horse, a petite, dun-hued gelding named Postell, comes from a rare, historic bloodline. Postell is a Carolina Marsh Tacky, an agile breed that’s become the state horse of South Carolina, centuries after aiding Revolutionary War hero Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion.
Spencer, a “natural” trainer who works like a horse whisperer, describes Postell’s ring-trotting routine as “liberty work” that’s part of their training sessions at his farm in Ash, Spencer Horsemanship.
“He has to be hooked onto me,” he said. “He’s looking to me for leadership, so we play a game. He has to move his feet. I’m not going to move mine.”
Without saying a word, “I direct his path,” Spencer said. “It’s with your body, energy, thoughts, eyes that you’re controlling communication. People can’t see what you’re doing, but the horse is reacting to every move you make. I always say they listen to nothing we say but everything we do.”
Horses, he said, are “more in the spirit world than we are. We get a glimpse of it.”
Spencer has been working with 7-year-old Postell, who belongs to breeder David Grant of Carolina Marsh Tacky Outdoors in Darlington, S.C., for the past month. So far, Spencer said, Postell is progressing nicely.
“All kinds of history are related to this little type of horse,” the Virginia native said.
“They’re not very big, have nice temperaments to ‘em, love the water and grew up on the shoreline.”
During Revolutionary War times, “if you did not like water, you didn’t live long,” he said.
Because of its size, the Marsh Tacky, a Colonial Spanish breed, was able to navigate through smaller brush in South Carolina, he said. The breed is also a natural in water.
“One of the things I like most about the Carolina Marsh Tacky is that they love water,” Spencer said. “They kind of have that Labrador thing about them. They love to swim and play in it. If you ain’t got nothing but a water trough, he’s going to play in it. It’s just a cool characteristic of the horse.”
During the war, “they had drowning holes where the bigger horses couldn’t swim and do things that these guys could do,” Spencer said.
During his work with Postell, Spencer and his charge will be featured this month in Grant’s South Carolina-based TV show, “Horse Tales,” airing at 11 a.m. Sundays via WWMB CW 21.
Spencer will be taking Postell to Harvest Home Festival Weekend on Oct. 15-16 at Brookgreen Gardens in Murrells Inlet, S.C., and to the Heart Ride in Myrtle Beach. The breed is also connected to Gullah culture and history, Spencer said. He said they’ll be filming TV episodes through the fall and winter at these events and others throughout South Carolina.
“We’re filming people that we encounter with their horse tales and what the horse has meant to them—what it does for them or how they use their horse,” Spencer said. “We’re just [documenting] the Marsh Tacky with wild boar hunts, fox hunts [and] active trail ride competitions.”
Soon, Spencer and his 16-year-old daughter, Haley, will be taking part in some of those seasonal hunting expeditions with Postell. As part of the horse’s training and heritage related to hunting, he has to be “gun broke,” Spencer said.
“If he’s not comfortable with this, he’s sure not going to be comfortable with being shot around,” Spencer said, raising overhead a rifle that’s included in his work with the horse. “You’d be surprised how many of ‘em you can’t just do this above their head.”
As training with Postell is perfected, “we’d like to be able to shoot a deer off his back, take and gut the deer and hang the deer from his saddle and drag him out,” Spencer said. “That’s the plan. His winter is going to be extremely busy.”
Spencer, who isn’t a hunter himself, is going to be undergoing a bit of training himself as he relies on local hunters to help see him, Haley and Postell through.
“I really don’t have time to hunt, to be honest,” Spencer said. “I always say I haven’t gotten hungry enough yet.”
Thanks to his latest assignment with Postell, Spencer is soon about to change his ways.
“Other people are hunting on horseback,” he said. “We’re just going to meet up with those guys and tag along. All we’re doing is we’re replacing the four-wheeler with a horse.”