HILTON HEAD ISLAND — The marsh tacky horse races held on Hilton Head Island each spring are being moved to nearby Daufuskie Island.
The Island Packet of Hilton Head reports this year’s races will be April 27. One reason for the move is concern that the races have become too big.
The Coastal Discovery Museum and the Native Island Business and Community Affairs Association recently pulled out as race sponsors.
Museum CEO Michael Marks says the races have become too large and thousands of spectators so close to the 1,200-pound horses are a safety risk. The Daufuskie event is expected to be smaller because the only way to the island is by boat.
Although the venue is different, the race formats are unchanged. Jackie McFadden, secretary of the Carolina Marsh Tacky Association, said separate races will be held for registered mares, geldings and stallions. The course will run north along the beach for about 400 yards. Winners get “bragging rights” but no prize money, she said.
Daufuskie resident Roger Pinckney said the horses would be taken to and from the island by barge.
Marsh tackies are an unusual breed left on the South Carolina coast about 500 years ago by Spanish explorers. The animals were integral to Gullah culture for work, transportation and entertainment. Characterized by long, flowing manes, they are slightly smaller than average horses.
The breed is considered “critically endangered,” and only about 300 purebreds remain.