The Nez Perce People and Appaloosa Horses

Living in the Pacific Northwest I have came into contact with many Appaloosa’s. They are renown in this area as one of the ultimate Western Pleasure horses. They are also a symbol of the Old West and everthing that places like Oregon, Idaho, Washington, Nevada, and Northern California have come to stand for. A certain freedom and beauty that captures the heart and imagination of everyone who visits this area and see’s the remnants of what the West once was. That spirit and wildness sparks the imagination. And when one starts thinking about the past they automatically think about the Indians. And no horse is associated closer then the Appaloosa and the Nez Perce for the Indian/horse relationship.

When Lewis and Clark first ventured into the rugged unknown West they wrote of the Nez Perce Indians and the made note of the beautiful hores that they raised. To the Nez Perce the Appaloosa was a source of pride and wealth.

Most people who first see the Appaloosa are moved by its sheer beauty. The horse tends to be leopard spotted. Especially in the rump area. This makes for a striking animal and a very coveted horse due to its easy going and willing to please personality.

The Appaloosa was named for the Palouse River which ran through the Nez Perce. The horse would also soon become the state horse of Idaho.

Unfortanately, the fate that befell almost all American Indians would also hit the Nez Perce. In 1877 the Nez Perce and the United States went to war with each other. This erupted in a series of battles fought over the classic reason that the Indian Wars were always fought. The white man wanted the Indians land. The cattlemen had discovered the lush valleys of the Wallowa Valley where the Nez Perce called home and they wanted this region for their large cattle herds. The government decided to move the Indians onto reservations located a good distance from their home land and the Indians said ‘no’. So War was the outcome. A War that could not be won by the Indians. Finally the Indians were forced in surrender and with this defeat came the demise of the the breeding of the Appaloosa. Several decades would pass and the horse breed would start to decline and become virtually nonexistant until finally some enthusiasts decided to save the beautiful horse and breeding began again on a gradual scale.

Today those who come to the west will now see the beautiful Appaloosa’s of the Nez Perce and they can relive a bit of what the West was truly like when it was wild and free.