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Rare Ojibwe ponies will visit UW–Madison during afternoon of learning, storytelling featuring Darcy Whitecrow on April 21

Posted: 04/10/23

Rare Ojibwe ponies will visit UW–Madison during afternoon of learning, storytelling featuring Darcy Whitecrow on April 21

Ojibwe ponies, a horse breed almost driven into extinction, will make an appearance at the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus for an event featuring Darcy Whitecrow, who is Ojibwe and Dakota and a member of the Seine River First Nation band in Northwestern Ontario, sharing information about the pony’s history, revival and connection to the Ojibwe people on April 21 from 1-4 p.m. 

The free event will begin at Babcock Hall in room 205 with storytelling and history sharing by Whitecrow, who will appear virtually. Following Whitecrow’s appearance, patrons will move to the Dairy Barn to experience Ojibwe ponies from the Wisconsin-based nonprofit organization, The Humble Horse, in person. 

Attendance is on a first-come, first-served basis with no pre-registration, and the event is open to the public.

Still some of the rarest ponies on the planet, the endangered Ojibwe pony is said to be the only horse to survive the Ice Age. It is believed that they withstood the Ice Age thanks to their extra flat nose and nasal flap that keeps cold air from entering their lungs. The horses’ small size helps them navigate dense terrain, and thick fuzz on their ears protects them from insects. It is estimated that only about 200 Ojibwe ponies are alive today. 

“In the 1970s, there were only four of these horses left,” said The Humble Horse Founder Em Loerzel in an interview with Minnesota Public Radio. 

Loerzel and her husband run The Humble Horse near River Falls, Wisconsin. The organization focuses on preservation and awareness of the pony, education about the breed and its history, and the reconnection of these horses to their Indigenous communities. 

These ponies have worked with Ojibwe communities for generations. Sometimes referred to as the Spirit Horse or the Lac La Croix Pony, stories of their healing gifts and sacredness have been told for hundreds of years. 

In an interview with Ontario Parks, Whitecrow described a time in the past when the horses were as prevalent as deer and how common it had been to see them run in herds before they were nearly killed into extinction and used to make dog food and glue in the early 1900s. 

"What we're actually doing here is we're creating a legacy of a horse that is a critically endangered species,” Whitecrow said in an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. “The horse that would become no more; a horse that's of our ancestors. And it's so important that we keep the breed going.”

Whitecrow started a nonprofit, called Grey Raven Ranch, through which he and his partner care for Ojibwe ponies. They work to preserve the breed and the tradition of a symbiotic relationship with the Ojibwe people. 

The event is presented by the Hoofer Riding Club with support from The Humble Horse; Grey Raven Ranch; the Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies; the Multicultural Student Center; the Indigenous Student Center; the School of Veterinary Medicine; and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Those interested in attending can click here to learn more.

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