The Appaloosa is an extremely rare breed of North American horse. Prized for its colourful spotted coat and striped hooves the Appaloosa is used in rodeo sports. The origins of this rare breed are unknown. Most believe it arrived in the new world with the Spanish Conquistadors in 16th Century. However, some hold to the theory that the horse travelled across the Bering land bridge from Asia. Migrating down into the great American plains. Advocates of the migration theory claim it was the Nez Perce tribe that first encountered the horse and began breeding them.
A fact not in doubt was the dwindling number of true Appaloosa horses left in America. Only 109 were registered in the US by 2015. The process of crossbreeding had all but wiped out the original stock. But for the work of dedicated breeders, this beautiful horse would have disappeared many years ago.
Scott Engstrom was one of those Appaloosa breeders. One night the 69-year-old sat down to watch TV after a hard day on the farm. She flicked through the channels and settled on a documentary. A show called ‘Around The World In 80 Trades’. It featured British documentary maker Conor Woodman, who travelled the world using just his barter and trading skills. This episode was set in Kyrgyzstan, the central Asian country which borders China and Kazakstan.
Conor was selling horses he'd purchased in a local market. It was during the marketplace scene that Scott Engstrom noticed something strangely familiar about one of the horses. It appeared to be an Appaloosa, but how could that be? There were no records of Appaloosa horses existing in that part of the world. Scott wondered if this horse could be the missing link between North American Appaloosa and the foundation breed. Little could she know then, sitting at home in New Zealand, that the chance glimpse would lead her on an epic 8500-mile journey.
After exchanging emails with the filmmaker. Conor agreed to return to Kyrgyzstan with Scott and track down the illusive steed. This is where the documentary gets going. Scott and Conor travel thousands of miles looking for the horse. Including a trek over a treacherous mountain range on horseback. The scenery is stunning, I had no idea that the Kyrgyzstan countryside was this beautiful. I can only imagine that the tourist board were thrilled with the documentary! The local population are warm and friendly, helping our duo at every twist and turn in the tale.
It’s difficult to tell you more about the documentary without ruining the experience. Suffice to say, even if your interest in horses only stretches to watching the Grand National, you’ll still enjoy this inspirational adventure story.