The Santa Cruz Island
California's Heritage Horse
The Heritage Horses of Santa Cruz Island
There has been much controversy about the beautiful California Heritage horses that existed on Santa Cruz Island. The origin of this breed dates back to the 18th and 19th centuries when a small herd of Spanish Colonial horses were sent to Santa Cruz Island . After they were used for the island's ranching and agricultural operations, they remained there in a semi-feral environment and, through natural selection, became a hardy breed, genetically distinct from the horses that remained on the mainland. They are known for their palomino, chestnut, and buckskin colors, gentle nature, diminished flight response (attributed to the absence of predators on the island), and expressive gaits.
After the National Park Service acquired the land in 1997 the horses were removed from the island despite the many efforts from those who believed they should stay . With fewer than sixty in existence, their survival has only been possible thanks to the dedication of individuals who have since become breed stewards.
Learn more about the history of the SCI horses and the extraordinary efforts that were made to ensure their survival on our "history" page.
El Campeon Farms is privileged to be the leading steward of these very special horses. We are dedicated to accurately preserving their history, building their reputation, and helping the breed reach sustainable numbers. After seeking the advice of equine scientists, geneticists, and reproduction specialists of UC Davis, Texas A&M University, and Virginia Tech University, ECF's team developed a breeding program that resulted in the addition of 16 new herd members (as of December 2022). El Campeon's trainers and riders have also brought a new level of interest and attention to the breed through their training and show programs. Working Equitation, Dressage, and Driving are just some of the disciplines that have been a natural fit for the SCI horses. Learn more about the preservation efforts and breeding program on our "preservation program" page.