Appaloosa Heritage

Originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of the Appaloosa News Magazine.

What is the Heritage class?

According to the ApHC rule book, entries in the Heritage class should honor the Appaloosa’s role in history. The rule book states that costumes can depict many eras including “Chinese emperors, kings, nobles, Spanish conquistadors, fur trappers, buffalo hunters, missionaries or other depictions of Appaloosa history.” Entries in the class are expected to ride at a walk and jog in both directions on the rail. Entries in the class are judged on the historical appropriateness of the costume or regalia.

The Heritage Class is unique to the Appaloosa among the stock breeds. The Appaloosa’s history with the Nez Perce Tribe (Nimiipuu people) means that many entries in this class honor that heritage with Native American regalia.

Pictured: David Beck

David Beck

David Beck is one of the most recognizable faces in the Heritage class at the National and World show. His interest in the Heritage Class began when he started to show Appaloosas in the late 1990’s. David first entered the class at the National Show in 2015 where he was the Reserve National Champion. Since that time, he has been undefeated at the National and World Show every time he has exhibited in the class.

A key piece of the class is the regalia. David has always had a distinct vision for his regalia. 

“My regalia is a combination of custom-made items and items I’ve found on eBay.”

With the mentorship of Debbie Herzman in California, it took David about a year to put his regalia together, though he continues to fine tune it to this day. David credits Debbie’s knowledge and creative vision for helping him make his regalia vision turn into a reality. 

David says, “Having more pieces allows me to create a better and more compelling story.”

“There are two schools of thought when it comes to regalia,” David shared, “One is to have fewer pieces but to make each of those pieces especially important. The second is that more is better.”

David falls into the more is better camp. As a key aspect of the class is the 200-word description of the regalia and the conversation with the judges about the pieces, David says, “Having more pieces allows me to create a better, and more compelling, story.”

Pictured: Jaimee Snippert

Jaimee Snippert

For Jaimee Snippert, showing the Heritage Class has become a family affair. “I’ve always loved watching the class but the thought of obtaining the regalia to enter was daunting,” Jaimee says, “That is, until I met Debbie VanOrd at a Colorado Ranger Bred show.”

Debbie had previously shown in the Heritage class and offered her regalia to Jaimee. Jaimee and her daughter Emily have worked to add personal elements to the Debbie’s regalia. 

“We study old pictures and books on the history of the Nez Perce and try to recreate pieces from those sources.” 

The Snippert’s are slowly creating their own regalia, finding items such as pelts and waterskins at local auctions. 

To continue learning about the pieces of the regalia, Jaimee has joined a Facebook group of women who show in the Heritage class across the country. This group has recommended books to read to ensure that pieces are historically correct. “I also make sure that I read and reference educational materials published by the tribal groups to make sure my information is accurate,” Jaimee adds.

The two key elements of this class:

1. Be authentic.

2. Make sure your horse is agreeable to the accessories.

Favorite Regalia

When asked about her favorite piece, Jaimee elaborated on the horse necklace, or martingale. 

“They are the beaded breast plate you see on many of the horses presented in the class. Historically they represented a man’s success as a warrior. The more elaborate the beading, the more successful the warrior. The horse necklaces are also used to show the importance of the horse to the rider. The Plains Tribes relied on their horses for so much, and this was, and still is, a way to show how important their mount is to them. It can be a very personal meaning behind each picture or design you see on the necklace.” 

She is currently working on creating her own horse necklace.  It has taken her over 6 months to bead the main image for the center and it continues to be a work in progress. 

Pictured: Emily Snippert

Her second favorite piece is her quirt which is, essentially, a crop. 

“My quirt is made from a deer antler from my father’s antler shed collection I inherited after he passed away. I hand burned the design into it and learned how to do the leather work to make the strap and the handle.”

Jaimee opines, “There are two key elements to the class. The first is to be as authentic as you can be to the era of Appaloosa history that you have chosen to represent. An exhibitor needs to know the history well and the reasoning behind all of the pieces of the costume. The second element is critical: your horse must be willing to cooperate with all of the trappings you are asking them to wear.”

Jaimee’s horse loves his costume and likes to hear the jingle bells when he jogs around. “I think it’s one of his favorite classes.”

Cultural Appropriation

With an eye toward societal awareness, both exhibitors were asked for their responses if a bystander were to suggest the Heritage class was a form cultural appropriation. 

David: “I don’t view the class as cultural appropriation. The Appaloosa is a breed of horse originally developed by the Nez Perce and it is my opinion that the heritage class celebrates this. I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge of Native American culture from my participation in the Heritage Class.”

Jaimee: “Cultural appropriation is the inappropriate or unacknowledged adoption of elements of a culture by another culture. I feel the Heritage exhibitors that choose to create a costume or regalia that is from a different culture than their own generally take great care to honor the culture they are representing. Many of us strive to be respectful and historically correct in our creation of these elements. We want to honor the history of our wonderful breed and want to be considerate of the Tribal Nations’ history and traditions without overstepping any boundaries.”

Originally appeared in the May 2022 edition of the Appaloosa News Magazine.