The Spanish conquistadores landed in North America in the 1500s, bringing horses of Iberian and Arabian descent with them. Over the years, some of these animals escaped or were released, becoming the foundation stock of the feral Mustangs (Spanish for “stray” or “ownerless”). Modern Mustangs retain a large dose of these Spanish bloodlines; some have also been infused with Thoroughbred, Tennessee Walker, Quarter Horse and draft horse influence.
Most Mustangs are found inhabiting the grasslands of the western US ‒ Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nevada ‒ living in herds led by a stallion and a dominant mare. The Mustang population was once estimated at nearly 2,000,000 animals, but competition over grazing for cattle, sheep, and domestic horses caused ranchers to round up tens of thousands of them. Some were broken and used for ranch work, but many ended up at the slaughterhouse. The U.S. Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed in in 1971 in an attempt to improve and monitor roundup methods. Today, alternative methods of population regulation include fertility control, adoption, holding pens, culling and natural regulation.
As of March 1, 2018, the Bureau of Land Management estimates the US Mustang population to be about 67,000.
Mustangs are hardy animals capable of surviving in harsh conditions on minimal forage. They have good bone, hard legs, and solid hooves. The facial profile is straight or slightly convex, they have long, sloping shoulders, a short back, deep girth, muscular loins, round croup and a low tail-set.
Mustangs usually measure between 14-15 hands and are seen in nearly every coat colour, although bay, dun, buckskin, and sorrel are the most common. Paint markings or dorsal stripes are not uncommom.
Adopted and carefully trained Mustangs compete successfully in reining, barrel racing, endurance riding, and even dressage competition. The Mustang Heritage Foundation holds an annual Extreme Mustang Makeover where trainers have to to select, tame, and ride previously untouched Mustangs within 100 days.
For fun facts about Mustangs and Wild Horses, click here.
For more information, visit:
Mustang Heritage Foundation