The Presence and History of the American Mustang
 By SuperLevi   •   1st Aug 2012   •   3,736 views   •   6 comments
American Mustang

To some Americans, mustangs are the idol symbol of the Wild West. Their untamed, fiery spirit often captivates the imagination of the American people and icons freedom just as much the bald eagle, if not more. When some think about the mustang, the first thoughts that may come into mind are of midsized equines of an array of various coat colors, grazing on a hilltop, with the faded blue mass of mountainous terrain in the background. However, there are equally as many people in the United States that sees these majestic beast as worthless creatures who are only going to starve themselves and the millions of farmers’ cattle. Although there are the many that claim that the horses are truly wild, there are the others that simply state that the mustangs are domestic horses that more appropriately should be called ‘feral horses’ rather than ‘wild horses’. If the mustang were just feral horses, where did they originate from?

According to the Charles Darwin theory of evolution, the first ancestors of the horse appeared at about the same era as when mammals began to emerge. The modest little beings were native to America but eventually migrated across a land bridge and into Europe. The descendants of these animals went extinct in the Americas for an unknown reason, bring scientist to the conclusion that the equine family, though originally from America, come from foreign countries. What is being said is that donkeys’, zebras’, and horses’ more imitated relatives were not from America but the lineage started there. Nonetheless, there are many people who believe that even before Columbus and Spaniards arrived, that there were still breeds of rare equines in America.

In whichever way the equine did return to its primary continent of origin, the United States government does not recognize the horse as wild animal because it was brought here by migrating travelers and settlers. National Parks have been advised to put effort in animals that are naturally native to America and not in preserving a creature brought forth by the interference of man. Since this would make horses undesirable, they are not given sanctuary in such park systems. In Hope Rayden’s book, America’s Last Wild Horses; A Classic Study of Mustangs, she suggest that, “a distinction, however, should have been made between those animals that were true exotics, imports that never before existed in the New World, and the wild horse which in fact, had evolved here and, except for a brief absence, had been a part of the ecological design of North America for millions of years.” Ms. Rayden later adds that if America takes lineage back to very technical terms then all humans should banned themselves from the National Parks too, in acceptation to the Indians who were present much longer than any white man. Despite the scientific evidence, there are still many who argue that there were still horses present in the Americas before the arrival of man.

The bloodlines of mustangs are just as diverse as any average American’s. Right from the beginning, the wild horses of North America had to be tough, hardy creatures. The horses that were transported by ship had to survive in tight spaces aboard ships for months. All the while these horses were fed and watered only enough to sustain themselves. Many of these horses were of fine lines. Once landing at the New World, right away the horses were needed for services. These animals had to have immense endurance to make the long journey. Spaniards had already had horses in the Americas long before the arrival of Europe settlers. Domestic horses that escaped or that were set free, thrived in their new environments; thus birthing the era of the semi-romantic relationship between the Indian and horse.

At first, these wild horses were used as food by the natives, only later realizing how useful the horse could be to their livelihood. In Native American language many horses were called ‘big dog’ and their first services included replacing the canine by pulling heavy loads. Especially for the plains Indians, once they discovered how to train and ride a horse, the combination of horse and rider was a powerful tool. Although buffalo were hunted before the horse, thanks to the stamina of the equine, the hunters could chase and keep up with the fleeing bison.

Life as an ‘Indian Pony’ was not always a glorious one. What the Indians demanded from their horses force the horse to have grit and hardiness. Most of the wild horses were technically ponies, (which is any horse under 14.2 hands or 58 inches,) so puny ponies barely nine hundred pounds, at the most, were caring and dragging hundreds of pounds of tee-pee parts and hides around when traveling. Those who lacked these qualities simply didn’t make it; thus only the strong survived. Even in modern times, the mustang is considered one of the hardiest horses.

Had the mustang been a true native species it would almost be considered endangered or at least threatened. A few hundred years ago an estimated two million wild, or feral, horses roamed the Texan plains alone. These horses where chased over the edges of cliffs and rounded up to be slanted out of pure sport and inexcusable causes. The mustangs were continuously hunted even into the twentieth century. A woman by the name of Velma Johnston witnessed the cruelties that horses were going through every day. By educating children and getting people involved with the well being of the horses, she began advocate campaigns for the humane treatment and protection of the American Mustang. The woman later known as ‘Wild Horse Annie’, started to get the governments attention. In 1959, a bill was passed that made it illegal to use any aircraft or motorized vehicle to capture and hunt mustangs. Unfortunately for Wild Horse Anne, there was a new act passed twelve years later that permitted the government to use the vehicles to round up and manage the populations. The once millions of horses became just 170,000 in the 1970. After the Free Roaming Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, one hundred and fifty seven thousand mustangs were rounded up and placed in holding pens. Today it is believed that about thirty five thousand mustangs are in various holding facilities nationwide, with the other half of the population free on the range.

As mentioned earlier, the mustang is known for its very diverse coat color ranging anywhere from the plain old “Nevada brown”, to the gorgeous buckskinned pinto. Some herds are known for their coat patterns but a majority of mustangs wouldn’t be considered flashy. Coat colors such as russet bays, golden to red duns, and smoky gray grullas are more common because these coat colors offer the mustang more camouflage. Duns and grullas are also known to have zebra striping on their legs, cob-webbing on their forehead and facial area, and line bars across their shoulders. Since potential adopters are more interested in the horses with high stockings, bold blazes, eye pleasing markings, and certain confirmations, foundation stallions of Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds, and other breeds are often released into mustang bands in hopes of passing more of these desired qualities to their offspring. The Bureau of Land Management, or best known as the BLM, is a government group responsible for the management of more than 250 million acres of western lands. They are the group responsible for the management of the mustang horses.

A nonprofit organization, The Mustang Heritage Foundation, was founded in 2001 to boost adoptions in a partnership with the Bureau of Land Management. They offer many programs to promote the mustang image and entice adopters and trainers alike. There is the Trainers for Incentives Program (or TIP) which is where the trainer picks up the untamed horse, trains it, and finds it a BLM approved adopter in ninety days for a seven hundred dollar reward. Then there is the growing in popularity, Extreme Mustang Makeover. In the EMM trainers who are pre approved are assigned by a computer, an adult mustang, usually in the ages of four to seven years old. Then, the selected trainers have just about ninety days to tame and break to ride their mustangs before competing for various purse prizes often $10,000 or higher! After the show, the mustangs are put up for bid to the general public. The latest and most sensational event created by The Mustang Heritage Foundation is the Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover. In the SEMM the horses are first adopted through auction by their trainers for various amounts from $125 to $8000. Then instead of the normal ninety days the trainers have one-hundred-and-twenty days. This event in 2012 has an enormous purse of $250,000 and has and added twist with youth exhibiting yearlings. A former SEMM horse, Lindsay’s Faith, and trainer, Mary Miller Jordon, went on to win Americas Favorite Trail Horse, beating primarily papered horses of fine pedigrees. The success of the competition is apparent in the growing popularity and adoption rates.

Mustangs will always be an ever vital part of American history and even with fading population numbers, an iconic symbol of freedom. There is perhaps no equine more American than the mix bred mustang, who found vast success for hundreds of years in The New World, just as any settler. Today, thanks to efforts make by the BLM and groups like The Mustang Heritage Foundation, the mustang is making a comeback into the homes of adopters. The story of the American Mustang does not end here; it is only the beginning of a new era.

AWHPC. (2010). Resources: Annie Act. Retrieved March 30, 2012, from

Mustang Heritage Foundation . (2012). Retrieved March 31, 2012, from

Ryden, H. (2005). America's Last Wild Horses: The Classic Study of the Mustangs--Their Pivotal Role in the History of the West, Their Return to the Wild, and the Ongoing Efforts to Preserve Them. Globe Pequot.

Steiguer, J. E. (2011). Wild Horses of the West: History and Politics of America's Mustangs. University of Arizona Press.

US GOV. (2012). What We Do: Wild Horse and Burro Program. Retrieved March 31, 2012, from
great article thanks for sharing... I wish more people kept In mind these great creatures
  11 days ago  •  3,617 views
Foxchase Farm  
Awesome article! I love Mustangs :)
  11 days ago  •  3,408 views
Very factual. Very interesting.
  11 days ago  •  3,415 views
Double Spur Ranch  
great article!
  11 days ago  •  3,380 views
A really interesting article, thanks for sharing!
  11 days ago  •  3,390 views
Awesome article! :)
  10 days ago  •  3,412 views
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