The Mustang Breed

Wilderness is part of the mustang’s appeal, even when tamed.

When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us.”
-Arapaho Proverb

The wild American mustang was man’s partner in the journey to settle this country. This breed is truly like no other, a melting pot of colors, shapes and sizes treasured through the centuries for endurance and stamina. The wild mustang persevered through persecution, starvation, abuse, natural disasters and predators. What is it about the breed that sets it apart?

With medium or heavy builds, strong legs, dense bones and sturdy feet, the wild mustang’s physicality separates him/her from domestic horses. Mustangs are built to withstand the running, the weather, and the threats to survival that would be found when roaming free.

Smaller than the European breeds brought to America’s eastern shores in the early days of our nation, mustangs possess speed and adaptability. They make excellent long-distance riding horses. Their abilities enabled Native Americans to range far and wide in hunt and battle. Mustangs also aided soldiers on patrol in rugged western valleys and carried cowboys driving cattle overland.

Many different breeds are reflected in the Mustang’s wide-set, expressive eyes, well-defined mouths, beautifully narrowed heads and solid builds. Mustang colorations tend toward brown, with gray and white mixed in. While their forebears were the Spanish horses of the conquistadors, other breeds broke free and mingled with them. The result is uniquely American.

In the Mustang’s highly-evolved social order, stallions generally seek peace, not fights, with other harems. Stallions do not mate with their female offspring or fight other stallions who seek to take their young daughters as mates. Territories are fluid, but are marked by manure droppings at strategic points between harems. Fights, if they occur, are largely symbolic, consisting of body blows and small bites. All-out battles do happen with the mustang stallions rising to their back legs to kick and bite with lethal intent. For the most part, however, harems exist in relative peace and cooperation with the herd.

When a stallion is past his prime, he is not removed from the harem. He keeps his distance as part of the band of bachelors or as a solitary figure who trails the herd until he dies of age or illness. The typical lifespan for a stallion is 20 years.

At Mustang Leadership Partners, our mustangs are, of course, not part of a wild herd. But we see flashes of their essential wildness and celebrate that spirit on a daily basis. Their will to survive is fierce and is evident in their eyes, which can pierce the soul. We respect each horse as an individual and owe each one the opportunity to live out their lives in a peaceful yet stimulating environment. To own and work with the American mustang is a privilege we don’t take lightly.

For more information:

The Mustang by J. Frank Dobie, published in 1952 by Castle Books by arrangement with Little, Brown and Company, Inc.

Born Survivors on the Eve of Extinction by Hardy Oelke, published in 1997 by Ute Kierdorf Verlag, Germany.

America’s Last Wild Horses, by Hope Ryden, first published in 1970, with updated editions in 1978, 1990 and 1999, published by the Lyons Press.

Mustang: The Saga of the Wild Horse in the American West, by Deanne Stillman, published in 2008 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Honest Horses: Wild Horses in the Great Basin, by Paula Morin, published in 2006 by University of Nevada Press.

Among Wild Horses: A Portrait of the Pryor Mountain Mustangs by Lynne Pomeranz, published in 2006 by Storey Publishing, Inc.

The Nature of Horses: Their Evolution, Intelligence and Behaviour by Stephen Budiansky, published in 1997 by The Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster

Mustangs: Wild Horses of the West by Marie-Luce Hubert and Jean-Louis Klein, published in 2007 by Firefly Books

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