The American Mustang is a symbol of the continent’s effervescent history and an unbreakable appetite for freedom. They combine the best traits of cold-blooded and hot-blooded breeds and are characterized by unmatched agility and power.
History and Origins
Although paleontology proved that horses lived in Northern America up until the last ice age, roughly 12,000 years ago, the American Mustang descends of horses brought by Spanish conquistadors starting with 1493. By the year 1525, there were enough horses in Mexico to breed and spread all over Mexico and nowadays’ US. Another wave of Spanish horses arrived in the 16th century in the Florida area. However, DNA analysis evidenced they had little to no influence over the already present stock.
The American Mustang was quickly integrated by Native American populations into their daily routines: transportation, hunting, and battling were upgraded by replacing the use of dogs with horses. By the late 1700s, almost every native tribe made use of equines and one tribe in particular, the Nez Perce, was directly responsible for the development of the Appaloosa horse. At about the same time, there were thousands of American Mustangs freely roaming what we know today as Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado or New Mexico.
The population of American Mustangs is thought to have peaked during the 19th century, presumably reaching around 2 million individuals at the time of the Mexican-American war. By the 1960s, however, most horses from Texas had been transported in the northern and eastern regions once Texas became a part of the US in 1848. However, free-roaming horses are mentioned in historic writings from most decades of the 19th century.
Although initially registered by the Spanish Mustang Registry starting with 1920, it became apparent that these horses carried little Spanish blood. As a consequence, the American Mustang Association was formed in 1962. Cruel hunting and capturing methods which reduced the population by more than three quarters also led to the “Wild Horse Annie Act” and the “Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act” from 1971.
Today, there are over 46,000 equines freely roaming wild areas of Northern America, with most numerous populations in California, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, and Utah. Another 67,000 American Mustangs are located in state settings and over 230,000 have been placed into private care all over the US.
The American Mustang can be considered feral instead of wild since their descendants were domesticated horses. Although their official registry considers their Spanish bloodline has been highly diluted, the most isolated populations often show many traits of their original Iberian stock.
Most American Mustangs are warm-blooded. However, their Barb, Jennet, Arabian, and Andalusian influences make them strong-willed and unyielding, showing an impassable desire for freedom.
Physical Characteristics of the American Mustang
Given their extremely diverse breeding pool, there are no coat colors an American Mustang cannot have. They are impressive, smooth-muscled individuals who show symmetry, proportion, and a proud, dignified posture. They have long shoulders, a solid and beautifully curved neck, and muscular hindquarters. When compared to other breeds, the American Mustang is light, graceful and sharp.
Height: 13.2 – 16 hands
Weight: 800 pounds
Life expectancy: 30 years
An American Mustang’s tail is long and thick and is often positioned a bit lower than in other breeds. Wide and dense hooves, together with their strong legs make them excellent runners.
American Mustang’s Temperament
Although considered warm-blooded, given the American Mustang’s feral nature and the hot bloodlines they descend from, they are strong-minded horses and exhibit a self-willed behavior in the wild. However, an energetic and tenacious mindset, together with remarkable intelligence, makes the American Mustang one of the best riding breeds in the world. It goes without saying that even a tamed American Mustang is suitable for experienced or very experienced owners who know how to handle and approach them.
However, once tamed and accustomed with its owner and rider, an American Mustang becomes very loyal, versatile, and willing to cooperate, seeking the rider’s affection and acknowledgment for its merits.
Having an American Mustang
Given the expansion of civilized life, territories where wild horses can freely roam the wild are disappearing as days go by. As a consequence, the Bureau of Land Management has taken under its wing tens of thousands of equines, but costs are considerable. Ever since scarification of some animals has been proposed, the BLM has been flooded with adoption requests, a more humane way of solving this problem.
Hence, trained or semi-trained American Mustangs are up for adoption since the Bureau of Land Management has issues with caring for all the horses in their possession at the moment.
The American Mustang has no breed-specific health issues and is highly resistant to environmental factors such as heat, cold, or rain. However, acquiring a horse from this breed does have its costs:
- A trailer – between $1,500 for a used one and $50,000 for a state-of-the-art model.
- Tack – anywhere from $600 to $6000.
- Vet check – from $250 to $550 on the high end.
- Grooming equipment – $100 at most.
Given their feral nature, American Mustangs are more than capable of caring for themselves and have a happy life in confinement if given enough space and a source of fresh water. However, training is necessary and many owners choose to farrier their American Mustang, too. Annual costs of having such a horse can start from $4,600 with the most basic training and reach up to $30,000 for advanced training and advanced living conditions. The main fluctuations when it comes to these costs are:
- Boarding type;
- Training type and frequency;
- Pasture type and maintenance.
Other yearly expenses without noteworthy variations no matter the area or the time of the year are:
- Medical care.
An American Mustang’s diet mainly consists of fresh grass, but hay or grain can also be supplied. These horses also love fresh vegetables, fruits, and other treats.
Common Uses for American Mustang Horses
The American Mustang is a very light breed. Given their physical traits and their personality, these horses are some of the best runners in the world, prized at countless Olympic events over the years.
Although internationally famous for its abilities in racing and endurance riding, their agility, swiftness, and endurance make them a great partner for land work and hunting, too.
The American Mustang is one of the most admirable horse breeds. With a roaring history and some of the best genetic traits from all over the world, this noble and graceful breed is an upstanding model of evolution, survival and the undying desire for freedom.
Image sources: 1, 2, 3.
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