"The most beautiful, the most spirited and the most inspiring creature ever to print foot on the grasses of America."
~J.Frank Dobie- Texan Folklorist, writing about the Mustang

Spanish Mustangs/Colonial Spanish Horses

Spanish Mustangs are the descendants of the horses of the Conquest and look much as they did when their ancestors came ashore from the Spanish Galleons 500 years ago. They were the warhorses of Spain’s Golden Age, and they conquered the New World on the backs of the horses they brought with them from their native land. They carry the blood of the Barb, Spanish Barb, Ginette, Sorraia, and Andalusians.

Few images can conjure up the spirit of the old West than a mustang running across the plains and, indeed, the history of the West and of America was greatly influenced by the mustangs. It was on their backs that the Indians rode into battle, Mountain Men trapped and explored the continent, and that the Pony Express riders rode into legend. Later the mustangs became the cow ponies that helped to win the west. Their ancestors formed many of our modern American breeds.

In the early days before the settling of the West, all mustangs were descended exclusively from Spanish horses gone feral or stolen by Native Americans from the Spanish. After the defeat of the Indian tribes and their confinement on reservations, the government destroyed many of the Indian’s horses to prevent the Indians from regaining their freedom and becoming a threat to the waves of settlers heading west.

As the West became more and more fenced in and open land became more scarce, the wild herds were struggling for their very existence. Herds were exterminated to make room for cattle, and those herds that remained, often were crossed with ranch stock. By the early 1900’s, Spanish Mustangs were quite rare and mainly found in remote feral herds and in the Indian herds.

If not for the foresight of several horseman such as Bob Brislawn and Gilbert Jones who began to search out, collect and breed as many of the Spanish Mustangs as they could find in the early 1900’s, the breed might well have been lost entirely. Today very few feral mustangs can be called Spanish Mustangs as their blood has become mixed with non Spanish breeds. Nearly all the Spanish Mustang stock is in the hands of private breeders today.

In 1957 the Spanish Mustang Registry was chartered with the mission to preserve the Spanish Mustangs. Later the Horse of the America Registry, the Southwest Spanish Mustang Registry and several others focused on specific strains were formed. By the end of the 20th Century there were over 3,000 registrations in the Spanish Mustang Registry alone.

I want to address the "name" issue as it is confusing to folks new to our breed. To some people the term Spanish Mustang is used to describe any Colonial Spanish horse in North America to include those that were never feral such as rancher strains and eastern strains. Other people prefer to make a distinction and use the umbrella term, Colonial Spanish Horse, to describe the overall family of Spanish Horses in North America in general and use the strain/breed name such as Spanish Mustangs, Bankers, Choctaws, Sulphurs, Sorraias, Bookcliffs, Cerbats, Marsh Tackies, etc...to describe the horses as distinct from one another. Used in this manner, which is the one we prefer, the term Spanish Mustang mainly describes the western strains which largely descended from feral Spanish or Native American horses. Both terms can be used interchangeably but it can sometimes lead to confusion about the horses.

We here at Rainbow's End Farm consider Spanish Mustangs of the Western strains to be a breed/landrace/strain within the Colonial Spanish horse family. We believe the strains within the Colonial Spanish horse family are all related from the original Spanish stock brought to America but deviated over time as landraces or descendants of genetically isolated horses that became highly adapted to their environment or were bred by people for a specific trait or purpose. It is for that reason that we don't consider a Spanish Mustang from the Western strains with it's unique history and type to be exactly the same as all other strains within the Colonial Spanish horse family which are also unique in their own ways. It is certainly a matter of personal preference though and we respect everyone's right to call them what they will.

The "name" issue can also lead to difficulties with introducing new people to our breed. It often seems when you introduce your horse as a Spanish Mustang to other horse people, folks hear the "mustang" part and don't remember or notice the Spanish part...which of course is critical in distinguishing our breed from todays feral horses called mustangs which consist of predominantly mixed heritage horses. I have been asked many times where I adopted my horses...which can be frustrating as our oldest registry, the SMR, is over 50 years old. For that reason, here in our region, I'll often introduce our horses to newcomers as Colonial Spanish horses and then as people realize their uniqueness, I'll explain that they are more specifically Spanish Mustangs...one strain/landrace within the family of Colonial Spanish horses. So, I use both names to describe our horses for different reasons and that is why.

Please check out the links for more information on our breed:

American Heritage Horse Association

Spanish Mustang Registry

Horse of the Americas

Spanish Mustang Focus

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