Versatile, hardy, and intelligent, there's a lot to love about the mustang. This true American breed has a rich history and can make a phenomenal riding partner with proper training.
Weight: 800 pounds
Height: 14 to 15 hands
Body Type: Stocky and hardy
Best For: Trail riding and ranch work
Life Expectancy: Up to 40 years
Mustang Horse History and Origins
Today, mustangs live wild in the western United States. They originated from Spanish horses that were brought to the country by European settlers. Some of those horses escaped or were freed, and others were bartered for or captured by Native Americans.
Escaped horses formed herds and lived wild, gradually being pushed West by encroaching development of the country. The resulting wild mustang population grew, but as the country was increasingly settled and ranchers sought out land to graze cattle on, the increased population became a problem. In the early 1900s, there were as many as two million mustangs in the United States. Currently, it’s estimated that 30,000 mustangs are still in existence.
The Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act helped to protect mustangs from being hunted, poisoned, and harassed, but it also caused the population to grow again. The Bureau of Land Management has begun rounding up and adopting out mustangs to help manage the population.
Mustang Horse Size
Mustangs are smaller horses, typically standing between 14 and 15 hands high and weighing about 800 pounds.
Breeding and Uses
Mustangs breed in the wild and currently face overpopulation issues, so captive breeding programs aren’t in use. These horses are versatile and have found successful careers in trail riding, ranch work, dressage, and more.
Colors and Markings
Mustangs come in a wide array of coat colors. Many are bay and chestnut, but black, grey, pinto, roan, and palomino coat colors also occur.
Unique Characteristics of the Mustang
The mustang is known for being very hardy and surefooted, thanks to its wild heritage. These qualities make mustangs ideal as working horses and trail horses, since they can navigate terrain that other breeds might struggle with.
Diet and Nutrition
Mustangs are hardy. In the wild, they survive on a diet of grass and brush. As a result, they are relatively easy keepers in captivity. An owner may need to restrict a mustang’s access to lush pasture, since overgrazing can result in obesity and related problems, like founder.
Common Health and Behavior Problems
Mustangs are hardy and are known for having strong, healthy hooves. They tend to be quite healthy.
Behavior in mustangs can vary depending on the horse’s background and level of training. A mustang that has been rounded up and adopted out with little handling will probably be reactive and spooky. Given time to gain trust in humans, mustangs can be calm and well-mannered with proper training.
Mustangs don’t have any specific grooming needs. They’ll benefit from regular grooming and currying to promote coat health. While they have strong hooves, regular hoof care is also important to their health.
Hardy and surefooted
Many horses available for adoption
Smaller horses aren't ideal for taller riders
Unhandled horses will require significant training
Champion and Celebrity Mustang Horses
Many mustangs have become famous:
- Cobra proved to be talented in dressage after he was adopted. He earned a Freestyle Western Dressage Level 1 World Championship in 2015 and was named USEF Horse of the Year in Western Dressage.
- Hwin was adopted by eventer Elisa Wallace. Together, they competed in the 2015 Mustang Magic Makeover and Breyer crafted a model horse after Hwin.
Is the Mustang Right for You?
Because mustangs are smaller, they’re often best suited for smaller riders. They’re versatile and suitable for a wide array of disciplines and activities. Mustang temperaments can range from hot and reactive to calm and cooperative, so it’s most important to ensure that the horse you buy is right for your experience and needs.
How to Adopt or Buy a Mustang
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopts out mustangs every year to help maintain appropriate herd numbers so that the horses can survive on the land. If you want to adopt a mustang, start by reviewing the BLM’s adoption requirements. You’ll need to meet specific requirements about the type of fencing, facility, and even horse trailer that you have in order to be approved to adopt. Keep in mind that most of these horses have not been handled and will need to be trained in everything from halter breaking to riding.
You can also frequently find mustangs for sale from private sellers, and these horses may already be trained to ride. Mustangs tend to be a more affordable breed and they’re located all over the country. When buying a horse, it’s always a good idea to have a pre-purchase exam performed to assess any health issues that could affect the horse’s performance.
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