The true Spanish Mustang is a direct descendant of the horses brought to the New World by the early Spaniards. Confused by many with the feral horses currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), there is a vast difference in both appearance and ancestry.
Columbus, on order of the Spanish throne, commenced bringing the first Spanish horses to the New World on his second voyage. Thereafter, each ship headed for the New World, by order of the Crown, carried breeding animals of choice Spanish stock, cattle, sheep, horses, etc. Breeding farms were set up in the Caribbean and subsequently in Mexico. Breeding farms such as the one operated in Sonora, Mexico by Padre Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit priest, produced stock, including horses, which were placed with each group of Christianized Indians as Kino expanded his efforts further and further north.
The Apaches, never falling under the spell of the Church, ravaged and pillaged these little "visitas", taking stock at will. They also plundered deep into Mexico - allegedly as far south as Mexico City. Their goal - well bred and trained Spanish horses from the Mexican estancias.
Through trade of these valuable horses northward to other tribes the Apaches became one of the primary methods of spreading the Spanish horses over the west. Over the years horses escaped, were lost or stolen and many became feral, roaming all over the west. Eventually they numbered in the hundreds of thousands, closely related to the horses maintained by some of the Indian tribes, indeed, they were basically the same horses.
Considered the finest horses in the known world at the time of the conquest of the New World, the Spanish horse left a legacy in its tough, beautiful, hardy descendants that endures to this day.
The Spanish Mustang then and now
Environmental conditions must certainly have played a role in the development of these horses over the many generations in a feral state. The feral spanish Mustangs developed according to their environment with Nature culling out those less suited to the locale. Though the Spanish Horse was not a feral animal when it arrived on American soil, once turned loose it managed not only to survive but to thrive in the New World, which attests to the versatility and strength of the breed. Genetic imperfections, if any, were culled by the most critical judge of all - Nature.
The end result is an extremely hardy and sturdy horse exhibiting the aptitude to perform in almost any equine field and perform well. The staying power and endurance of these Spanish descendants is legendary.
Frank Hopkins, the renowned endurance rider in the latter part of the 1800's, a rider of Spanish Mustangs, is quoted as saying "You can't beat mustang intelligence in the entire equine race. These animals have had to shift for themselves for generations. They had to work out their own destiny or be destroyed. Those that survived were animals of superior intelligence."
Thousands of Spanish Mustangs were used as cow horses and hundreds as U.S. Army cavalry mounts. When fighting Indians, who were riding Spanish Mustangs themselves, the option to "fight fire with fire" was brilliant, as the American bred horses of the cavalry were no match for these Spanish descended war ponies in the inhospitable and barren mountains and plains of the West.
Modern Day Achievements
The modern Spanish Mustang has lost none of the traits found in those horses of yesteryear. Today's Spanish Mustangs retain their stamina and ability to travel long distances without undue stress.
Emmett Brislawn, son of the founder of the Spanish Mustang Registry, entered his 16 year old stallion, Yellow Fox (SMR 3) in the Bitterroot Ride in 1966. Coming out of retirement where he had spent the past years on the Cayuse Ranch with his herd of mares, this Cheyenne bred buckskin stallion won championships for Heavyweight, All Around Horse and Best Out of State Horse, carrying over 200 pounds.
Unusual? Not really, when one considers he had been used in his younger days to run down wild horses. They say that when Yellow Fox ran for the finish line, the old horse threw up hs head, still looking for the wild horses!
In 1989 Kim Kingsley, riding a grandson of Yellow Fox, was awarded the coveted Jim Jones Award in sanctioned AERC endurance riding for 1550 miles in one season in 50 and 100 mile rides. Chief Yellow Fox carried approximately 250 pounds the entire season. Chief Half Moon, another stallion owned by Kingsley, was second nationally with 1250 endurance miles.
In more recent years, Don Funk of Iowa, on his Brislawn bred stallion, Geronimo's Warrior, won the Jim Jones Award 4 years running from 2000 to 2004, completing 10000 competitive miles with the AERC.
Martha Gresham of Auburn, Alabama, riding Cholla Bay, accumulated 1000 miles a year in AERC's sanctioned endurance rides for three consecutive years.
Anne-Marie Pinter of California, on her gelding Montana, competed in and finished the Tevis twice, once when he was 11, once when he was 19.
The Spanish Mustang is a using horse and is versatile and well equipped to compete in varied fields. At present there are horses competing in team penning, dressage, jumping, competitive trail, showing and gymkhana.
A junior member from Arizona, in open competition, accumulated 102 ribbons in 2002 in gymkhana in open competition, also receiving high point winner for the season in one association and runner up high point winner in a second association.
Mike Pittman of South Dakota is getting a lot of attention from his competitors as he competes in team penning, a more recent sport that is growing and he is also competing in open competition (against all breeds).
Sharron Scheikofsky and Dave Reynolds of South Dakota have been breeding Spanish Mustangs since the late 1980s. Our SMR webmaster, Karen Parker, wrote "The Story of Caballos de Destino-—A Vanishing Breed," for Sharron and Dave in November, 2012. Following just a few of the Spanish Mustangs bred by Sharron Scheikofsky and Dave Reynolds resulted in 32 pages with over 100 images. This story is a photographic chronicle illustrating a fading western culture and the history and the Spanish Mustangs of Caballos de Destino. The story of Caballos de Destino is closely tied to the SMR and the Cayuse Ranch and showcases our beloved Spanish Mustang breed and their unique history.