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Mustang Horses – Types Uses & Breed Characteristics

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My young grandson has a fascination with Mustang horses. So I helped him research them and decided to share the information in this post.

Mustangs are the free-spirits of the horse world. These wild and feral horses were first brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors. Mustangs are a type of light horse with tremendous strength and muscular bodies.

In this guide, we will cover:

  • Different types of Mustang horses
  • Their breed characteristics
  • Temperament
  • Are Mustangs dangerous?
  • Are they good for beginners?
Picture of mustangs.

Mustang Horses and Their Breed Characteristics

History

Although the Mustangs have Spanish bloodlines, no other horse breed is more American than this breed. Unfortunately, we will never know the exact history of this majestic breed because it is shrouded with many myths and folklore.

The word Mustang comes from the Spanish word musteno, which means ‘stray or wild.’ This Spanish word itself comes from Latin ‘mixta,’ which means mixed. And that is precisely what the Mustang is: a mixture or an amalgamation of strays and mongrels.

Today’s American Mustang embodies the cultures and influences of different nationalities that came to the West. Today, you cannot look at the Mustang without thinking of the Old West.

Here are some salient features of the breed’s history:

  • Christopher Columbus brought the first load of horses to the New World in 1493.
  • From here, horses were carefully and selectively bred in the Caribbean.
  • By 1501, one ranch in Hispaniola had 60 broodmares.
  • By 1539, there were horses on the Outer Banks, North and South Carolina, and by 1541, they spread to Quebec.
  • By 1900, the estimated Mustang population was 2 million!
  • As time went by, Mustangs became a blend of every type of horse brought to the USA, Mexico, and Canada.
  • Before the Wild Annie Bill of 1972 was passed, ranchers killed many wild Mustangs to curb their over-population.

Breed Characteristics

Mustangs are a wiry, tough breed; they have very strong, hard feet. Because of their endurance, they make excellent ranch horses.

  • Other Names: Wild Mustang, American Feral Horse.
  • Description: The Mustang has variable morphology with a rather large head. It has a straight or convex profile, a strong neck, straight shoulders, and short, solid legs.
  • Height: 13.2- 15 hh (hands high). A 15 hh Mustang is considered to be quite large.
  • Place of Origin – America, Great Plains
  • Unique qualities: Tough, hardy, intelligent, adaptable.
  • Gait: Naturally smooth gaited but some display and ambling middle-to-fast gait.
  • Color: Mustangs come in various colors. Pinto, bay dun, black/brown dun are most common.

Types of Mustangs

The following types of Mustang are popular:

Comstocks

The Comstocks live in Nevada. They are not considered wild as they mostly live on private properties. Resultantly, they do not enjoy the same protection as Mustangs do. Some Associations are trying to protect the Comstocks. Common colors in this breed are bay and chestnut.

Picture of Pryor Mountain Mustangs.

Pryor Mountain Mustangs

These are the Mustangs of Wyoming. They are mountain horses having Spanish blood in them.  Pryor Mountain Mustangs have a straight, convex profile that is slender towards the muzzle.

Common colors are black/brown, bay dun, bay, black, chestnut, or roan. Pryor Mountain Mustangs are intelligent and brave and known for their endurance on long treks.

Coyote Canyon Mustangs

These are the last Mustangs of Southern California. They have large eyes and large ears. They are related to the Spanish Mustangs. Unfortunately, only a few of these horses remain today.

Abstang

The Abstang is the cross between the Arabian horses and Mustangs. They are smaller horses and typically measure around 14 hands and are available in various colors.

Abstangs are sure-footed, strong, and have very high endurance, making them a popular choice in treks and endurance races.

Spanish Mustang

This type descended directly from the Spanish and Barb horses. They have a straight or convex profile, long ears, and a narrow chest. This old-style Mustang is very intelligent and is notable for endurance races.

Spanish Mustangs are further classified as Kigers, Cerbat, Sulphur Spring, and Colonial Spanish Horse. Since very few of these horses remain today, they all come under protection from various Associations, especially the BLM (Bureau of Land Management).

Temperament of Mustang Horses

The temperament of mustangs varies greatly. For example, Mustangs breeds like Kigers have especially proven themselves to be affectionate and trustworthy companions. However, this isn’t true for Pryor Mountain Mustangs; they typically are easily spooked and try to avoid human contact.

Generally, Mustangs are smart and headstrong animals, and unlike other domesticate-raised horses, they heavily relied on instincts to survive in the wild. This is why it’s important that you build trust early– or working with them will be difficult!

Here are salient features of Mustangs as far as their temperament is concerned:

Wild but trainable

Mustangs have a genuinely wild temperament, but you can mold them into lovable companions with firm handling and consistent patient training.

Could have a stubborn streak

Many Mustangs have a rebellious streak in them. They can turn out to be feisty, and that is why you must establish a clear pecking order and hierarchy when training.

Check out my guide on How to Establish Your Role as a Horse Leader.

The age of the horse matters too.

As with any horse breed, training a younger Mustang is a lot easier than training an older one. Once you earn your horse’s trust, you can easily turn it into a loyal, loving, and affectionate companion that forms a deep bond with you.

Are Mustangs Dangerous?

Wild horses can be dangerous if they are not socialized to humans. They will perceive a human as a threat, and that could make them dangerous. With proper training and socialization, one can train a Mustang to be an affectionate herd mate that respects and trusts its humans. Many horse trainers specialize in training Mustangs.

These days, the BLM or the Bureau of Land Management has taken upon itself to manage wild horses. This is an important government initiative that protects areas where wild Mustangs roam free.

Over-grazing in these areas has finished the food available for horses, which is why these iconic horses are under threat. Under the BLM initiative, though, they are protected; many people even adopt trained Mustangs from them.

Reluctantly, Mustangs become friendly. In the United States, there aren’t many truly wild horses left. The only truly wild horses are the Przewalski horses found in Central Asia.

Are Mustangs Good for Beginners?

Mustangs bred in the wild do not make good horses for riding for beginners because they need firm and experienced handling and training. However, once they are used to working with humans, they make affectionate and personable companions capable of taking care of themselves.

They also display uncanny wisdom and intelligence compared to any horse breed. These qualities can come in handy while training. You can also buy/adopt a trained and socialized Mustang from BLM.

FAQs on Mustangs

What are Mustang horses known for?

Mustangs are known for their wild natures, intelligence, and free-spirits. Say the word Mustang, and one undoubtedly conjures up images of wild horses running free without the constraints of the saddle.

Are Mustangs fast?

 Mustangs are not particularly known for their speed. If you want a faster horse, then The American Quarter Horse would be a better choice.

How much does a Mustang cost?

The average price of a Mustang is between $200 and $5000, depending on its age, color, breeding, and bloodlines. You can also buy/adopt a Mustang from the BLM. They have trained, and untrained mustangs and trained ones are slightly more expensive than untrained horses.