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The Spanish Mustang Spanish Mustangs: Past, Present, Future, Perfect!

By Jane Greenwood, Secretary SMR

PAST: When the Conquistadors arrived in the Americas they brought with them some of Spain’s finest horses. They also brought some of the toughest horses the world has ever produced. You all know the story: The horses spread throughout the land through theft, gift and their own cunning. By the late 1800’s hundreds of thousands of these horses still roamed free, or in Indian herds. Some isolated herds still as pure as the horses they descended from. However, the Government made a practice of shooting herd stallions and then introducing domestic Thoroughbred, Morgan or Draft stallions to “improve” these herds. Horses confiscated from Indian tribes were often shot or infused with other domestic herds. The number of pure horses left quickly dwindled. The Spanish Mustang was in danger of losing its unique qualities to an equine melting pot.

These are the historic horses who won the west: Mounts of Native Americans, Lewis and Clark, Mexican Banditos, the Pony Express and countless others who depended on their strong back and hardy nature. The original Nez Perce Appaloosa was a Spanish Mustang, and the Quarter Horse got his cow sense from this remarkable breed whose courage was born in the bullrings of Spain. The Spanish Mustang had lost none of this legendary brio; the Spanish horse left a legacy in the tough, beautiful and hardy descendant who now called America home. They were now on the brink of extinction. The Spanish Mustang

The Spanish Mustang Bob Brislawn was a man who had made his own way at an early age, working on ranches, mining and freighting. During his years in the West, his horses of choice were Spanish Mustangs. His respect for these horses was enormous as they thrived on forage that could not support other breeds and never seemed to tire. He rarely hobbled or tied his horses in camp and said they would stay with him, much like his faithful dogs. But most of all he was impressed with their speed and agility and above all, their incredible will to survive.

As he roamed throughout the West he realized that these horses were being methodically exterminated and he commenced his search for horses of essentially pure Spanish blood, desiring to preserve those few remaining. Thus began his life-long search for horses of essentially pure Spanish blood. Traveling throughout the country, sometimes with his family in tow, Brislawn sought to preserve these horses wherever they could be found. Along with a handful of knowledgeable horsemen, he vowed to save the few remaining examples of the straight Spanish horse The Spanish Mustang

In 1925, he officially started his preservation project with two full brothers; Buckshot and Ute sired by a buckskin stallion named Monty and out of a Ute reservation mare. Monty, captured in 1927 in Utah, escaped back to the wild in 1944, taking his mares with him. He was never recaptured.
But despite this setback, Bob kept on. In 1957, spearheaded by Brislawn, the Spanish Mustang Registry was incorporated in Oshoto, Wyoming. A non-profit organization it began with only 20 horses, its goal: The preservation and perpetuation of the true Spanish Mustang. The Spanish Mustang

PRESENT: Today Brislawn’s vision has been fulfilled: From 20 horses registered in 1957 to 3,000 registered in 2001. Perhaps half that number is still alive. While still considered a rare breed by the American Rare Breeds Conservancy, the Spanish Mustang is now assured its place in equine history. The Spanish Mustang is a colorful breed. Their colors are extremely varied, the inheritance of the early Spanish Horses who came in many colors and patterns. Spanish Mustangs can be found in colors from appaloosa to zebra striped dun as well as grulla, buckskin, roan, paint, palomino, cremello, ysabella, and perlino. And the more common colors of bay, chestnut, black and white. All color patterns are accepted in the Registry with the exception of Tobiano. Because of the many colors found in the horses they are prominently featured in the popular book Horse Color by Dr. Phil Sponenberg.

Foundation Stallion San Domingo SMR #4 was the inspiration for Marguerite Henry’s “San Domingo: The Medicine Hat Stallion. She and her illustrator, Robert Lougheed visited the Cayuse Ranch in the 60’s and the books dedicated to “Mr. Mustang”, Bob Brislawn. Today grandsons and granddaughters of this famous horse still live on the original 3,000-acre Wyoming ranch.

The Spanish Mustang The Spanish Mustang is a medium sized horse, ranging from 13 2 to 15 hands with an average size of about 14 2 with proportional weight. They are smooth muscled with short backs, rounded rumps and low set tails. Coupling is smooth and the overall appearance is of a well-balanced, smoothly built horse. The girth is deep, with well-laid back shoulder and fairly pronounced withers.

The Spanish Mustang They possess the classic Spanish type head with a straight or concave forehead and a convex nose which is in contrast to the straight forehead and nose of most breeds. Ears are medium to short, necks are fairly well crested in mares and geldings and heavily crested in mature stallions. Chests are narrow but deep with the front legs joining the chest in an "A" shape rather than straight across. Chestnuts are small or missing altogether, particularly on the rear legs. Feet are extremely sound with thick walls, many having what is typically known as a "mule foot" which resists bruising due to the concave sole. Canons are short, upper foreleg is long, with the canon bone having a larger circumference than other breeds of comparable size and weight.

Long-strided, many are gaited, with a comfortable four bear gait such as the amble, running walk or single foot. Some individuals are laterally gaited and do a very passable "paso" gait though without extreme knee action. They are hardy animals and tend to be less prone to injury, particularly of the legs and feet, than other breeds.

The Spanish Mustang They have a very different mentality than "domesticated" horses. The Spanish Mustang will rarely allow itself to get into a dangerous situation. This would include any abusive training scenario. They expect to be treated with respect and it is a respect that must be earned by their trainer. A consistent characteristic of this breed is a very high intelligence, making them horses that have an opinion and sometimes that opinion is not in agreement with yours! Now you may find yourself asking, “Why would anyone want one?” “Bold”, “courageous”, “tough”, “the friendliest horse I’ve ever owned”.

The Spanish Mustang No where else will you find a tougher horse more willing to give that extra bit of heart to a person they’ve bonded to. One rancher, Don Bellis, in an article on the Spanish Mustang in the Gillette, WY News-Record was quoted as saying; “When you ride them, you can ride all day and feel like you haven’t done a thing. They got a mile-eating trot. They take you across the country in that trot, just like sitting in a chair.

They can do anything a Quarter Horse can do and you won’t beat them to death riding them. I’m a born-and-raised Quarter Horse man. Now I’m getting rid of my Quarter Horses and going to all mustangs.”

Bellis went on to add, “They got a real good personality, they bond up good. Treat that horse like he was a pet and you got a friend for life. I’ve got an 8-year-old grandson that rides our mustang bareback with just a halter.” The Spanish Mustang

FUTURE: As the breed grows and becomes more recognized in the equine world, more and more people are discovering what a treasure the Spanish Mustang still is. Probably best suited for endurance or competitive trail work, Spanish Mustangs are beginning to turn some heads. 2000 Winner of the coveted AERC Jim Jones Award, Geronimo’s Warrior SMR #2006, won with over 2,200 miles all in 50 and 100-mile rides. The next place horse followed with less than a thousand miles.

Because of their short backs and powerful hindquarters these horses do very well in advanced dressage movements, however their short stature usually put them at a disadvantage in the show ring. However many are being used as pony club mounts, as their sensible disposition keeps them manageable and their athletic abilities keeps them in the ribbons. The Spanish Mustang

Spanish Mustangs are also playing polo; reining, running poles and barrels and keeping up with horses a lot larger than they are, proving bigger is not necessarily better.

The Spanish Mustang Emmett Brislawn, his wife, Gioja, and daughter, Josie, will continue to breed fine Spanish Mustangs on the homestead of Emmett’s father, Bob. The ranch in Oshoto, Wyoming boasts a view of Devil’s Tower from the backside of the 3,000-acre ranch. Watching the herds of mustangs running across this Wyoming landscape, like their ancestors did hundreds of years ago makes a person proud to be a small part of it. Spanish Mustang breeders can be found across the country. Each of them making their own contribution to Bob Brislawn’s dream: The preservation and perpetuation of the pure Spanish Mustang.

The Spanish Mustang Registry
  For more information on the SMR or to find a breeder near you, please visit our web site at www.spanishmustang.org

Or contact:
The Spanish Mustang Registry
11790 Halstad Avenue
Lonsdale MN 55046

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