Saturday, August 27, 2011

Population Management in Mustang Herds

Population Management in Mustang Herds

By Diane Ward

An estimated two to five million mustangs spanned the states up to the 1900’s. However their population declined drastically as domestic livestock competed with them for resources. The public and government viewed the mustangs as excess to be slaughtered, and captured for military and personal use. The abuse included hunting from airplanes and poisoning. The mustangs were too large to occupy the continually shrinking land and in response in 1934 to 1963, the Grazing Service paid private contractors to kill the herds and allowed carcasses to be used for pet food. Ranchers were often permitted to round up any horses they wanted, and the Forest Service shot any remaining animals.

            It was not till the first federal wild free-roaming horse protection law in 1959, or Public Law 86-234, that it was prohibited to use motor vehicles for hunting wild horses. This became known as the Wild Horse Annie act after Velma Bronn Johnston who campaigned against the cruel treatment of the mustangs. Humane treatment and protection of the mustangs was increased further by the Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.

            Mustangs are now recognized by the United States Congress as “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which continue to contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people.” However overpopulation and herd management is a continuing concern. Currently the Bureau of Land Management is in charge of monitoring and controlling the mustang herds. It was stated in the Salazar Wild Horse Initiative that the BLM “seeks nothing less than ensuring healthy herds of wild horses and burros thriving on healthy public rangelands, both now and for generations to come.”

            More than 38,000 wild horses and burros were estimated in 201 by the BLM to be roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in up to10 Western states. Most mustang herds have no natural predators to keep their numbers regulated which can allow herd sizes to double about every four years.  Because of this the BLM must remove thousands of animals each year to control population. The guidelines and techniques used to round up mustangs are strict and humane. For instance one method uses a “Judas horse” which is a trained horse which has been trained to lead wild horses into pen to be easily removed. Then the mustangs are given homes through adoption and are still protected under the act until the first year of ownership.

            Since 2010 nearly 225,000 Mustangs have been adopted. Several programs that support mustangs have missions to further mustang adoptions, including the Extreme Mustang Makeover which is considered “Ultimate 90-Day Wild Mustang Training Competition,” and provides hundreds of trained mustangs to the public every year. The Mustang Heritage Foundation is a “public, charitable, nonprofit organization dedicated to facilitating successful adoptions for America’s excess mustangs and burros.” Since 2007, the Mustang Heritage Foundation has placed more than 2,000 Mustangs in adoptive homes.


Mustang Heritage Foundation:

Extreme Mustang Makeover:

U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management: 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Blooper reel

Not everything goes the way we planned while training the mustangs. I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves.

Rachel's mustang running away from her.

 This picture was taken by Kelly Pippen. Mimzee doesn't like the saddle.

Rachel getting dragged by her yearling mustang.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Big Mak wins at 4-H

Here's the link to the BLM's facebook page where they posted Rachel's picture with Big Mak:

"Rachel and her adopted mustang, Docs Big Mak recently won the Grand Champion in Halter for grade geldings at the Mississippi State 4-H Championship show. Rachel and Big Mac were up against some great competition, but Big Mac walked out with the BLUE!"

Here are some pictures!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mestengo: The origins of the American Mustang

Mestengo: The origins of the American Mustang

By Diane Ward

            The name Mustang comes from the Mexican Spanish word mestengo which is derived from the Spanish word mesteño meaning stray or ownerless horse. Mesteño more accurately describes the American Mustang because they are arguably not a wild breed, instead mustangs are legally considered feral, because they are not  indigenous to the land. The original mustangs were the descendants of domestic Spanish horses brought over by European explorers in the late 15th and 16th century, however their roots can be traced back to the 8th century.

            In the 8th century, the Moors invaded Spain bringing with them desert horses known as the Barbs or Berbers which were a cross between the Andalusian and Jennet. By 1492 the Moors had taken the country and started exploration to the New World.  The king of Spain ordered in 1492 that all ships sailing under the Spanish flag carry horses and because of this horses sailed with Christopher Columbus on his second voyage to Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). In 1519, Cortez brought 16 horses to the America’s mainland during his march to Mexico City. Two decades later De Soto started his Exploration from Florida to Mississippi with over 200 horses. Cornado brought over 500 horses in 1540 when he began exploring Mexico and the southwest United States. 
            By 1640 Native Americans were acquiring horses and by the 1700’s nearly every Native American tribe owned horses. Some of the most notable tribes for horsemanship were the Comanche, the Shoshoni, and the Nez Perce. While the Comanche became the leaders of the Plain Indians Horse Culture, the Nez Perce became master horse breeders, and bred the Appaloosa, one of the first distinctly American breeds 
            In February 28, 2010, the Bureau of Land Management estimates that approximately, 33,700 horses and burros are roaming on BLM-managed land in 10 western states. Because wild horses have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years, the BLM must regulate herd size. If the herd size was not regulated, the herds would consume the natural resources and eventually cause a “crash” in herd numbers. The ecosystems of public rangelands are not able to withstand the impacts from overpopulated herds, which include soil erosion, sedimentation of streams, and damage to wildlife habitat. Much of this is due to the fact that the mustangs are not a native specious, and do not self regulate to the land, making the BLM’s management necessary.
            Today some herds still retain a heavy influence of the original Spanish stock, but there is myriad diversity throughout herds and locations. Signs of Thoroughbred bloodlines or other light racehorse-types in the mustang herds were a part of a process that led in part to the creation of the American Quarter Horse. Other herds show signs of the intermixing of heavy draft horse breeds turned loose in an attempt to create work horses and more isolated herds. Because the mustang herds have been added to both deliberately and accidently by western explorers and various other parties up to the mid-century, there is a great variety of colors, and builds between herds. The modern mustang has several different breeding populations which are genetically isolated from one another, giving them distinct traits traceable to particular herds. These herds vary in the degree to which they can be traced to original Spanish stock with many having a makeup of more recent breed releases, however there are still some herds that are relatively unchanged from the original Spanish stock.


 The Mustang Heritage Foundation.

National Wild Horse Adoption Day

The Spanish Barb Breeders Association

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Teddy Bear

Meet Teddy Bear, Cohn Livingston's mustang for the Extreme Mustang Makeover!

Mr. Billy has been a huge help. I have some pictures of him on an earlier post teaching Rachel how to drive a horse.

My sister's and I had won a talent show eariler on the day this was taken, so we gave an encore to everyone at the barn...including Teddy Bear.

My little sister giving a solo.