The mustang is a free-roaming horse of the Western United States, descended from horses brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the 16th century. These horses bred with other types of horses, including quarter horses and draft horses, to create the breed we know today. Mustangs are often referred to as wild horses, but because they are descended from once-domesticated horses, they are actually feral horses.
According to Nancy Kerson, a BLM Wild Horse and Burro volunteer, “Mustangs are incredibly intelligent… They have a depth, a complexity, as well as what, for lack of a better word, I will call ‘wisdom’ than other horses.”
Kerson believes mustangs that have spent time on the open range in a functioning herd make especially good trail horses. “Until being captured, their everyday life was an endurance ride and a trail ride, averaging 18 or more miles per day,” she points out. “They know where their feet are. And they don’t want to get hurt. Their surefootedness and their ability to make sense of the movements, sights, sounds, and scents along the trail rival that of the best mules, in my experience.”
Another advantage of wild mustangs, Kerson points out, is that they’re used to living by their wits and their ability to read other animals’ intentions. As a result, they’re absolute masters of reading people. “Mustangs are capable of bonding very deeply to their human, just as in the wild they bonded to their herdmates,” says Kerson. “Once they trust you and bond with you, it goes very deep.”