Colonial Spanish Horses

The versatile, but endangered Colonial Spanish horse, brought to the Pacific Northwest by Spanish Conquistadors, became the mount for Native Americans.


Photo Credit: Audrey Pavia


Use: Colonial Spanish horses are used in a variety of disciplines, including cow work, eventing and endurance. Photo by Audrey Pavia.


History: Spanish Conquistadors brought horses to New World, and by the 1500s, horses were established in the Southwest among the native populations. They gradually spread north, east and westward to the Southeast, the Plains and the Pacific Northwest. The horses that became the mounts of Native Americans were uniquely of Spanish origin and type. In the 1800s, as tribes were gradually defeated by the U.S. cavalry, their horses were destroyed. Thousands of Spanish Mustangs were shot by the U.S. cavalry under government orders. The few Spanish Mustangs that were not killed were bred to Thoroughbred stallions by the cavalry in the hopes of creating a rugged horse with greater size. Despite the widespread destruction and crossbreeding of Spanish Mustangs, some pure, isolated pockets of these horses remained into the 20th century. These rare animals lived in feral groups, mostly in the West. The rangeland where they lived was remote enough that they remained fairly pure in breeding. In 1957, a Wyoming horseman named Bob Brislawn started the Spanish Mustang Registry in an attempt to save what was left of the original Spanish Mustang. In 1925, he had begun trying to preserve these horses by starting his own breeding program. After establishing the Spanish Mustang Registry, Brislawn continued his quest to save the breed by purchasing a number of these horses from an Apache mustanger in Utah, Monte Holbrook, who rounded them up from the wild with the help of his son, daughter and wife. These 20 horses would become the foundation stock of the Spanish Mustang registry. Today, several different organizations exist to represent different strains of the Colonial Spanish Horse. The American Livestock Breed Conservancy, which has placed the Spanish Mustang on its “critical” breeds list, recognizes several strains of Colonial Spanish Horse—horses that descend from the original Spanish horses, but are of different breeding. The ALBC strains that are found in horses registered with the Spanish Mustang Registry represent horses that were gathered from different parts of the country. They include the Choctaw, Cerbat and New Mexico. Other strains in the breed include Bookcliff, Cherokee, Yates and McKinley. Outside the definition of Spanish Mustangs but considered Colonial Spanish Horses by the ALBC are the Cracker Horse, Pryor Mustang, Sulphur and Marsh Tacky.

Subscribe now


Conformation: Conformation differs among the different strains of Colonial Spanish Horse, but generally speaking, these horses measure anywhere from 13 to 15 hands. These horses often have a straight to concave forehead and a nose, which is straight or slightly convex. The muzzle is fine and small, with crescent-shaped nostrils. They come in all horse colors and patterns, including dun, grulla, pinto and Appaloosa.


Special Considerations/Notes: Only 3,000 Colonial Spanish Horses exist in the United States. Includes horses registered by the Spanish Mustang Registry, Southwest Spanish Mustang Association, Spanish Barb Breeders Association, Horse of the Americas, American Indian Horse Registry, and strain registries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *