Mustang Horse: Breed Profile

Versatile, hardy, and intelligent: the Mustang has a lot to offer. This true American breed has a rich history and can be a phenomenal riding partner when properly trained.

History and origin of Mustangs

Today, mustangs live in the wild in the western United States. Some of these horses escaped or were released, others were traded or captured by Native Americans.

The escaped horses formed herds and lived in the wild, gradually being pushed westward by progressive land development. The resulting wild horse population grew, but as the land became more populated and ranchers sought pasture for their livestock, the growing population became a problem. In the early 1900s, there were more than two million mustang horses in the US. Today, an estimated 30,000 mustangs remain.

The Free-Roaming Wild Horses and Burros Act has helped protect mustangs from hunting, poisoning, and harassment, but it has also caused the population to grow again. The Bureau of Land Management has begun rounding up and adopting mustangs to control the population.

Size of mustang horses

Mustangs are smaller horses, typically 14 to 15 hands tall and weighing about 800 pounds.

Breeding and use

Mustangs are bred in the wild and currently struggle with overpopulation, so there are no captive breeding programs. These horses are versatile and have made successful careers in riding, ranch work, dressage, and more.

Colors and markings

Mustangs have a wide range of coat colors. Many are bay and chestnut, but there are also black gray, brindle, roan, and palomino coat colors.

Unique characteristics of the mustang

The mustang is known to be very hardy and confident due to its wild heritage. These characteristics make mustangs ideal for working and riding, as they can navigate terrain that would be difficult for other breeds.

Diet and nutrition

Mustangs are hardy. In the wild, they feed on grass and brush. Therefore, they are relatively easy to keep in captivity. Owners may need to restrict mustangs’ access to lush grasses, as overgrazing can lead to obesity and associated problems, such as loss of bone mass.

Common health and behavioral problems

Mustangs are hardy and known for their strong, healthy hooves. They are usually quite healthy.

The behavior of mustangs can vary depending on the horse’s background and level of training. A mustang that has been rounded up and adopted without much exposure to people is likely to be reactive and fearful. If given time to gain the trust of humans, mustangs can be calm and well-behaved if properly trained.


Mustangs have no special grooming requirements. They benefit from regular grooming and cleaning to promote a healthy coat. As they have strong hooves, regular hoof care is also important for their health.


  • Robust and safe
  • Intelligent
  • Numerous horses available for adoption


  • Small horses are not ideal for tall riders
  • Sloppy horses require extensive training
  • Mustang horses of champions and celebrities.

Many mustangs have become famous:

Cobra proved his talent in dressage after his adoption. He won the Western Dressage World Championship Freestyle Level 1 in 2015 and was named USEF Western Dressage Horse of the Year.

Hwin was adopted by event rider Elisa Wallace. Together they participated in the 2015 Mustang Magic Makeover and Breyer made a model horse based on Hwin.

Is the Mustang right for you?

Because Mustangs are smaller, they tend to be best suited for smaller riders. They are versatile and suitable for a wide range of disciplines and activities. The temperament of mustangs can vary from a hot and reactive temperament to a calm and cooperative temperament. Therefore, the horse you purchase must be suited to your experience and needs.

How to adopt or buy a mustang

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopts mustangs each year to maintain an adequate herd size for the horses to survive on the land. If you wish to adopt a mustang, you must first learn about the BLM’s adoption requirements. You will have to meet certain requirements for the type of fencing, furnishings, and even the horse’s trailer to be approved for adoption. Remember that most of these horses have never been handled and need to be trained in everything from dressage to riding.

It is also common to find mustangs for sale by private sellers, and these horses may already be trained to ride. Mustangs tend to be a more affordable breed and are available nationwide. When purchasing a horse, it is always advisable to have a pre-purchase examination to determine any health problems that may affect the horse’s performance.

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