Spanish Mustangs

To best explain what the Spanish Mustang is,

we need to go back to those who knew and used them.

One such man was Frank Hopkins, perhaps the best of endurance riders, for he rode at a time when endurance rides really proved endurance.  "In Mr. Hopkins estimation, the test of a good horseman is that he can do what he sets out to do with his horse and at the same time manage the horse so skillfully and considerately that the horse does not suffer a

single ill effect in the feat."  Charles B. Roth


"Two factors pronounce Frank Hopkins an extraordinary horseman; his ability to rate his endurance for horses for their maximum effort and his success with the Mustang horse.

Frank Hopkins competed in many endurance rides in his lifetime.  The story of Frank Hopkins is also the story of the mustang horse.   After having spent nearly 60 years in the saddle on the western frontier, riding dispatch for frontier generals, and having competed in more endurance rides than any other man,  Frank Hopkins believed that the Mustang was,

"the most significant animal on the American continent."

In one of Frank's few published comments, he wrote:  "I know what the Mustang strain means:

it means a horse that can keep going day in and day out,  that doesn't need bandaging, fussing with and that can win endurance rides  whether the rules are made to order or not.."

Frank shared the same high opinion of the Mustangs as did the Sioux indians who Frank knew well. 

He was born shortly after the Civil War, in a log cabin in Fort Laramie, Wyoming.  His father was an army scout and his mother was reputed to have been the daughter of a Sioux chief.  Frank often rode with the indians to capture  and break Mustangs.

In his early teens he rode dispatch for Generals Miles and Crook. Later, he was a buffalo hunter and worked with Buffalo Jones, Bill Matheson, William Hunter and Bill Cody. 

He was riding Mustangs and had definite opinions about them.

When Frank was riding messenger for General Crook, the general mentioned to Frank that,

"If troops can't overtake a band of Indians in two hours, it's better to give up the chase." 

Frank pursued the comment, and the general replied that the wiry indian ponies, "can go 90 miles without food or water.   They can wear out all the cavalry horses that we have on the frontier."

"Frank Hopkins was probably aware of the problem even before General Crook had realized the situation.  Besides the phenomenal endurance of the Mustang, Frank also rated the mustang as an intelligent and economical horse."

Anthony Amaral

In Frank Hopkins words,

"You can't beat Mustang intelligence in the entire equine race. 

These animals have had to shift for themselves for generations. They had to work out their own destiny or be destroyed. Those that survived were animals of superior intelligence. The mustang was grass fed all his life.  He picked his own food from the country, could live where even a  cow would starve, and knew how to take such good care of himself, 'he' was always ready to go."

Frank had a little 700 lb. white mare that once belonged to Red Calf, a Sioux Indian.  He and Red Calf had been friends most of their lives.  After the Sioux were put on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, Red Calf asked Frank to buy the mare. He told Frank that the little mare could lope all day without getting tired, and he really thought a lot of her.   Frank bought the mare from General Crook and called her White-y. He raised five colts from her, the last one was a cream and white paint mare.  Frank never crossed his White-y ponies with outside blood.  He used the best indian pony stallion that he could find.  For, as Frank himself said,

"I believe the indian ponies are without a doubt

the same horses that were brought here by the Spanish. 

The Mustangs were the same horse until other horses mixed with them."




John Richard Young, a well known trainer has this to say about Mustangs:

" We have not only let the Mustang die out, we have done our utmost to kill him off,

just as we slaughtered the buffalo. The crime might be excusable,if we succeeded in breeding a better horse than the true Mustang, but we have not even come near it..  Today a proud horse owner feel's justified in boasting of an exceptional mount that, after special conditioning and plenty of grain-feeding,performs a feat of endurance which any fair Mustang,  as reliable records prove, could have duplicated with ease."

Edmund C. Cleveland, a U.S. Customs agent of Nagales, Arizona, had this to say of Mustang stamina and endurance:  "Few horseman today can even begin to understand how the mustang could stand up to hard work under severe conditions. We rarely test our horses today. We think that a 50 or 100 mile trail ride proves a horse's worth.   All such minor tests really prove that a winning horse, if carefully conditioned and grain-fed, might be able to stay with a good Mustang for a day or two,  if the Mustang only ate grass."

In 1888 Captain Albert E. Woodson of the fifth cavalry strongly recommended that the female side of the government breeding program to produce "standard" horses for mounted service be a carefully selected Indian pony mare.  Why?  Because he said, "they possess the qualities we desire to retain our proposed standard to a greater degree than any other breed of horses; characteristics so marked, that no amount of our breeding would eradicate them.  All officers of experience on the Western Plains have had ocular proof of the superiority of the Indian Ponies over horses in Indian warfare; their docility, activity, tractability, and hardy endurance, combined with weight bearing capacity, render them especially adapted for such purposes."

"Well the wild ones-the coyote duns, the smokies, the blues, the blue roans, the snip nosed pintos, the flea bitten grays, and the black skinned whites, the shining blacks, and the rusty browns, the red roans, the toasted sorrels, and the stocking legged bays, the splotched appaloosas and the cream colored palominos, and all the other shadings of color as various as the hues that show and fade on the clouds at sunset- they are all gone now."

.J Frank Dobie


We have, "the MOST significant animal on the American continent ."

© Oelke