Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mustangs on the Homestead

Today an old friend came to the Homestead to keep Rio company, Missy Chiq. Until this weekend Missy Chiq had been living at our old house under the care of my father, the Nice Man in the Plaid Coat.

Since we are making real headway in getting our Homestead fences and infrastructure built back up, Buck and I thought it was time to bring Chiq on up.

 Body language translation: Chiq "You think you're hot stuff? Come here and I'll kick the #%*& out of you, and then we'll see who's hot stuff." To which Rio says "Oh Gosh." but is secretly planning his strategy for trapping Chiq in a corner and showing HER who's boss, like he did last time they were together.

The minute she got here there was a lot of squealing and kicking, of course. Classic horse play. Horses are always very concerned with maintaining their standing in the herd, but since there is no herd really, Chiq just wants to be Ruler Of All She Surveys but Rio is pretty sure HE is the Ruler Of All.
They'll work it out in a couple of days. Hopefully they can rule peacefully together. They already have one good minion (me), and a couple of dogs for entertainment.

Both Rio and Chiq are Oregon Mustangs.
Rio is a Warm Springs Herd Mustang

 and Chiq is a Steens Mountain Kiger Mustang.

A brief history of Mustangs:
The American Mustang is not a wild native horse, but a tame horse gone feral.
Horses as a species died out on this continent during the ice age. From the ice age forward, horses did not exist here until the Spanish started sending ships over to explore and plunder. In order to get their horses from the ships to the shore they would throw the horses overboard and have them swim to the shore, where most of them would be caught and put into service.

Some of them however would not be caught and ran into the wilderness, where geographical isolation, and a couple hundred years, created unique herds with their own special traits. Some herds were manipulated by Native Americans, others were destroyed for dog and chicken food. During the Civil War and the First World War, Thoroughbred stallions were released in herds to sire battle horses for the Calvary.

Rio's Warm Springs herd was manipulated by the Native Americans and is known for their vast variety of coloration, intelligence, agility and pleasing conformation.

Other herds like Chiqs Kiger Herd are known for their striped "Mesteno" Dunn coloring, intelligence, calm and sturdy nature. The Kiger mustang is considered, by those who know such things, as one of the most genetically pure relations to the original Spanish horses in existence today. Because of the isolated environment of the Steens Mountain they remained unsullied by other breeds which were later introduced by a steady stream of explorers and settlers.

Until twelve years ago, when I adopted my first mustang at a BLM adoption, I really did not fully understand or appreciate what Mustangs were all about. I had been riding horses since I was literally a toddler and I thought I knew everything about horses. Mustangs taught me that I didn't.

I now know that Mustangs are whip smart and not to be dallied with. These are not horses you clop along on. They are very aware of their surroundings since their lives recently depended on that skill. They can also manipulate their environment in uncanny ways (opening locked gates and doors, untying ropes, chasing other horses by swinging and throwing buckets at them). Let's just say that if they had thumbs they would be dangerous.

When you earn their trust they can also be the very best of partners. They don't fly off the handle when spooked and they see their way through problems instead of making things worse, like holding still while you pull a strand of wire off of their legs, instead of freaking out and pulling the wire tight.

They are also "easy keepers" in that their hooves are strong, their health is excellent and they eat less. Since most Mustang herds evolved in mountainous and high desert areas they generally need less forage than a domestic horse to keep a healthy weight on. Missy Chiq, we joke, gets fat on air. She is in fact about 150 pounds overweight right now and has, much to her chagrin, been put on a diet STAT! Because of this ability to use food so efficiently, you cannot allow most mustangs to graze on lush irrigated pastures day and night or they will get sick.

Mustangs are darn good horses and if you know anything about training horses and are thinking of adding a horse to your Homestead, I highly recommend looking into adopting a Mustang.
Even if you are far from adopting a Mustang, I highly recommend learning about their history. It is fascinating and encompasses a great deal of our American story.


  1. Thanks for the tidbits on Mustangs. I've always wanted to adopt mustangs, but since we've yet to train our own "domestic" mini-horse and mule, Mustangs are still in the distant future for us. Your little herd is beautiful!

  2. It must be nice having both of them on the homestead now. Hope they've managed to work out their differences.

    You've done a fine job getting the fences and shed built. That makes the "homecoming" all the more sweet.

    That was an interesting history lesson about the Kiger Mustang.


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