The Intrepid Explorer Living – Life – Large Nov. 23, 2023

By Dan Abernathy
Posted 11/20/23

Wild horses may have reverted to the wild state from domestication, but they have become symbols of freedom. They are part of the mythology of the American West. Like nearly all Americans, the wild horse is an immigrant and has secured its place as an American icon.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

The Intrepid Explorer Living – Life – Large Nov. 23, 2023


Last year, in 2022, Wyomings largest federal wild horse roundup came to an end. It was launched in October 2021 and conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) across a 3.4-million-acre habitat area known as the Wyoming Checkerboard.”

This massive helicopter capture resulted in the permanent removal of 3,650 wild horses, or “feral horses” as they are referred to now. This massive roundup also contributed to the deaths of 37 wild horses and 27 more were euthanized for what have now been determined were non-life-threatening conditions.

In their reenactment of the Trail of Tears,” the BLM, plans to remove 41 wild horses from a herd of 180 in the McCullough Peaks area. The McCullough Peaks Wild Horse Herd Management Area is located east of Cody, which is about 70 miles east of Yellowstone National Park.

The McCullough Peaks herd is composed of an aging population and removing these horses could have a negative impact. Thirty-six percent of the 107 mares are aged over 15 and 23 are over 20. The herd’s size is predicted to decrease in the near future as the older horses pass away.

The Environmental Assessment indicates that the herd’s growth rate is only 2 percent, primarily due to a Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) fertility-control program. Sixty of the 107 mares were vaccinated in 2022/2023. PZP is a fertility-control vaccine given to female horses through an injection via remote darting.

Due to a limited number of reproductive-aged mares and the upcoming winter weather, experts predict a natural decline in the population of wild horses. They foresee the loss of 15 to 20 elderly horses this winter, resulting in zero population growth for the next one to two years.

What is happening is that the BLM is not just removing wild horses from their range so cows and sheep can have it. They are also removing the mystic symbolism of the wild horses, in referring to wild horses as, feral horses,” which I believe is becoming more and more prevalent. Using “feral” instead of “wild horse” or” mustangs” diminishes the symbol of freedom and places the wild horse into the category of homeless beggars. Soon you will be seeing them standing next to a public access road into the sagebrush-covered vistas of the BLM with cardboard signs asking for help.

It may be accurate to call wild horses “feral,” since they are not mustangs but rather the descendants of domesticated horses. Since their arrival by Spanish colonizers, especially during times of economic upheaval, horses have been set free by owners who were unable to care for them.

Wild horses may have reverted to the wild state from domestication, but they have become symbols of freedom. They are part of the mythology of the American West. Like nearly all Americans, the wild horse is an immigrant and has secured its place as an American icon.

We cannot forget or set aside what the wild horse means to everyone. Wild horses are the descendants of the painted war ponies that allowed a few thousand native warriors to hold off the American army. They are also the descendants of the cavalry mounts that violently domesticated the Native Americans. They are the descendants of the Pony Express runners and the horses that tirelessly carried the cowboys on the great cattle drives north.

The horse was first entered into America by Columbus and other Spanish explorers. Horses quickly moved across trade routes to the Navajo, Ute and Apache, then to the Kiowa and Comanche of the southern Plains and the Shoshone of the Mountain West. By 1700, horses had reached the Nez Perce and Blackfoot of the far Northwest and traveled eastward to the Lakota, Crow and Cheyenne of the northern Plains.

The original mustangs were the colonial Spanish horses, but over hundreds of years, other breeds of horses have been intermixed. This resulted in distinct characteristics that set them apart. Though they are referred to as wild horses, mustangs are technically feral horses, as they are descendants of the once-domesticated horses.

Wild horses, mustangs or feral horses are beyond a symbol of the American Wild West. There are six types found in America. Each one has unique characteristics that set them apart.

The Pryor Mountains of Montana are home to the Pryor Mountain Mustangs, which many consider to be the purest” mustangs. They are closely linked to the original Spanish horses that were brought over to the United States.

The Kiger Mustang from Oregon have a strong influence of Spanish blood. Kiger Mustangs are famous for their signature dun color with dorsal stripes.

The Cerbat Mustang is found in Arizona. It has a Spanish ancestry that is factually notable in its appearance. Though their numbers are small and resemble the appearance of Andalusian horses,

Spanish Mustangs are direct descendants of the first Spanish horses in America. Many confuse them with the wild horses of the BLM. The numbers of Spanish Mustangs began to dwindle in the early 20th century. People of the time began to have concerns and efforts were made to preserve their numbers by introducing horses from Native American herds and ranch stock.

The Colonial Spanish Mustang is a descendant of a mixture of breeds that include the Spanish Barb, Arabian and Andalusian. However, unlike most domesticated horses, they have a five-lumbar vertebrae instead of the usual six. There are currently two herds of Colonial Spanish Mustangs in America, the Corolla Wild Horses and the Shackleford ponies. These native North American horses roam along North Carolinas Outer Banks.

According to legend, Chincoteague Ponies are descendants of Spanish horses that fled a shipwreck off the Virginia coast. These iconic ponies have adapted to the unique environment of the Assateague and Chincoteague Islands they call home. Their bellies often look bloated, as they drink almost double the amount of water than other horses.

With the calmness of a pounding heart and being 98-percent feral myself, I will always be on the side of the wild spirited horse. Whether they are wild, feral or just uncaught, they have nothing but freedom and the will to be nothing but be wild and free. This is their wholeness. They have nothing else, yet they are not allowed to enjoy their nothing else in peace. With their blatant symbol of being pure with wild and free, man sees only fear and discomfort as he has lost his wild and free. What should be feared with staggering discomfort is the time that is coming when the free-spirited horse is no more. -dba

You can find more of the unfiltered insight and the Art of Dan Abernathy at

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel, The Intrepid Explorer!