All About the American Mustang Horse: Breed Profile, History, Characteristics, & Facts

The American Mustang is a feral horse located in the western part of the United States. A unique breed with a fascinating history, they are suitable for a variety of disciplines and jobs due to their characteristics. Even though they may need additional training because of their wild history, they are easy to find and can be excellent for young riders.

American Mustang Horse Breed Profile

History and Origins

Out in the western part of the United States are free-roaming horses called American Mustangs, descendants of the once-domesticated horses brought over from the Spanish in the 16th century. Although they are often referred to as wild horses, they are more properly defined as feral horses. Even though they originate from the Colonial Spanish horse, however, many other breeds and types have been a part of the development of the modern mustang we know today. Some of the mixed bloodlines of the American Mustang include those of the Andalusian and Arabian horses.

American Mustang Horse Breed Statistics

Height and Weight

A typical Mustang Horse is medium-sized and measures around 14 to 15 hands tall and averages around 800 lbs in weight. They are often considered to be light and muscular.

Color and Markings

Mustang horses can come in a variety of colors, bay and chestnut-colored coats being the most common among them. However, they can also be seen with black, gray, pinto, roan, or palomino coats. Some have even been found with a range of Appaloosa or Pinto markings. 


Mustangs are a unique breed as they can look like anything from the traditional Spanish horses, to awkward leggy-grade horses with no discernable breed distinctions or influence. Conformation can vary quite a bit from herd to herd due to the wild nature of this breed. Two obvious and common characteristics, however, are that they tend to have large, expressive eyes and inward-pointing, small ears.

Unique Characteristics of the Mustang Horse

Mustang horses are extremely surefooted and hardy. These make them excellent trail and working horses due to their ability to navigate any terrain. They are also known for their easy trainability, even temperaments, incredibly high stamina, and intelligence.

American Mustang Temperament and Common Behavioral Issues

Mustangs’ behavior will vary based upon their training background. Those that are freshly captured and adopted out may be prone to be easily spooked and reactive, though their temperaments can range from hot and reactive to calm and cooperative. However, given their even-tempered nature and easy trainability, it shouldn’t take long to help domesticate them to gain a calmer and more collected nature.

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Grooming the American Mustang

Another lovable feature about the American Mustang is that this breed does not have any specific grooming needs. Their strong hooves do require proper maintenance and care that is essential to their health. Beyond that, not much is required except for regular grooming and currying their coats to help promote their health.

Nutrition for the American Mustang

When it comes to nutrition, the Mustang is an easy keeper. They can be easily made content eating grasses and shrubbery, though owners also occasionally provide grain supplements such as timothy hay and barley.

Common Health Issues for the American Mustang

American Mustangs are not a delicate breed when it comes to their health. The primary issue owners should be aware of is that Mustang horses are prone to obesity and founder with an excess of lush pasture. Owners should keep an eye on how much their horse is being fed to avoid these issues, especially given the Mustang’s small size.

American Mustang Common Uses and Talents

Mustangs have many talents and uses. They have been seen in the Dressage, Western Dressage, Trail riding, and Jumping disciplines. Thanks to their wild heritage, their surefootedness makes them an ideal choice for a good working or trail horse.

Facts About the American Mustang

A Mustang horse’s life expectancy is up to 40 years. They have a strong genetic diversity greater than any purebred breed today. Another interesting fact is that there is a lot of controversy surrounding the protection of the modern-day wild American Mustangs. This is because the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s method of controlling them is to capture and hold these horses for adoption. While this is obviously better than the 20th century, during which time these horses were often captured for food for both dogs and humans, it still involves capturing these free-spirited horses that some, like those heading up the American Wild Horse Campaign, would argue should be left in the wild.

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Famous American Mustangs

There are numerous famous Mustangs that are well worth noting. First, there is Cobra, a talented Mustang in the discipline of Dressage. He earned a Freestyle Western Dressage Level 1 World Championship in 2015 and was named USEF Horse of the Year in Western Dressage. Next is Hwin, a Mustang adopted by eventer Elisa Wallace. They competed together in the 2015 Mustang Magic Makeover, and became so famous that Breyer crafted a model horse after him.

The third famous Mustang worth noting is Fledge, who was adopted by eventer Elisa Wallace and was the Extreme Mustang Makeover winner in 2012. Next is Maypop, trained by Bobby Kerr for the 2012 Supreme Mustang Makeover. Finally we have Merv and his trainer, Tom Hagwood. They were the Mustang Million Champions, an event put on by the Mustang Heritage Foundation where trainers from all over the country picked up wild mustangs to vie for one million dollars in prizes.

Is the American Mustang Right for You?

If you are wondering if an American Mustang is the right horse for you, then it is worth noting that due to their smaller size in height, these horses are fitting for short and small riders. They are quite versatile in a variety of disciplines, making them ideal for riders looking for a challenge. Each horse can vary in temperament, so it is best to make sure that you find the appropriate match for your experience and needs.

How to Adopt or Buy an American Mustang

There are a few ways in which you can adopt or buy a Mustang horse. Every year, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) adopts out Mustangs from their holding pens to help maintain a healthy herd number on the range. There are strict, specific requirements you will need to meet in order to adopt a feral Mustang, including facility, fencing, and trailer requirements. 

Oftentimes you can find Mustangs for sale from private sellers that are already trained and rideable. Located all over the country, they are one of the more affordable breeds to purchase. Like purchasing any horse, it is always a good idea to get a pre-purchase exam to assist in evaluating the risk of health benefits. 

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Mustangs are also available for adoption through the Mustang Makeover event each year, where approved trainers take feral Mustangs in for 90 days to train and showcase them in a specific discipline of their choosing. 

American Mustang Horse Family

American Mustang Horse FAQs

How much does a Mustang cost?

There is an adoption fee of $25 for an untrained, untouched Mustang to be given to an approved adoptee. Trained or gentled Mustangs have a $125 adoption fee.

How big do Mustang horses get?

Mustangs grow to 14 – 15 hands in height and are usually about 800 pounds, though they occasionally – but very rarely – get to be bigger than that.

Where do Mustang horses come from?

Mustangs originated from the Spanish horses brought over, but have intermixed with other breeds that now make up the Mustang we know today.

Are Mustang horses good for beginner riders?

Horse owners who wish to have a Mustang should have extensive experience due to their wild history. Mustangs are typically lightly trained, having on average about 100 days’ worth depending on where you find them.

How rare is a Mustang horse?

A Mustang horse is not rare and is one of the easiest breeds to find. In fact, there are over thousands in off-range BLM holding facilities. 

What disciplines can a Mustang horse do? 

Mustangs can do a variety of disciplines, including trail riding, dressage, jumping, and ranch work.

What is the Mustang Makeover?

The Mustang Makeover is a competition in which approved trainers from the BLM adopt and train a horse in 100 days, competing in a discipline of their choice where the horse is available for adoption at the conclusion of the event.


The American Mustang is a very versatile and beneficial horse. With many common colors and markings, the Mustang breed can look like any other traditional Spanish or grade horse. Their endurance and height make them a great choice for small riders, with plenty of opportunities to tackle the challenge of training and bonding with a horse that has a wild history. However, their easy upkeep and ability to be used for a variety of skills easily makes up for the small challenges you may be faced with in owning an American Mustang.

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