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Breed Portrait: Colonial Spanish Horses

Breed Portrait: Colonial Spanish Horses

Photo courtesy Black HIlls Wild Horse Sanctuary

When the Spaniards arrived on the shores of the New World in the 15th century, they found a land void of horses. They couldn’t have known that horses had originally inhabited the Americas and that they were about to reintroduce them, changing the history of two continents. The horses that traveled with them from Spain and set their hooves in the New World would ultimately become the ancestors of the Indian Pony, along with a host of unique Americas breeds, like the Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and the Appaloosa. This Spanish horse — now called the Colonial Spanish Horse in modern times — was agile, hardy and adaptable, and over the centuries, spread throughout North America, evolving to adapt to its new land.

By the time of the Indian Wars of the 1800s, Spanish horses numbered in the millions, and could be found from the East Coast to the West. Native Americans had become expert horsemen and used these fast horses to battle the U.S. cavalry. Herds of Spanish-bred Mustangs that had escaped from captivity roamed throughout the West, and were often caught, tamed and used to work cattle on vast ranches.

Diluting the Spanish Blood

By the late 1800s, Native…

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