Can You Own a Mustang Horse: A Comprehensive Guide

Are you a horse lover interested in owning a mustang? You might be wondering, “Can you own a mustang horse?” The answer is yes, but there are some important things you need to know before bringing one home. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the ins and outs of owning a mustang, from adoption to training and beyond. So, whether you’re a first-time horse owner or a seasoned equestrian, read on to discover everything you need to know about owning a mustang.

Mustang Horse Overview

Wild horses in Sandwash Basin Horse Management Area

History and Origin

The Mustang horse is a descendant of Spanish horses brought to America by Spanish explorers in the 15th and 16th centuries. These horses were eventually captured and used by Native Americans and later by American settlers, who found them to be versatile, strong, and hardy. Over time, these Spanish horses interbred with other domestic and wild breeds, leading to the development of the American Mustang.

Physical Characteristics

Mustang horses are a smaller, stocky breed, with heights typically ranging from 14 to 15 hands (about 52-60 inches). They can weigh up to 800 lbs, and have strong, muscular bodies, narrow but well-defined chests, and rounded hindquarters. Mustangs have short backs and well-shaped heads, with sharp, wide-spaced eyes. Their coat colors span a wide range of shades, from palomino to chestnut and black. Due to the variability in genetics, the breed’s appearance can vary between different horses.

Personality and Temperament

Mustangs are known for their hardiness and adaptability, as they have evolved in the wild and are capable of surviving in diverse environments such as deserts, mountains, and plains. They possess a strong survival instinct and a high level of intelligence. As a result, they are well-suited for a variety of tasks, including trail riding and ranch work.

When it comes to temperament, Mustang horses are generally calm, docile, and social creatures. However, since they are wild by nature, they can be more challenging to train compared to other horse breeds. Their wild nature also means that they are often more independent and may take time to form strong bonds with their owners.

In summary, the Mustang horse is a versatile and hardy breed with a rich history and unique physical attributes. Their wild heritage lends them a strong spirit and adaptability, while their affectionate temperament makes them suitable for a variety of equestrian pursuits. Despite their challenges in training, Mustang horses can make excellent companions for dedicated and experienced horse owners.

Wild Horse Populations

Feral vs. Domestic Horses

Wild mustangs, a symbol of the American West, are often confused with truly wild horses. However, they are considered feral rather than wild, as they have descended from a domesticated population. Over time, these horses have adapted to their environment, developing unique traits and characteristics that set them apart from their domestic counterparts.

Feral horses are distinguishable from domestic horses not only by their behavior, but also by their appearance. Mustangs are typically smaller and stockier than domestic breeds, reaching 14-15 hands high and weighing up to 800 lbs. Their wide range of colors, including palomino, chestnut, and black, contribute to their striking beauty.

Distribution and Habitat

The wild mustangs of North America are mainly found across the western United States, with some populations in Canada as well. These feral horses roam freely in diverse habitats, from arid deserts to cold mountain ranges, displaying remarkable adaptability to their environment.

The population of wild horses in the United States has been a point of contention, as their numbers have grown exponentially, sometimes exceeding the Appropriate Management Level (AML) set by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in certain areas, such as Nevada.

Mustangs, as well as other feral horse populations like the Brumbies in Australia, impact their ecosystems with their grazing habits, reproduction rates, and migration patterns, which can affect native flora and fauna. This has led to ongoing debates over land use, conservation, and population management.

While mustangs are not the only feral horse population in the world, they certainly hold a unique place in America’s history and culture. Preserving these herds and their habitats remains a challenge, as the delicate balance between preserving their freedom and managing their impact on the ecosystem continues to be a contentious issue.

Government Involvement

Wild Mustangs in mountains

Bureau of Land Management

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) plays a significant role in the management and protection of wild mustang horses in the United States. They oversee the adoption and sales program for these animals, aiming to ensure their welfare and a sustainable balance between the wild horse population and available resources. Those who wish to adopt a mustang can do so through the BLM’s initiatives, such as their Adoption and Sales Program.

Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, enacted by Congress in 1971, protects and manages wild horse populations on public lands. The Act acknowledges the value of wild horses and burros as natural resources and designates their management responsibility to the BLM. By doing so, this legislation seeks to ensure that appropriate management measures are in place for the long-term health and preservation of mustangs and burros.

Herd Management Areas

To sustainably maintain wild horse populations, the BLM has established Herd Management Areas (HMAs) across the American West. These HMAs provide wild horses and burros with ample resources, such as food and water, to thrive. In coordination with the American Wild Horse Campaign, the BLM actively manages these areas and conducts periodic population counts to assess the health and population size of mustangs and burros.

Overall, the U.S. government plays a significant role in the management and protection of wild mustang horses through the Bureau of Land Management, the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, and the establishment of Herd Management Areas. By adhering to these regulations and participating in the BLM’s adoption programs, individuals can own and care for mustang horses while contributing to the preservation of this iconic American species.

Owning a Mustang Horse

Wild Mustang and a foal walking along

Adoption and Purchase Process

Owning a Mustang horse can be a rewarding experience. These wild horses have a rich history and are known for their strength and resilience. To own a mustang, one can either adopt or purchase one. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts adoption events and has an online corral where interested individuals can select horses. Additionally, private sellers might offer trained Mustangs for purchase which can save time and effort when compared to adopting a feral horse.

Pre-Adoption Requirements

Before adopting or purchasing a mustang, certain requirements must be met. The prospective adopter must be:

  • At least 18 years old
  • Free of any animal cruelty convictions
  • Without violations of the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act

Additionally, the adopter must provide a corral and pen area suitable for the horse, with specific dimensions depending on the size and age of the horse. For example, adult mustangs require a corral of at least 20 feet x 20 feet, whereas a mare and foal may need a 30 foot x 30 foot enclosure.

Post-Adoption Care

Once a mustang is adopted, they will likely need to be tamed, as feral horses are not accustomed to human interaction. This process, known as gentling, requires patience and skill. A qualified trainer can offer valuable guidance and assistance to ensure the horse gradually becomes well-adjusted.

Post-adoption, owners should be prepared for ongoing care expenses such as feeding, regular vet visits, and any necessary supplements. On average, owners can expect yearly feeding costs to be around $1,200 for a Mustang horse.

In summary, owning a Mustang horse requires careful consideration of the adoption or purchase process, the necessary pre-adoption requirements, and ongoing care and maintenance. By meeting these criteria, prospective owners can enjoy the rewarding experience of owning a resilient and historically significant animal.

Training and Discipline

Wild Mustang Horses in pasture looking at front

Initial Training

When considering the ownership of a mustang horse, it’s essential to understand that these wild animals require a substantial amount of training and discipline to become manageable and trustworthy equestrian companions. Building trust and a bond between the horse and its handler is of utmost importance. Establishing this connection lays the foundation for successful training and fosters healthy, cooperative human interactions.

In the early stages of training, mustang horses require consistent handling to avoid reverting to their feral behavior. A minimum of one hour a day, five days a week is recommended to ensure that the horse remains focused on its training. A proper facility is crucial for containing and managing a mustang, with a 6-foot fence and a sturdy 20×20 pen being necessary.

During this initial training period, the horse should be exposed to various challenging experiences, such as:

  • Leading and loading in a trailer
  • Grooming and picking up all four feet
  • Basic ground manners and yielding to pressure

The process of taming a mustang calls for patience, as some individuals might take longer than others to acquire these skills.

Advanced Training

Once the mustang has mastered initial training, it can be exposed to advanced training, honing their skills in various disciplines such as dressage or trail riding. A mustang’s trainability and adaptability make it possible to integrate them into numerous equestrian activities.

Advanced training should build upon the established trust and emphasize the mustang’s health and physical abilities. A young horse, for example, should not be pushed beyond its physical limitations or forced into a discipline that might cause stress or harm.

During advanced training, the mustang should display more docile and cooperative behavior, allowing handlers to introduce more extensive lessons, such as:

  • Canter transitions and rhythmic exercises
  • Advanced ground and under-saddle work
  • Exposure to obstacles and challenges

It is essential to balance discipline with encouragement and support, ensuring the mustang experiences a positive learning environment.

Dominance is a factor to consider when training mustangs, as some horses might require a more assertive approach from their handlers. However, this should not translate into forceful, aggressive behavior but rather measured and calm responses that establish the handler’s leadership.

In conclusion, owning a mustang horse requires dedication and commitment to training that goes beyond what is typically expected from domesticated horses. With a focused and tailored approach, mustangs can become loyal and reliable companions, thriving in various equestrian disciplines.

Mustang Horse Uses

Portrait of a beautiful red mustang horse looking sideways

Mustang horses are known for their versatility, which makes them suitable for various uses. They possess distinct characteristics such as being surefooted, hardy, and adaptable to different terrains. This section will explore how Mustang horses are utilized in trail riding and recreation, work and ranch activities, and competition and sport.

Trail Riding and Recreation

Mustangs are particularly popular for trail riding due to their surefooted nature and ability to navigate landscapes that other breeds might struggle with. Their hardiness allows them to endure long rides, while their natural instincts help them adapt to various environments. Trail enthusiasts appreciate Mustangs for their stamina and exceptional navigational skills, making them a favorite choice for recreational riders.

Work and Ranch Activities

In the realm of ranch work, Mustangs have proven to be reliable working horses. Their agility and strength enable them to excel in tasks like herding and cattle work. Furthermore, their robust nature allows them to thrive in demanding conditions that may be too strenuous for other breeds. Ranchers often choose Mustang horses for their durability and efficiency when performing physically demanding jobs.

Competition and Sport

Mustangs are also prevalent in competition and sport, particularly in events such as dressage. Their athleticism and grace make them well-suited for this discipline, which requires precision, balance, and fluidity of movement. In addition, Mustangs have been successful in other equine sports like jumping, reining, and endurance races, showcasing their diverse skillset and adaptability.

Overall, the Mustang horse is a versatile and resilient breed, capable of excelling in various activities. Whether used for trail rides, working on a ranch, or participating in competitions, Mustangs prove to be a valuable and well-rounded addition to any equine-related endeavor.

Mustang Horse Care

A rehabilitated mustang

Feeding and Diet

Mustang horses are known for their hardiness, which gives them the ability to subsist on a diet of grass and brush in the wild. As a result, they are considered easy keepers in captivity. Still, it is crucial to pay attention to their diet and grazing habits when they are under human care.

To maintain a proper body weight, Mustangs should have access to good quality harvested hay or pasture plants. It is essential to monitor their weight regularly and adjust their feed accordingly to prevent obesity and related health problems. In addition to hay, providing an all-purpose equine feed based on their age and activity level can be beneficial. Make sure to also supply them with salt, as it is an essential part of a horse’s diet, especially for their electrolyte balance.

Medical and Health Care

While Mustangs are generally healthy animals, they still require routine medical care like any other horse. Regular veterinary checkups can ensure the early detection of any health issues. Vaccinations and deworming should be kept up to date, and dental care should not be overlooked. Maintaining hoof health is also vital for their overall wellbeing, so make sure to schedule regular farrier visits for trimming and checking for any signs of foot problems.

Housing and Fencing

When it comes to housing a Mustang, one should consider the differences between trained and untrained animals. The Bureau of Land Management recommends a minimum of 400 square feet for a corral size. However, untrained Mustangs may need a higher requirement of fencing and safety measures.

High fencing, preferably without any sharp elements, is necessary to keep the Mustang contained and safe, especially when they are first adopted. Mustangs require sturdy fencing that is at least 5-6 feet high, as it prevents the horse from escaping or getting injured. Additionally, providing a shelter or stable to protect them from the elements is crucial for their comfort and wellbeing. The stable should be well-ventilated, clean, and kept dry to reduce the risk of illness or injury.

In conclusion, proper care for a Mustang horse encompasses attention to their diet, medical care, and suitable housing and fencing. By taking due care of these aspects, one can ensure a healthy, happy, and safe environment for their Mustang.

Can You Own a Mustang Horse?

Wild and vibrant mustang stands tall and proud

Owning a mustang horse can be a rewarding experience, as these horses are known for their wild nature and unique ancestry. Mustangs are free-roaming horses that primarily reside in the Western United States, and are descendants of horses brought to the Americas by the Spanish. While they are often referred to as wild horses, they are technically feral horses, as their ancestors were once domesticated.

Adoption and Taming

If you’re interested in owning a mustang horse, the first step is to adopt one from a government-approved agency, such as the Bureau of Land Management. These organizations periodically round up mustangs to manage herd populations and ensure the sustainability of the horses and their environment.

Once you’ve adopted a mustang, it’s essential to keep in mind that the horse may take longer to tame and train than other breeds due to its wild background. It is best to give your newly adopted mustang time to acclimate to its new home before attempting to train. Building a bond with your horse is crucial for the gentling process and for establishing trust.

Characteristics and Care

Mustangs are known for their hardiness and strong, healthy hooves. They generally stand between 13 and 15 hands tall and have muscular bodies, narrow chests, and short backs. Their heads are well-shaped, featuring sharp and wide-spaced eyes.

Though mustangs are relatively low-maintenance compared to other breeds, it’s still vital to provide proper care, nutrition, and shelter for your horse. Since they are well-adapted to their natural environment, they typically do not require as much supplementary feed as other breeds. Mustangs also have good endurance and are naturally suited for riding and various equine activities.

Challenges and Rewards

Owning a mustang horse is not without its challenges, particularly in regard to taming and training. Their natural fight-or-flight instincts may be stronger than those of other breeds, requiring patience and persistence from their owners. However, once a bond is formed and the horse is properly trained, mustangs can become loyal, intelligent, and versatile companions.


In conclusion, owning a mustang horse is a unique and fulfilling endeavor for those willing to invest the time and effort into properly taming, training, and caring for these magnificent animals. It’s important to consider the challenges associated with owning a mustang, as well as to prepare for the commitment necessary to provide a suitable environment and care. With patience, perseverance, and a deep understanding of these horses, owning a mustang can be a truly rewarding experience.