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Wild Horses And Native Americans


two wild horses with very long black manes

Photo Credit: Maria Marriott Wild Horse Photography

Tribes embraced the wild horses horse as a brother in the spirit and a link to the supernatural realm,

and incorporated the horse into ceremonies.


“The Navajo said that every day the sun god rode across the sky on a turquoise mustang with a joyous neigh." - David Phillips


There were no wild horses in North American when some of the first Spanish settlers arrived in the 1500s with their horses. Earlier horses that had roamed the continent had become extinct, leaving only their fossils.


However, by the time Americans began moving West in larger numbers during the 1800s, the wild horse population was estimated to be in the millions. Historical records recount herds that were vast and uncountable over much of the West, and Native Americans were integral to this re-introduction of wild horses to the American wilderness.

Horses used by the early Spanish settlers and army were carefully kept and tracked because of their importance and utility. Although small numbers undoubtedly escaped to become feral, it is thought to be the Pueblo Revolt in 1680 that became the catalyst for huge herds of wild horses across the West.


black and white wild horse walking toward the camera

Photo Credit: Maria Marriott Wild Horse Photography


The Native Americans believed pinto horses could protect them from death or injury

during a conflict.



As the native tribes observed the Spanish on horseback and the potential power horses could bring in war, they began a series of battles, raids, and trades to avail themselves of the Spanish horses. These raids resulted in thousands of Spanish horses being set free and joining their feral brothers that had escaped from the Spanish already.

The Native American tribes, especially the Sioux, Apache, Crow, Comanche, Nez Perce, and Blackfoot became expert horsemen. And horses became so much a part of these tribes that they have been dubbed the “horse nations”.

As David Phillips points out in his book Wild Horse Country, “The Apache said the Creator made the horse, using lightning for its breath, rainbows for its hooves, the evening star for its eyes, crescent moons for its ears, and a whirlwind for its power and speed.”


a black and wild wild horse on the tall grass

Photo Credit: Maria Marriott Wild Horse Photography


They also favored them over others due to the fact that their coloring offered

a natural camouflage.



An ancient Native American story that has been passed down for generations tells of a brave young man who is gifted with a magical white horse that helps him on his journey to save his people from an evil spirit. This story has been repeated for generations to teach lessons of courage, strength, and perseverance.

This year, Native American Day is celebrated on September 22. As the name indicates, Native American Day honors and celebrates Native Americans - the irreplaceable heritage, contributions, and knowledge of these original inhabitants of North America. And, in particular, we recognize their special contributions to the history of the mustangs and wild horses in America.


woman capturing wild horses in a field

Wild horse fine art photography has become for me a means of storytelling, advocacy, and preservation. As I travel the untamed landscapes of the American West, capturing the grace and raw beauty of the American mustangs, I hope to instill in others the same sense of wonder and respect for these magnificent creatures and the beautiful creation all around us.


Showcase Your Deep Love For American Wild Horses!

As an artist, I take pride in preserving this legacy and advocating for the preservation of wild mustangs. Feel free to view my wild horse art collection and reach out to us online!


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