Preserving A Legend — Steven Polinger
As they rose from the mists of prehistory, the Spanish wild horse entered the human story. These grand horses migrated from south to north and then east in Europe, then across the seas they traveled. They moved northerly and then easterly in America -- from Latin America to the North American southwest they migrated, and then multiplied, sprawling in the millions, across our entire country. Our western heritage… shines, with the images of the western tribes, frontiersmen and early cowboys herding cattle in the great drives and the early big ranches.
The sacred stories of the Native Peoples chronicle the coming of the Spanish horse. Their oral traditions are a part of their telling of the genesis of their people and the new way of life emanating from their tribal horse. They tell of the horses in battles, as does the Old Testament. These oral traditions are kept sacred, by the telling of them. The Spanish horses are like the clouds, bearing rain. They are the horses that carried the people’s history on their backs. So history rode on the backs of these Spanish horses of wild origin, in Europe and then, the Americas. For the Native Peoples and frontiersman of our American West, they opened the way. They have been doing that since long before the early Roman Empire and long before the birth of Christianity.
Spanish Conquistadors moved across the Americas
on the backs of Sorraia-type horses
The wild Sorraia was foundation to both Andalusian and Lusitano and in passing centuries developed toward what we see today in these breeds. However, the horses that were coming over on Spanish ships had more Sorraia influence than do the Andalusians and Lusitanos of today. Once these early horses started getting loose and moving out and away from captive breeding programs, they began to revert back to their most survivable form -- back toward their Sorraia ancestry. Natural selection is the process of evolution, for adaptive, survival designed change. The most survivable individuals select out for future generations, while the weaker ones die off. Perhaps this process has produced a Kiger, that is even better than what came before. The true mustang is a natural evolution of the ancient Sorraia wild horse of the southern European plains. The Spanish wild blood from the Sorraia of Southern Spain and Portugal fired the beginnings and was the rootstock for all the Spanish horses, both Andalusian and Lusitano.
The greatest threat posed to the ancient wild horses survival has been the introduction of other types of horses. While the true mustang headed eastwards other breeds were crowding westwards. The true mustang can be bred out of existence by mixing with whatever comes along. To protect the range for all of nature, some of the mustangs need to be gathered from time to time. When the timber becomes so thick that fire danger looms some thinning provides balance. But the Spanish remnant, hidden in the swell of too many horses, must be protected. The BLM and Forest Service, Fish and Game and National Park Service are all in the business of providing balance so that all of nature can thrive. The Public, when informed, can choose to help! The biggest job we face is getting the word out!
The word sacred should not be confined to only religion and politics. It belongs also to the natural world and everything that lives. Nature is a sacred living place, your grandchildren can see and touch. The Kiger mustang has a sacred genetic code worthy of every effort to keep alive. The wild places, with life sustaining habitat, are truly natural holy places. The Kigers are timeless yet so endangered. A homeland refuge for them, to live and grow in number, is a wonderful gift to give to the future. A gift presented to the most worthy Kiger mustang who reaches so very far into the distant past. The true mustang, The Kiger, has traveled a long way to preserve a living legend.
We hold their survival in our hands, as wild habitat continues to shrink, competition for grazing lands continues to grow, and as precious water also is sought after. We can make a difference before they become only a memory in time. Even now there are so few.
Their zoological value as the horse that shaped so very much history is clear. Their greater value is that they remain, still gifted with all the qualities that brought them here. Like rubies hidden in a rubble of stones, in a sea of mustangs a few Spanish ones may be found. Twenty-seven isolated Kigers were found this way in Oregon's Steens Mountain. They became the Kigers we know today. They are clannish, not liking other horses much, and keeping a shy watch on their own kind in a place where time passed them by. I couldn't be more grateful that somehow they have survived!
Steven Polinger — Founder and President of Kiger Mustang Refuge, Inc