Friday, February 27, 2009


Have you ever wondered what addle-headed cowpoke gave our wild horses the name mustangs? Well, I’m here to tell ya that the word “mustang” comes from the Spanish word, “mesteño”, which translates to mean “stray” or “feral”. We can blame the Spanish Conquistadors for this cockamamie word.

When those Spaniards came over here, sniffing around for more land and gold and the Fountain of Youth, they brought their horses with them. (I wish they would have found that Fountain of Youth cause I sure could use a mugful right about now!) After they got tired of botherin’ the Native Americans and spreadin’ disease, they went back to where they came from, but they left some of their horses behind.

Bein’ that horses are much smarter than humans, those abandoned horses settled in right nicely and started a family! Before long, we had herds of bangtails roamin’ all over this country. Since these horses came from strays, the name mesteño stuck, but as cowboys don’t care much about speaking Spanish, they put an Americanized twang on the word and changed it to “mustang”!

Tune in next time when I spin a yarn about how the Native Americans quickly learnt how to ride and breed those little Spanish horses!

Happy Trails,

"Pardner" (aka Debbie Stringfellow)


The pungent smell of sage brush drifts up to meet my nose as I walk out onto the Sandwash Basin toward the mustangs. This is the one and only band I have seen after driving for two hours. They’re quite a distance off the road; it’s hard to tell how far.

It’s beautiful out here – stark, hot and brutally dry. The fine white dusty soil is parched, and besides an abundance of sage, grease brush, and cheat grass, not a blade of green grass is evident within eyesight. “What do these horses live on?” I ask myself. I think of the abundance of green pasture, hay and grain my own horses are offered everyday.

Horses cannot live on sage brush. They eat it only as a last resort, and it doesn’t agree with their digestive system. In evaluating the quality of range available for forage, many people misunderstand that much of what is present is indigestible to the mustangs.

Now I can see the mustang’s tails swishing. I’m getting closer. My car has disappeared from sight and I am wishing I had bought that GPS yesterday. It all looks the same out here, making it easy to get turned around. But, I have a target, and it’s the herd of 6 wild mustangs directly in front of me.

Two of the mares have spotted me, their bodies standing erect, with their ears pointed towards me. You can tell where a horse’s focus is by the direction of their ears. When in the saddle, it’s a good thing if the horse’s ears points backwards towards the rider now and then, which indicates that they’re checking in with their mount.

Out of respect for their comfort level, I decide to stop and sit before I scare them off. Since horses are animals of flight, similar to a deer or an antelope, their first line of defense is to cut and run. Even though I fumble ineptly with my new REI stool, making noise pulling apart the Velcro strap, the mustangs stand firm. As I settle down to my writing, I notice that a couple of them seem agitated, trotting forward, and circling back. Thinking that perhaps my big, white cowboy hat is a distraction, I decide to take it off, which makes a difference.

The coloring of this particular band of mustangs consists of mostly bays. However, one mare has a striking mask that resembles the Phantom of the Opera. There are no foals; the stallion leading this herd is sorrel with a big white blaze. There is a young stud colt that has exactly the same markings, which tells me that this stallion is his sire, and that this band has been together for several years.

In an effort to get some shots from a different angle, I slowly walk out and around their comfort zone. They watch curiously, then lose interest and walk out of sight down the canyon wall. As the last one disappears over the edge, I give thanks to them for their company. Now, if I could just remember where I left my stuff……