Breed Organization Information
About the Breed
Kiger Mustangs, no other horse today is quite like the Kiger Mustang, in fact or legend. Stunning beauty and spirit. Primitive markings. Beautiful dun factor coloring. All add up to an equine that stands out in a crowd.
In 1971, the Wild Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act was passed by Congress to protect, manage and control these wild populations. In order to keep the herds at manageable levels, roundups or gatherings are held periodically. They are still being held today. At this time they are counted, branded and examined. Excess animals are offered for adoption to the public, and the rest are returned to the range.
In 1977, during one of these gatherings in the remote area of Beatty’s Butte, Oregon, a particular kind of horse was discovered. BLM Wild Horse Specialist, E. Ron Harding, while inspecting the herd, noticed that a number of these horses were strikingly similar in color and conformation. Upon closer observation, he ascertained that they carried the primitive markings of the Spanish mustangs. Mr. Harding arranged for these horses to be separated from the rest and held at the Burns District facility in Oregon. A suitable area was chosen to release these animals into. To prevent losing all the horses to a natural catastrophe, two Herd Management Areas, (HMA) were selected in southeastern Oregon. Twenty of the horses were released in the Kiger HMA, and seven in the Riddle HMA.
The Kiger Meste?o Association was founded in July 1988 to protect and preserve these rare remaining wild mustangs and their counterpart in captivity. A registry and Standard of Perfection have been established for Kiger and half-Kiger horses. With growing interest in this exceptional breed, their continued survival is assured.
Kiger Mustangs are an established breed. Spanish markers were found in their blood during genetic testing by the University of Kentucky. They carry the dominant genes which code for the primitive dun factor coloration and markings. Dun factor horses are most commonly identified as duns and grullas. Dun factor markings include: dorsal stripe, jack stripe, zebra stripes on legs, arm bars, bi-colored mane and tail, ears with dark outline and fawn colored interior, facial mask and cobwebbing.
The Kiger Mustang averages about 13.2 – 15.2 hands in height. The ears are finely pointed and slightly hooked at the tip. Head is medium in size and clean cut, with prominent eyes and a fine muzzle. Body conformation is distinctive with good chest depth and well muscled. The back is short, broad and moderately muscled. Dense bone, compact hooves and a well-crested neck round out this unique and tough horse. They are agile, remarkably intelligent, courageous and bold. At the same time Kiger Mustangs are gentle, calm and are very willing to please. They have a regal carriage and high step fit for a king. With athletic ability, stamina and endurance combined with sure footedness, they are versatile. Pleasure, trail, performance, endurance, driving, packing, cutting – they can do it all.
The Foundation Stallion—Meste?o
Many of today’s Kigers can be traced back to the legendary foundation stallion named Meste?o, meaning “wild” or “unclaimed” horse in Spanish. Meste?o was captured along with his mares in the original roundup of Beatty’s Butte. Upon seeing this stallion BLM officials knew this stallion would never be put up for adoption, but would become the lead sire for the Kiger Mustang. Meste?o was released onto the Kiger HMA and was last seen alive in 1996 at the approximate age of 27. At that time, Meste?o did not possess his own mare band, as he was no longer able to defend them. To this day, Meste?o’s fate is not known but for all that know the Kigers, Meste?o will always roam free and watch over the Kigers on Steens Mountain.
The life of this outstanding foundation stallion is captured in a Breyer Horse Series called “Meste?o.” Artist Rowland Cheney made the sketches used by Breyer to create the models. The series depicts the life of Meste?o from a colt to his older years, and marked the first time Breyer introduced a series depicting the life of one horse.
Rojo-The Son Of Meste?o
Rojo (Ro-ho) (also known as Yellow Sands, a nickname the BLM gave him) is the son of Meste?o and Palasandra. Rojo was a magnificent red dun colt. Rojo was kicked out of the herd by Meste?o at the age of two. For months, Meste?o allowed Rojo to follow the herd and stand in the distance, but would chase him off if he came too close. Rojo was Palasandra’s little boy and she would whinny for him and he would answer. Rojo was eventually run off to gather his own mare herd. Rojo gathered one mare and was extremely proud of her and would defend her at all measures. The following spring, Rojo’s mare was captured and adopted out. Rojo was faced with having to win more mares. Rojo gathered two more mares, a dun and a claybank named Luna who became his lead mare. Rojo sired 3 foals that are known of and all 3 are still running free on the Steens Mountain. In the prime of his life, tragedy struck Rojo. He was attacked by a cougar and was badly injured. Rojo spent nearly 6 months next to a watering hole barely able to move. Rojo recovered, but was left crippled in his back legs and moves slowly. You can still see the scars down his side where the cougar raked him. Rojo lost his mares and was left alone to fend for himself until he was taken in by a small band of young stud colts that have been watching over and defending Rojo. As of August 2000, Rojo was alive and doing well. He is fat and seems to get around somewhat better. It is reported that bachelor studs are still protecting Rojo. Rojo is a popular horse to photograph and is a living statement of the will to survive.
Palasandra-The Alpha Mare
Palasandra was and will always be Meste?o’s lead mare. It is now believed that Meste?o has passed on, but Palasandra is still loyal to her legendary stallion. Her loyalty to Meste?o was so great that even when he was too old to fight for his band, she took over and kept many of them together for him. Artist Rowland Cheney, (who made the sketches used by Breyer to create the Meste?o series) was so impressed with her loyalty, that he made a model of Palasandra, which was not released. Palasandra is truly one of the great wild Kigers her instincts to protect her herd are very strong. Of all the Kiger bands on the Kiger HMA, her band is the hardest to find, as she is very wary and protective. Her band follows her every command. She was spotted in late summer 2000, and in her late 20’s is still leading her mare band. It is believed to be the second largest band on the HMA. The stallion Sombra is believed to have the largest herd out there at this time.
Sombra is a beautiful grulla lead stallion that is currently running on the Kiger HMA. His history is a little unknown. He is believed to be sired by (or is the grandson of Meste?o). His dam is unknown. Meste?o and Sombra did battle for the right to own mares. Sombra is now in his mid 20’s and is leading the largest band of Kigers on the Kiger HMA. Sombra has acquired some of Meste?o’s mares and the rest are still with Palasandra.
Bobby Ingersoll is a professional horse trainer who became interested in the idea of training a wild horse for reining and cow horse competition. In 1990, while he was in Burns, OR judging the Bell A Ranch Cutting, he met two Bureau of Land Management employees, Ron Harding and Josh Warburton. This pair introduced Bobby to the local legend of a small band of wild horses running in the Kiger Gorge on Steens Mountain. The horses apparently exhibited similar characteristics to the Spanish Barb including the dun factor color, black points and zebra stripes on their legs.
Bobby accepted the invitation to visit the BLM corrals just outside of town, it was there that he first saw Cougar. The colt, nearly two years old, was turned out in a large corral with two other mustangs about the same age. Cougar captured Bobby’s interest by the way he began to herd work one of the other colts by putting him through the same type of controlled movements found in the performance arena. Just like in a cow horse contest or cutting exhibition, Cougar boxed the black colt on the very end of the corral and then ran him down the fence turning several times in each direction. He ended his play by circling up the colt in the middle of the pen.
At this point Bobby was very impressed with Cougar because of his obvious natural herd instinct (the cowboys call it “cow instinct”). It was then that Bobby became interested in training that real, born on the mountain, wild horse for competition. Josh Warburton and Ron Harding became instrumental in arranging for Bobby to adopt Kiger Cougar to be trained as a show horse.
Living in California at the Ingersoll ranch was very scary in the beginning. Cougar had little confidence in anyone or anything around him. His training began under Bobby using a program that he could relate to. Time, patience, and understanding the natural habits, instincts, and ways of the horse were the disciplines used. Cougar showed Bobby from the beginning that he was an individual who liked to please, and most important, that he had the ability to accept training. After Cougar had been handled for a time he became very gentle and everyone loved the kind and bright little stallion. He was a joy to be around and would lick salt off your hand like a puppy anytime you would let him. Cougar was brought along very slowly in the beginning but soon he reached the pace of any other horse. He was ridden for sixty days in preparation for the reined work. Next, he was put on cattle to expand his natural ability to herd and match the action of the cow. His training lasted until near the end of his third year.
Early in 1992, Bobby hauled Cougar back to Steens Mountain. He was ridden through the BLM wild horse management area where he once roamed. After being so docile at the ranch, he became a wild horse that day. He would have liked to have stayed.
During his two-year-old and three-year-old years Cougar performed in several exhibitions in California, Oregon and Nevada. There was a great amount of interest in the Kiger Mustang stallion that year.
Many heard that Bobby’s intent was to train and show Cougar in the 1992 Snaffle Bit Futurities. The interest grew to the point that Bobby formed the Kiger Cougar Foundation. The 452 members together shared in a campaign to perpetuate and honor all American Mustangs and to protect their heritage.
In August of 1992, Cougar was shown at the Paso Robles County Fair. He won first place over all the other breeds in the Snaffle Bit Class. The following month, Cougar was shown at the World’s Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, NV. He placed twenty-first out of one hundred-fifty horses of mostly registered American Quarter Horses. In 1993 he was retired to stud, breeding a limited number of mares belonging to Foundation members.
Then, in 1994, Bobby was asked to consider sending Kiger Cougar to the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, KY. It was hard to let him go, but he lives there today. Cougar is in a beautiful spot where he is on permanent display representing his Kiger Mustang heritage. Every day he is carefully groomed and shown under saddle to the delight of hundreds of park visitors. Bobby’s plan is for this mighty little horse to spend the rest of his life being pampered. To live the easy life is Kiger Cougar’s reward for the joy he brought to Bobby and the Foundation friends.
The Kiger Cougar Story, copyright KMA, originally published in the April 2000 Kiger Focus, written by Jeanne Daly and Bobby Ingersoll.