A Tribute to Choctaw Mustangs

“Let’s check it out, then we can decide if we want to go on tour,” I persuaded Alex as she and I neared Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Although we were having good luck visiting Herd Management Areas on our own, the desire to try new things won out and Alex grudgingly agreed to visit the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary.

Doing our best to follow the signs, we turned down the road to the sanctuary. We parked near the visitor’s center and walked into the rustic looking building. Greeted warmly by the women working, we explained our predicament to her.

“Feel free to look around,” she said after explaining a bit about the area and what we could expect about the visitor’s center.

One of the mares with the small band.

One of the mares with the small band.

Making a slow loop around the area, we came to a stop in front of some pintos. These must be the Choctaw mustangs mentioned in the visitor’s center. Despite the drizzle, we viewed the horses curiously. Although I felt I had a fairly diverse grasp on mustangs, neither of us had heard about Choctaw mustangs before.

One of the other mares in the group.

One of the other mares in the group.

Like other Spanish mustangs, Choctaw ponies were originally brought over by Conquistadors. Bred for their gentle natures and sturdy build, Choctaw Native Americans revered the stout horses.

Although Choctaw ponies were the breed of choice for Choctaw Native Americans, the ponies and people were forced of their historic land. Known as the Trail of Tears, Choctaw Native Americans were forced to ride their ponies to reservations in the Midwest. During the horrific march, the Choctaw pony became an endangered species.

Our first impression of the sleepy filly.

Our first impression of the sleepy filly.

As the filly in the small herd blinked at us sleepily, the horses’ gentle nature became apparent. The filly circled her mother, but rather than get up to let her foal nurse the mare leaned back and let her filly nurse while she laid down. The mare nuzzled her filly affectionately, and although the stallion was in a different pasture for the time being, he seemed more interested in eating than the people admiring his family.

Both the filly and mare are very relaxed as she nurses.

Both the filly and mare are very relaxed as she nurses.

Turning one eye to look at us was as close as this handsome stallion got to checking us out.

Turning one eye to look at us was as close as this handsome stallion got to checking us out.

Seeing the family of Choctaw mustangs at the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary was an endearing experience. I was happy to hear about the sanctuaries efforts to breed the remarkable species of mustang. Although I still don’t know as much about them as I like, I hope to hear more about Choctaw mustangs in the future.

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