Mustangs 4 Us
Selecting for Color?

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Nationally, about 5 to 10% of wild horses are of colors or patterns other than bay, brown and red. 

For that reason, it is better to look for a good horse with a good mind and serviceable conformation than a certain color.

Historically, the classic colors of red, bay, brown, and black were the colors favored by Cavalry Remount programs (because they are harder to see, especially at night). Classic, uncomplicated coloring has also been favored by most domestic breeds during the period when the Great Basin was settled. Classic solid coloring may even have an evolutionary advantage, since they may be harder for predators to see.

Wherever there is a lot of color, there is a lot of human selection and management. If you want a true "Bred By Mother Nature" horse, don't overlook the classic colors.


A good horse is never a bad color.
That said, color may matter to you.

You may feel that, if you can only get this one horse, it had better be the horse you've dreamed of all your life. One's Dream Horse is usually a certain color or color pattern, perhaps a palomino, a shiny Black Stallion, a dapple gray, or a flashy pinto. Or you may be attracted to the exotic "primitive markings" on duns.

Since your ability to commit deeply to the horse is THE prime ingredient for success, I consider a color priority to be legitimate. If you have a color preference, simply admit that you do, and don't beat yourself up over it.

On the other hand, as you get to know your new horse and to develop a bond, you are likely to stop noticing the color. If you can get past color and just choose for conformation, movement, and other qualities, such as "kind eye" or heart connection" you are more likely to get a better horse. I see so many struggling adopters who chose their horse on flash, but the horse is not really suited to them. I also think many people go for color, simply because they don't know how to choose, and the "horse of a different color" stands out in the pen.

Looking at this Halter class at the Western States Wild Horse & Burro Expo, you would never guess that the vast majority of mustangs are reds, browns, bays and blacks, and that pintos and appaloosas make up less than 5% of all mustangs, would you?


The vast majority of mustangs are bays or dark reds, known affectionately as "Nevada Browns." These plain-wrapper bays and dark reds are far more "at risk" of never being adopted, perhaps eventually coming to a bad end under the Burns Rider 3-Strikes Rule, than their more unusually-colored brothers and sisters. The majority of young 3-strikes horses are plain-colored, and the ones left over at the end of an adoption are nearly always the "Nevada Browns."


In the domestic horse world, bay, brown and sorrel or chestnut are fine colors. No one would consider ruling out a Quarter Horse or Thoroughbred because he is Bay or Red!  So what's the deal with Mustangs and color?

In domestic horses, people choose a horse based on training, bloodlines, conformation, and temperament.

Wild horses have no training, their bloodlines are unknown, their wildness makes it more difficult to evaluate their temperaments, and many adopters are not comfortable evaluating conformation, especially in a wild, un-groomed, and possibly underfed horse.

So they look for the horse that stands out from the crowd - the "horse of a different color."  


But folks, DO look deeper! Once you get to know your horse, the color will be the LEAST important quality! Choose a good horse, not just a color!

Not to mention - Red, Bay, Brown, and Black are beautiful!

A plea to look beyond color

Here are 4 young horses of approximately the same age who were recently offered by the BLM over their quarterly Internet Adoption:

This blue roan went for $755, and had 16 bids

This sturdy, well-built sorrel got no bids

This 14-hand, 3-year-old pinto mare from the High Rock herd went for $795, after 17 different bids were placed on her

This nice gelding of the same age and size got no bids

This facility-born 3-year-old, 14 hand mare from Litchfield's "Friendly Mare" corral, and

This 3-year-old 14-hand High Rock mare got no bids

Granted the pinto is exotically eye-catching, but is she really better?

Okay, I like color as much as anyone. Colors are interesting to learn about (See COLOR section), and I admit I like to see colorful horses in pictures or out my window. My own herd consists of a pinto, a buckskin, and a gray (who we thought was a bay when we adopted her) as well as a red, two blacks, and a bay.

I'm not saying the two colorful horses above aren't worth the money. The pinto mare has certainly nice conformation, a nice head, and spectacular coloring. The blue colt will probably fill out as he matures and his nutritional status improves. There is nothing glaringly bad about his structure other than being a bit thin and shallow-bodied, but that can improve with maturity and groceries.

Really, folks, how much is color worth? In these cases, apparently it's worth $755 - $795.

And I promise you - when you are sitting on a horse's back, all that matters is how well the horse responds to you, how well takes care of you. You don't even see the color!

Once you are in the saddle, your  new favorite color is "broke."