Conservation — Threatened Strains

Choctaw ponies run wild at Return to Freedom.Committed to conserving the rare and diverse bloodlines that define the American Mustang, Return to Freedom maintains a rare breeds conservation program. Some of the herds represent horses with DNA similar to the primitive Iberian horses (the Sorrias), some are direct and undiluted descendants of the Spanish Colonial Mission Horses, while others represent descendants of cavalry and ranch horses that have interbred on our public lands reverting to a natural state over the past few hundred years. Whatever their historical, genetic or biological significance, the wild horses of today represent the current adaptation of the North American wild horse in their respective habitats. If we allow them to disappear, America will lose something we can never get back.

Return to Freedom’s Wild Horse Sanctuary strives to keep wild horses in their original family and social groups, so they may continue to exist without the threat of capture or removal.

In order to meet the challenge of the rapidly diminishing number of Wild Horses in America, we first need to preserve and protect those that remain. Therefore, the core of our conservation efforts focuses on:

  • Providing rescue and sanctuary
  • Preserving unique strains that might otherwise be lost forever
  • Pioneering and advocating for minimally invasive management solutions to protect wild horses and burros on their existing rangelands
Some of the conservation herds at the sanctuary represent horses with DNA similar to the primitive Iberian horses (the Sorrias), while others are direct and undiluted descendants of Padre Kino’s original Spanish Mission strain which arrived in the 1600s. The Choctaw ponies are a 100% pure tribal strain who originally arrived with Hernando DeSoto in the 1500s and carried the Choctaw and Cherokee on the Trails of Tears.

Most of these original Spanish horses have been destroyed and only exist in very small numbers, totaling less than 600. Our conservation program is designed to help educate the public about the origins of the horse in North America and their return to this continent, and to inspire conserving the genetic viability of these historical and biological treasures.

Other herds at the sanctuary represent descendants of larger breeds that arrived later to North America from Europe; cavalry horses and ranch horses that have interbred with Spanish mustangs on our public and park lands and have reverted to a natural state over the past five centuries.

The wild horses of today, managed by government agencies, continue to battle for their rightful place on our federal and state lands. With a continued and aggressive roundup and removal policy, our wild horses could disappear forever if we do not work now to protect and preserve them. Learn more about what threatens them.

Learn More About:

Our Conservation Herds
What Geneticists Have To Say About Wild Horses
The American wild horse – A reintroduced native species