A brave animated wild horse named Spirit galloped into the lives of viewers around the world for nearly two decades, and, since 2003, the handsome clever Kiger mustang that inspired the animators has been part of magical moments for visitors who come to Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary.

We refuse to let the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19 prevent Spirit fans from sharing the 25th birthday of a horse that means so much to all of us. Join us as we add to this page and celebrate all yearlong!

In lieu of gifts Spirit hopes guests will make a donation or purchase to help the sanctuary and his more than 500 wild friends!

We hope you’ll enjoy the elements on this page, videos from some of our friends and Spirit fans, downloadable coloring pages, an online auction and more! You will receive an email every time we add something to the page or auction!

We hope you enjoy these videos from the sanctuary, we will continue to add to these!

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron

Between a story on the page about a wild horse that would not be broken and the appearance onscreen of a galloping, animated hero who inspires dreams of freedom came a very real horse:

Spirit, a Kiger mustang stallion that turns 25 years old this year.

Spirit served as the artists’ muse and model for DreamWorks Animation’s Oscar-nominated 2002 film, Spirit: Stallion of The Cimarron a tale of adventure and friendship penned by screenwriter John Fusco and directed by Kelly Asbury and Lorna Cook.

To create their movie, the filmmakers needed to find a horse that embodied the characteristics of the iconic wild mustang. Spirit, then called Donner, was selected as a young colt born to a stallion and mare that had been captured by the Bureau of Land Management on the Kiger Herd Management Area in Oregon.

The filmmakers chose Spirit because of his beautiful conformation, wide-set eyes, and his thick, wavy and multi-colored mane and tail — a perfect example of genetically and historically rare 15th-century Spanish Barb horses. Animators observed him closely to create a horse character with accurate, realistic movements that could communicate without speaking.

Following the movie’s completion, DreamWorks selected Return to Freedom’s American Wild Horse Sanctuary as the perfect home for Spirit.

Since his arrival at RTF’s Lompoc, Calififornia, headquarters in April 2003, he has drawn fans of the movie from all over the world, as well as a new generation of children who love the computer-animated spin-off series, Spirit: Riding Free, which has run for eight seasons on Netflix.

Spirit soaks up the attention he receives from visitors of all ages, whether during one-on-one interactions with children through the Make-A-Wish Foundation or showing off for larger tour groups.

Like the animated film, Spirit the stallion continues to inspire many to learn about — and advocate for — the thousands of nameless wild horses and burros whose survival on our public lands remains in jeopardy.

For his role as an ambassador for mustangs, the EQUUS Foundation and the United States Equestrian Federation inducted Spirit into the Horse Stars Hall of Fame in 2018.

About Spirit, a Kiger stallion

Breed: Kiger Mustang
Birthday: May 8, 1995
Color type: Dun with dorsal stripe
Heritage: Although Spirit was ranch-bred in Bend, Oregon, the Kiger Mustang originates in the Kiger/Riddle Herd Management Areas of Steens Mountain. Spirit was sired by the foundation stallion Steens Kiger, the first horse admitted to the Steens Mountain Kiger Registry studbook, and is himself listed in registry as Donner of Steens Mountain.
About Kiger mustangs: The Bureau of Land Management discovered the Kiger horses on the on the high desert of southeastern Oregon in 1977. Government officials agreed that they had found very unique horses. To preserve them, they moved this small band of horses to other areas on the north end of the Steens Mountain, near Kiger Gorge, from which the breed takes its name.

Kigers range from 13.3 to 15.2 hands. The majority are duns, but Kigers can also be other colors, including bay, grullo, red dun, roan, or black. An unusual color, termed “claybank” by the Kiger community, combines dun with cream to create the palest line-backed representatives of the breed. Some Kigers have white markings, but excessive white is discouraged.

Kigers are short-coupled: they have a low tail-set, characteristic “hook- shaped” ears and luxuriant manes and tails. The phenotype is considered, by many, to be of a Spanish horse.

Celebrate Spirit's Birthday at Home!

Click the image to open the PDF file in a new window. From there just print the page and start coloring!