Wild horses have long since symbolized freedom in this country. In movies they are often depicted as strong, free creatures, running solidly through green pastures and wooded fields. Their manes blow, their tails fly delicately through the air, and they almost seem to float. Native Americans felt this same emotion when explorers from Spain first brought wild horses to North America.
Though Native Americans did capture wild horses in order to train them, they never lost sight of their importance in the spirit world. They treated the horses kindly, with reverence, and saw them as mystical and magical creatures.
The presence of the wild horses allowed Native Americans to change their lives dramatically. Whereas hunting buffalo was once far more difficult, they could now hunt them on horseback. Land claims increased, and finally, the Native Americans had something costly to barter and trade. This enhanced their quality of life greatly.
Within a short time of arriving in North America, many horses ran off, escaping from the Spanish explorers. Soon they were roaming free in the wild in numbers. Currently, wild horses are protected by law, although some groups find them a hindrance and danger to livestock. Living mainly in Nevada, they share the land with livestock, a land that is thought to be overgrazed. It is thought that the water supply is not enough to sustain the lives of the livestock and the wild horses. This puts livestock owners at great odds. They need to sustain their lives, to make a living. Because of this, the future of these magical, mystical creatures is at stake.
It is hoped that there can be some way for these beautiful horses to continue to run and to roam free as they were intended to do. Their contribution to Native American culture is indisputable, and their image will remain in American minds as strong, lovely, and free.
Joseph Paige © 2006