During the 1500s, the Spanish explored the New World, bringing large groups of horses with them. Many of these horses escaped, forming large herds throughout the western United States. Because so many different breeds escaped, the appearance of horses in different areas can vary slightly. Some herds, called Colonial Spanish Horses, resemble the horses the Spanish brought over, while others, known as Mustangs, are hardier.
In the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, herds of dun horses with black manes and tails roam. A herd of these horses were found in the '70s by E. Ron Harding, who was gathering Mustangs at Kiger Gorge in the Steen Mountains. Since this herd seemed special and was thought to be of Spanish descent, the Bureau of Land Management decided to relocate the herd to southeastern Oregon rather putting them for adoption. The separated the herd into two groups, with twenty going to an area near Diamond, Oregon, and seven going to Riddle Mountain Herd Management Area.
Every few years, the herds in these areas are rounded up and inspected. Those with desired qualities are returned to the wild. The rest are auctioned off.
Today, some domesticated Kigers are bred as trail and endurance horses. Since they are now domesticated and not considered Mustangs, they are called Kiger Horses instead. They can be registered under the Kiger Horse Association and Registry.
Breed Description and Uses
Kiger Mustangs, named for the area in which they were found, are small horses, standing only 13.2 to 15.2 hands high on average. They are compact with slanted shoulders and strong hooves. Traveling the foothills of large mountains has made then very sure-footed, thus making them excellent trail horses. They have a small, refined head with hooked ears.
All Kigers are some shade of dun, whether that be grulla, red dun, buckskin, or any other variation.